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Museum Ostwall

After Soda renovated the Museum Ostwall - located in the Dortmunder U (DU) - as well as the common exhibition space of the DU (the 'Oberlichtsaal', 1,200 m2), Soda designed (and is designing) several exhibitions for the museum, including the reopening exhibition 'Body & Soul'. Subsequently 'Ein Gefühl von Sommer' was on show in 2019 and in April 2022 'Flowers!' opened. Soda is currently designing the next collection exhibition, 'Re-reading MO', which will open May 2023.

'Re-reading MO (Museum Ostwall)', 2023-2025

The forthcoming collection exhibition, which will open May 2023, is entitled 'Re-reading MO' (working title) and is curated by Dr Nicole Grothe. This exhibition will run for three years and will cover the entire museum. The exhibition intends to provide a critical reflection on the history of the museum in the context of current debates regarding contemporary museum work. Important topics are the collection, art education and outreach to the public. Opportunities for the future will also be explored. Soda is currently working in-depth with curator Nicole Groth on the exhibition and its design. The key question for Soda is how to present the diverse works to visitors in a visually strong and content-conscious way. How, for example, could one present the context of Fluxus works - sixty years after they were created - in an appealing and engaging manner? An interesting design challenge!



'Flowers', 2022

With the exhibition 'Flowers!', 180 works with the flower in the leading role are presented in the 'Oberlichtsaal' until the end of September this year. The exhibition sheds light on how 50 modern and contemporary artists - such as Renate Bertlmann, Fischli/Weiss, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Meret Oppenheim, Marc Quinn, Dong Quynh, Odilon Redon, Gerhard Richter, Pipilotti Rist, Martha Rosler, Hito Steyerl, Anaïs Tondeur en Andy Warhol - use the flower in their work to address issues as personal loss, feminism and the environment. 

Soda developed the design for this exhibition. Together with curators Regina Selter and Stefanie Sweisshorn-Ponert, Soda (with Caro Delsing) worked closely to create a visually strong exhibition with a clear scenography.

The essence of the design was the application of a number of large gradients on several walls. The starting point for this design was the colour gradient we so often find in flower petals. Due to their scale and impact, the huge gradients engage in an equal dialogue with the rather overwhelming architecture of the Dortmunder U: as such they connect the massive building with the - often smaller - art works. The gradients have several functions. Firstly, they stimulate visitors in a natural way to movement, which leads to a clear routing. Furthermore, in terms of content, the gradients create cohesion in an exhibition that consists of quite diverse works: they accentuate the various themes and have a supportive effect on the individual works. And because the gradients are slowly changing, there is only one colour in the background when the visitor stands in front of a work. This allows plenty of room to focus on the works themselves (photo below: Roland Baege).


The exhibition
The exhibition starts with several expressionist works. In this section a terra coloured wall reinforces the theme - the representation of the flower as a personal, inner expression - and unites the paintings. Subsequently, the eye is drawn to a long wall on which the first gradient is applied: the visitor naturally follows this wall, which initiates the routing in a natural way. Following this wall, the visitor enters the second space and notices that the gradient connects to the ceramic work of Quynh Dong, 'Tears of a Swan'.


Further on, the colour palette switches to pink for works related to the theme of Feminism and Society. In this second part of the exhibition, the visitor encounters a striking gradient. This gradient, ranging from deep red to black, surrounds a large installation by Annette Bertlmann. This installation consists of dozens of glass red roses standing in line on long metal knives. With Bertlmann's approval, the gradient here engages in a direct symbiosis with the art work.


