Fondation Beyeler
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ArchiSculpture
dal 3/10/2004 al 30/1/2005
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Catherine Schott



 
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3/10/2004

ArchiSculpture

Fondation Beyeler, Basel

Dialogues between Architecture and Sculpture from the 18th Century to the Present Day


comunicato stampa

Etienne-Louis Boullée – Auguste Rodin – Paul Cézanne – Kasimir Malevich – Vladimir Tatlin – Constantin Brancusi – Bruno Taut – Rudolf Steiner – Erich Mendelsohn – Giorgio de Chirico – Wilhelm Lehmbruck – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Frank Lloyd Wright – Le Corbusier – Friedrich Kiesler – Henry Moore – Alberto Giacometti – Eduardo Chillida – Max Bill – Donald Judd – Arata Isozaki – Constant – Frank O. Gehry – Jean Nouvel – Herzog & de Meuron – Dan Graham – Per Kirkeby – Thomas Schütte – Tony Cragg – Zaha Hadid – Gerhard Merz – Peter Kogler – Greg Lynn et al.

''True architecture is sculpture.''
Constantin Brancusi

''ArchiSculpture'' traces the multifarious close and reciprocal relationships between architecture and modern sculpture, which became especially pronounced in the twentieth century. Sculpture has always adopted elements from architecture and vice versa, the art of building has employed forms and structures derived from sculpture. Yet since the inception of modernism, the border-lines between the two fields have become increasingly blurred. In fact, certain tendencies in contemporary architecture give the impression of continuing the history of modern sculpture in built form.

A special aspect of the project is its approach to the theme from the point of view of both fields, in contrast to the rather one-sided focus in recent publications on the development of sculptural configurations in architecture. Another challenging factor is the form of presentation itself. Origi-nal pieces by outstanding sculptors are directly confronted with models of corresponding build-ings of world architecture. Sculptures by Henry Moore, for example, are juxtaposed with a wooden model of Le Corbusier’s pilgrimage chapel in Ronchamp (1950-54). Another unprece-dented feature is the historical scope of the exhibition. Conceived by Markus Brüderlin, it traces the exciting development of ''archisculpture'' from the late eighteenth century to the present day. On view are 180 objects by 60 artists and 50 architects, divided into ten chapters. Each includes flashbacks and looks forward which convey an awareness of the constancy of certain themes. For instance, the working model of Frank O. Gehry’s renowned Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, completed in 1997, takes on a new profile when viewed along a sightline with a 1915 corner relief by the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. These three-dimensional dialogues are supplemented by selected paintings and large-format photographs that augment the theme on a pictorial level. At the exhibition’s focus stands the experience of body and space, which has taken on an unexpected actuality in the age of electronic media and simulation. The exhibits are spatially staged in a way that encourages a triangular relationship between the body or volume of sculpture, the space of architecture, and the body of the viewer.

''ArchiSculpture'' is a thematic exhibition. It posits that twentieth-century architectural history can profitably be seen from a sculptural point of view, and vice versa, that a fresh light can be shed on the development of sculpture by viewing it in terms of architecture. The circuit through the presentation begins with the incipient autonomy of architecture at the close of the eighteenth century. At the start stands Etienne-Louis Boullée’s famous vision of a gigantic spherical ceno-taph for the physicist Isaac Newton. The chapter on ''Precursors'' is followed by the revolution of classical modernism (Cubism, Constructivism, Bauhaus), then by the period of the great archisculptures of Le Corbusier, Chillida, Wotruba and others in the 1950s. A key caesura is marked by the birth of installation art (Giacometti, Minimal Art). This expansion into space was paralleled by the urban utopias of the 1960s (Hollein, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Friedman, Isozaki). In recent times, the reciprocal relationship between architecture and sculpture has grown even closer. The conclusion is marked by a multivision reconstruction of the ''Monolith,'' a steel cube originally thirty-four meters in height designed by Jean Nouvel for Expo.02. This work leads back to the beginning, where it enters an allusion-rich dialogue with Boullée’s spherical monu-ment.

Our chapter on ''Precursors'' explores the premise that modern sculpture, seen in architectural terms, had sources other than Cubism and its innovative approach to space. One was the influ-ence of Gothic and neo-classical architecture on the birth of modern sculpture in the nineteenth century. Russian Constructivism, with its skeleton works penetrated by space (El Lissitzky), evokes a modern interpretation of Gothic and its reception during the nineteenth century. A neo-classical line leads from the geometric, cubic archisculptures of Malevich’s ''Architektona'' (1920-26) – two historical models of which have come to Riehen from St. Petersburg – by way of the proto-cubistic ''chequered style'' style of the Viennese Secession, and thence back to utopian French revolutionary architecture (Boullée), the primal form of modern archisculpture. A third, Baroque line can be traced from the large model of the spiral cupola peak of the church of Sant’ Ivo della Sapienza in Rome (Francesco Borromini, 1642-60) by way of Gaudí and Obrist’s Art Nouveau, down to the ''Serpentine'' of Matisse (1909).

