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Museum Ostwall: exhibitions
After Soda renovated the Museum Ostwall - located in the Dortmunder U (DU) - as well as the joint 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. After this, Soda designed the new collection exhibition, ''Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst', which opened on the 30th of April this year.

'Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst', 2023-2025

The new collection exhibition 'Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst' is curated by Dr Nicole Grothe. This exhibition runs for three years and covers the entire museum with 280 art works in total. 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 for which Soda designed a meeting space as party of the exhibition.

Museum Ostwall was founded in 1947 and ever since, the wish to connect art with everyday life has been a recurring theme in the museum. With this theme as a starting point, the key question for Soda was how to present the diverse works - ranging from modern classics to contemporary video art - in a visually appealing way. For instance, how could one convey the energetic context in which Fluxus works were created sixty years ago? What means can one employ to enhance the story and portray the era? What is the effect of colour, text and blow-ups? This has made the design process, in which Soda (together with Caro Delsing) worked closely with curator Dr Nicole Groth, an interesting assignment. 


Photo's: Jurgen Spiler (exce[pt photo 1, 4, 5, 7 en 11) 


'Flowers!', 2022

With the exhibition 'Flowers!', 180 works with the flower in the leading role were presented in the 'Oberlichtsaal' from  April till September 2022. The exhibition sheded 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 - apply flowers in their work to address issues as personal loss, feminism and the environment. 

Soda developed the design for 'Flowers!'. Together with curators Regina Selter and Stefanie Sweisshorn-Ponert, Soda (in close collaboration with Caro Delsing) created a visually strong exhibition with a clear narrative. In terms of content, the cooperation with the museum was profound: Soda helped to focus the theme, suggested additional works and helped to fine-tune the selection. In good converstation, Soda developed the floor plan including the exact order and location of all the works.

The essence of Soda's design was the application of a number of very 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 engaged in an equal dialogue with the rather overwhelming architecture of the Dortmunder U: as such they connected the massive building with the - often smaller - art works. The gradients had several functions. Firstly, they stimulated visitors in a natural way to movement, which lead to a clear routing. Furthermore, in terms of content, the gradients created cohesion in an exhibition that consisted of quite diverse works: they accentuated the various themes and had a supportive effect on the individual works. And because the gradients were very slowly changing in colour, there was only one colour in the background when the visitor standed in front of a particular art work. This stimulated a strong focus on the works themselves.
(photo below: Roland Baege).


The exhibition
The exhibition started with several expressionist works. In this section a terra coloured wall reinforced the theme - the representation of the flower as a personal, inner expression - and united the paintings. Subsequently, the eye was drawn to a long wall on which the first gradient was applied: the visitor naturally followed this wall, which initiated the routing in a natural way. Following this wall, the visitor entered the second space and noticed that the gradient connected to a intense ceramic work by Quynh Dong, 'Tears of a Swan'.


Further on, the colour palette switched to pink for works related to the theme 'Feminism and Society'. In this second part of the exhibition, the visitor encountered a striking gradient. This gradient, ranging from deep red to black, surrounded 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 engaged in a direct symbiosis with the art work.


The same happened further on in the exhibition with a metres-long series of photo prints by Anaïs Tondeur, 'The Chernobyl Herbarium'. This series was set against a cool, metallic gradient. Here too, the gradient enhanced 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 coincided.
(foto above: Roland Baege)


The third and final theme of the exhibition presented works related to the theme 'Environment'. Here, the dark blue walls counterbalanced powerful, but also darker works by Marc Quinn, David Hockney and Andreas Gursky, among others. The exhibition concluded with a large installation by Hito Steyerl, situated in a high enclosed darkened space. Finally, the visitor left 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 - was 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' - a story that is told with 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 into the exhibition. As the story continues with the theme 'Food and Digestion', a strong greyish pink tone appears on the walls, supporting not only this 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 some interactive art works such as those by Edwin Wurm. Soda emphasizes on the one hand the informal character of the Flux Inn - by means of a huge 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 in combination with a quotation that stimulates action to be carried out by visitors. 


After leaving the Flux-Inn, the exhibition continues with the theme 'Soul': the inner life. The first works on shopw 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 art 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 final 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', presented a representative overview of Dutch painting from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. On show were approximately 120 works, a selection from the Singer Collection in Laren: 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 given to the American collector's couple Anna Singer-Brugh and William Henry Singer


The exhibition 'Ein Gefühl von Sommer' was part of a large-scale cooperation and exchange of collections. A selection of the Museum Ostwall's expressionist collection was at the same time presented in Laren. Curators were Regina Selter (Museum Ostwall) and Anne van Lienden (Museum Singer).


Given the relative unfamiliarity in Germany with the Singer Museum and the former Dutch artists' village of Laren, Soda proposed to set the - often small - art 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 they brought atmosphere and momentum. With their arrival, also a tram connection was constructed and villa's were built. All these subjects are reflected in the art works from that period. Deriving from some of these works, Soda selected the colour palette for the walls, which consisted mainly of blues and greens.