The same happens further on in the exhibition with a metres-long series of photo prints by Anaïs Tondeur, 'The Chernobyl Herbarium'. This series is set against a cool, metallic gradient. Here too, the gradient enhances the work, which consists of rayograms taken by Tondeur every year after the nuclear disaster: they are direct prints on sensitive glass plates of plants that grow in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Once again, gradient and work coincide. (foto above: Roland Baege)


The third and final theme of the exhibition presents works related to the theme Environment. Here, the dark blue walls counterbalance powerful, but also darker works by Marc Quinn, David Hockney and Andreas Gursky, among others. The exhibition concludes with a large installation by Hito Steyerl, situated in a high enclosed darkened space. Finally, the visitor leaves the exhibition via the bright entrance area where, on the long wall behind the counter, a colourful plot of a work by Fischli/Weiss - also part of the exhibition - is displayed. 

Photos below: Roland Baege



'Body & Soul', 2020-2022

The exhibition 'Body & Soul' features modern and contemporary works that examine the human body and its relationship to food, clothing, movement, faith, hope, fear and mortality. Curator Dr Nicole Grothe invited Soda to develop the scenography and the design for this exhibition. In close dialogue with Grothe, Soda elaborated this into a floor plan and a scenography.


Soda chose colour as the main carrier of the story of 'Body & Soul' that is told in a number of succeeding themes. Throughout the whole exhibition, content and colour are closely interrelated. The exhibition starts with the theme of The Naked Body. Here, a soft skin colour on the walls gently guides the visitor gently into the exhibition. As the story continues on 'Food and Digestion', a strong greyish pink tone appears on the walls, supporting not only the sub-theme, but also individual works such as those by Dieter Roth (with fungi in the leading role).

Following this, the visitor enters the so-called Flux-Inn (based on an idea by Caro Delsing): a metres-high space designed by Soda in black and white with bright pink accents. This space is meant for action, drawing, chilling, reading and also presents a number of interactive works such as those by Edwin Wurm. In this Flux-Inn, Soda emphasizes on the one hand the informal character of this space - by means of a large rug and beanbags - and on the other hand the dynamics - by covering the entire space with neon pink cords. These cords have an additional function: they accentuate the height of the space and connect the two floors of the museum. A further addition is that Soda placed hands, photographed by artist Cathy la Rocca, on a large black wall, with a quotation (a statement of action and contemplation) linked to an activity meant for visitors.
After leaving the Flux-Inn, the exhibition continues with the theme 'Soul': the inner life.


The first works to be displayed here are expressionist paintings in which artists sought to express their personal experience of nature. Soda chose earthy brown walls for this section. The next part of the exhibition is dedicated to works that speak of fear, pain and terror. The walls here are blood red. The exhibition then continues with works relating to religion, grief, mourning, meditation and hope - all set in a white space. The last section zooms in on love, friendship, family and intimacy: the walls in this section are of a very light pink.



'Ein Gefühl von Sommer', in collaboration with Museum Singer, 2019

The exhibition 'Ein Gefühl von Sommer', situated in the 'Oberlichtsaal', showed a representative overview of Dutch painting from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with approximately 120 works selected from the Singer Collection in Laren: with painters from the Barbizon School, The Hague School, Amsterdam Impressionism and at the time current movements such as Pointillism and Cubism. Works on display included those by George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israëls, Jacob Maris, Bart van der Leck and Jan Sluijters.


Attention was also devoted to the American collector's couple Anna Singer-Brugh and William Henry Singer. This exhibition of Museum Ostwall at the Dortmunder U was part of a large-scale cooperation and exchange of collections. A selection of the Museum Ostwall's expressionist collection was presented in Laren.
Curators were Regina Selter and Anne van Lienden.


Given the relative unfamiliarity in Germany with the Singer Museum and the former artists' village of Laren, Soda proposed to set the - often small - works in a visual context by means of enlarged postcards and photographs from the era in question. By doing so, Soda created an evocative image of Laren and its hinterland. At the time, Laren, surrounded by beautiful moorland, attracted many artists, particularly from Amsterdam. They portrayed the village, its nature and the local residents and through their presence brought atmosphere and momentum. With their arrival, a tram connection was constructed and villa's were built. All these subjects are reflected in the artworks from that period. Deriving from some of these works, Soda selected the colour palette for the walls, which consisted mainly of blues and greens.