• Van Gogh Museum
  • Amsterdam
  • NL
  • 2003
  • i.c.w. Jelle Post (projections) & Michaël Snitker (graphics)

(photos: Sanne Peper)(photos: Sanne Peper)

The project concerns the design for an exhibition on opera and stage-design in the new wing of the Van Gogh Museum. The exhibition covered a period around 1900, at which time ‘the Orient’ was en vogue and oriental themes, or rather European interpretations of oriental themes, greatly influenced the arts. The exhibition consisted of many objects from the collection of the famous La Scala theater in Milan (Italy), completed with some items from other collections: dresses, objects and models, but mainly an enormous amount of rather small, but very detailed, colorful and rather nice drawings and sketches from different stage-designers from the period.

In order to exhibit all these items properly and expressively, a large, freestanding, oval-shaped and transparent cage was eccentrically positioned in the main hall. The oval shape of the cage was conceived as an exact, but scaled copy of the outline of the new wing of the museum by Kurakowa, referring to the archetypical architectural theme of a building within a building, but also to the principle of the Matrusjka’; the nostalgic oriental puppet within a puppet. It structured the large open space of the hall, creating various places, while leaving the space open.

The cage was made of bamboo, bound together with ty-raps; the both very beautiful and very ‘oriental’ way of building traditional scaffolding in Asia. Thick vertical and diagonal bamboos were used for the construction, fine horizontal bamboos were used to create the oval outline and hanging the artworks. All precious old dresses were placed on puppets in the cage and the cage became a theater, or to be more precise, became La Scala, with the orthogonal bamboo construction referring to the characteristic boxes in the curved wall (of which actually huge 3-d projections on the adjacent curved museum wall shone through the bamboo). All sketches, drawing and other artworks were hung on the outside of the cage, similar to how art is hung on the steel mesh frames in depots.

Finally, the visitors came in and participated in this highly theatrical setting. Strolling around the cage, viewing the pictures and peeping through in order to see what’s inside, one saw the other spectators looking in and could hardly ignore the gaze of others oneself.