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 2023.
'Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst', 2023-2025
On the 30th of April 2023, 'Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst' opened at Museum Ostwall. Soda (in collaboration with Caro Delsing) made the design for this new collection exhibition - which consists of 280 objects and works. In 'Kunst -> Leben -> Kunst', the museum reflects on its own history. Central theme is the interaction between art and life: the red thread that has run through the entire museum since Museum Ostwall was founded in 1947. In three chapters, this theme is highlighted.
For Soda, the key question was how to present the diverse works - from modern classics to contemporary video art - in a visually strong and appealing way. For instance, how does one convey the energetic context in which Fluxus works were created sixty years ago? What means can be used to support the story and the image of the time? What is the effect of colour, text and blow-ups? This made the design process, in which Soda worked closely with curator Dr Nicole Groth, an exciting task.
In the first chapter, everyday objects take centre stage. Founding director Leonie Reygers was committed to encourage good taste. She therefore furnished the museum not only with art but also with design, reading corners and a lot of atmosphere (plants, colours). In the following period, the museum started collecting Nouveau Realisme and especially Fluxus, two art movements that revolved entirely around the fusion of art and everyday life.
In tandem with curator Nicole Grothe, Soda figured out how to place all the different objects and artworks in dialogue with each other in this chapter. In addition, Soda added large blow-ups that create an impression of the 'zeitgeist'.
Do it yourself!
The second chapter entitled 'Do it yourself' zooms in on Fluxus, the influential 1960s art movement of which the museum collected a vast amount. Fluxus artists aimed to make people look at everyday life in a new light. To this end, they organised lively happenings in which everyday things were approached with a lot of humour and absurdism.
To capture the intention and energy of Fluxus in the exhibition, Soda placed enormous blow-ups of Fluxus happenings and texts on black walls in the so-called 'Flux-Inn'. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities to have a play in the spirit of Fluxus. Original Fluxus games are displayed in showcases and replicas invite the public to take part and have a go themselves.
The last chapter explores how the museum's art collection evolved. Here, too, everyday life comes to the forefront. After all, the development of a collection is not only influenced by which artists are influential at times, but also by which socio-political issues are at play.
It is highlighted how director Leonie Reygers collected mainly expressionist artists in the post-war period. In doing so, she wanted to rehabilitate this art, which had been banished as 'entartet' under National Socialism. Another topic is about what the museum did not collect: for a long time, hardly any works by female and non-European artists were acquired. Soda arranged most of the paintings in a 'Petersburg hanging' on an ochre yellow background.
Since the 1960s, the museum started collecting a considerable amount of art that explicitly addresses socio-political issues. This collection line is continued to this day. To maintain a critical eye on the expansion of its collection, the museum has set up an advisory board consisting of inhabitants of Dortmund. For their future meetings, Soda designed a 'Beiratsraum'.
Photo's: Jurgen Spiler (except photo 1, 4, 5, 7 en 11)
Soda also extended colours from the design to the high, open escalator space of the Dortmunder U (the so-called 'Vertikale'). By doing so, an eye-catcher has been created that immediately shows visitors the way to the museum on the fourth and fifth floors from the lift and the escalators. The photos below show part of the 'Vertikale'. The blow-up is a photograph chosen from the collection. It has a rhythm which is repeated in the lanes on the wall.
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 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' featured 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 were closely interrelated. The exhibition started with the theme of 'The Naked Body'. Here, a soft skin colour on the walls gently guided the visitor into the exhibition. As the story continued with the theme 'Food and Digestion', a strong greyish pink tone appeared 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 entered 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 was meant for action, drawing, chilling, reading and also presented some interactive art works such as those by Edwin Wurm. Soda emphasized 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 had an additional function: they accentuated the height of the space and connected the two floors of the museum. A further addition was that Soda placed hands, photographed by artist Cathy la Rocca, on a large black wall in combination with a quotation that stimulated action to be carried out by visitors.
After leaving the Flux-Inn, the exhibition continued with the theme 'Soul': the inner life. The first works on show here were 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 was dedicated to art works that speak of fear, pain and terror. The walls here were blood red. The exhibition then continued with works relating to religion, grief, mourning, meditation and hope - all set in a white space. The final section zoomed in on love, friendship, family and intimacy: the walls in this section were 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.