Program: Exhibition design
Area: 385 m² / 4,150 sf
Status: Completed 2011
In the Netherlands, Meissen porcelain is often regarded as ‘high-class kitsch’. Its sumptuous, often narrative style of decoration puts it at odds with the minimal and conceptual traditions of Modernism. SO – IL was commissioned by Kunsthal KAdE to design an ideal contemporary three-dimensional setting in which to present the porcelain such that it would challenge this prejudice and focus attention on the great sculptural, artistic and technical strengths of Meissen. In response, SO – IL designed 32 modern, prismatic cases in bright colors.
These unusual cases undo assumptions of gallery objectivity, and instead suggest new ways of looking at the delicate artifacts. Rather than interfering with views of the objects, the colored acrylic panels serve as filters, highlighting specific colors in the porcelain’s ornamentation, and allow for considering new aspects of the work. Each multi-faceted case offers multiple unique views of each object.
The strategy triggers the visitor to literally ‘revisit’ their initial understanding of the objects in the exhibition. By designing the cabinets not to ‘display’ but to actually ‘dissect’ the conventional viewing of the object, visitors are forced to redefine their relationship to the work. The organization of color, shape and material reduces the individuality of pieces and their object-like character, to create a more fluid and visceral experience. It is a transition from object to experience, and shows architecture’s potential to act as a mediator in this process.
The porcelain on display was courtesy of the collection Von Klemperer, the Meissen factory and several private collections in England and Germany.