A small selection of the invitation cards by The Modern Institute. Toby Webster established The Modern Institute in 1997 in Glasgow, in partnership with former Tramway and current Van Abbemuseum Director, Charles Esche, and writer and curator Will Bradley. For many years, The Modern Institute sent out these very simple, great, sometimes funny, sometimes conceptual announcements. The gallery’s logo was designed by Toby Webster, so were the cards, and in the very beginning, he hand fed them through a riso machine. As Matthew Marks’ invitation cards, they deserve a retrospective or being part of a design museum. Or both.
As many of the new young galleries established in the mid to late nineties, The Modern Institute (est. 1997) used their invitation cards to highlight individuality and as an innovative form of (self-)branding. Invitation cards could become an art project, and a space where art may happen – and is distributed worldwide for free. A similar strategy was adopted by other young up-and-coming galleries such as neugerriemschneider, Berlin (est. 1994), Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York (1994-2020), CFA Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin (est. 1992), The Modern Institute, Glasgow (est. 1997), Meyer Riegger Galerie (est. 1997 in Karlsruhe, since 2008 also in Berlin) or Eva Presenhuber (Galerie Walcheturm 1989-1998/Galerie Eva Presenhuber).
The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd was founded by former Tramway director Charles Esche, writer and curator Will Bradley and Toby Webster in 1997 (Esche left in 1999, Bradley in 2001). In 2006, Andrew Hamilton became Webster’s partner. As Time Out puts it: “A perfect example of Glasgow’s internationally renowned contribution to contemporary art, The Modern Institute was once described by Art Review magazine as ‘a model for galleries around the world’.” The flyers were originally done on Riso in an old paper store in Glasgow called Nashes, hand fed into the machine. Until today, they keep their special appeal for their low quality, and their choices of colors, forms and fonts. They always reminded me of flyers for some obscure bands and concerts. More on the gallery’s history here. Daniel Baumann