Constantin Brancusi’s vision of a sculptural architecture is crucial for the history of modern archisculpture. ''Why, that is my studio!'' Brancusi reportedly exclaimed when he first saw the Manhattan skyline in 1926. Nowadays skyscrapers are indeed approaching ever closer to the sculptural. ''Victory over scale,'' a vision of the 1920s and 30s, has found a not unproblematical continuation in the age of the computer, to which dimensions are irrelevant. The second chapter of the exhibition includes a confrontation between a corporeal model of the Swiss Re skyscrap-er by Norman Foster, recently inaugurated in London, and the marble sculpture ''L’oiseau'' by Brancusi (1923/47).

In addition to chronology, the dualism between geometric and organic, rationality and expres-siveness, which emerged in the 1910s and has continued to this day, forms the project’s second basic structuring principle. At the exhibition’s nucleus, the third and fourth chapters, a confron-tation takes place between the rational, geometric approach of the Bauhaus and De Stijl move-ments in the 1920s and 30s (Vantongerloo, Rietveld, Mies van der Rohe) and the organically plastic and expressive tendencies of the archisculptural designs of Archipenko, Taut and Finsterlin from the same period. The monolithic block of the Einstein Tower, by Expressionist architect Erich Mendelsohn (1919-21), represents a culmination of modern sculptural architec-ture. Architecture as plastically modelled bodies or volumes has since been rediscovered as a key precursor to today’s sculptural and computer-animated architecture.

A confrontation with the fascinating architectural-sculptural manifestoes of the two Viennese philosophers Rudolf Steiner and Ludwig Wittgenstein may well come as a surprise. Steiner’s second Goetheanum (1924-28), a monumental embodiment of spirit and soul, merges external space with the space of the mind in a sculpted architectural volume formed of sweeping convex-ities and concavities. Its counterpoint in the exhibition is represented by a model of Wittgen-stein’s cubic, rationalistic house for his sister (1926-28). This rationalism is continued into the present by the father of Conceptual Art, Sol LeWitt. On the other hand, Joseph Beuys’s ''Plastic/Thermic Primal Meter,'' a relic of the sculpture exhibition in Brüglingen (1984), links up with Steiner’s metaphysical world view.

If prior to World War II, the rational spatial designs of the International Style (Mies) stood op-posed to Expressionist tendencies both geometric and organic, the 1950s brought an attempt to create a grand synthesis, as seen in Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel. The conquering of space and the discovery of plastic form converged in the invention of plasticity in and perme-ated by space. Based on an opening out and curvature of forms into the surrounding space, or on an interpenetration of interior and exterior, this development can be traced in juxtapositions of models and sculptures by Wright, Moore, Wotruba and Chillida.

On the other hand, the synthesis of space and sculptural form was radicalized in the question of how body could become space, and how space could be ''embodied.'' As early as the end of the 1950s, Chillida’s ''architecture of the void'' paved the way for ''body becoming space'' and thus for the beginnings of installation art – a milestone in the exhibition as well, as manifested espe-cially in the next room. In the space-penetrating art of the 1960s, Minimal Art such as that of Carl Andre, sculpture metamorphosed into location and the viewer assumed the role, so to speak, of a moving sculpture. Prior to this, Giacometti had already attempted to transform body into space while retaining figuration. His famous group for the Chase Manhattan Plaza articu-lates the site in front of the pavilion by Dan Graham, an artist whose work marks the point in the 1970s when sculpture became enterable archisculpture.

With Minimal Art, architecture and sculpture reached a new level of approximation, as pre-sented in the eighth chapter. The common denominator here is a radicalization of the simplicity of the rectangular box. From art, ''Minimal Architecture'' learned the significance of perception, but also the psychological effect of specially designed spaces, while art, in the form of the in-stallation, appeared increasingly to be subsumed in architecture. As examples of the intimate relationship between Minimal Art and Minimal Architecture, the exhibition draws parallels be-tween Donald Judd and the early works of Herzog & de Meuron, and between a floor work by Walter de Maria and Peter Zumthor’s principal model for the ''Topography of Terror'' project (1993).

The ninth chapter, devoted to urban utopias, holds surprises in store. Beginning in the mid-1950s, more and more city designs consisting of large-scale sculptural forms emerged. These megastructures of the architectural avant-garde, innovative cities growing over gigantic pillars, display astonishing correspondences with the sculpture of l'art informel (Hollein, Friedman, Constant, Isozaki, Coop Himmelb(l)au). As if in reply to these megastructures, the late 1960s brought the futuristic designs of cellular architecture, separate dwellings tailored to the individ-ual’s needs (Häusermann). This development was anticipated by Brancusi’s elemental forms and Friedrich Kiesler’s cavelike ''Endless House'' (1950-59). With this posited confrontation of structure with cell, ''ArchiSculpture'' sets a new accent in the recently revived debate on the ur-ban utopias of the 1960s, and at the same time prepares viewers for the aesthetic of what is known as ''Blobmeister'' architecture in the final chapter.

The circuit ends with the current conflict of approaches between ''box'' and ''blob,'' which is given a new dimension by sculptures by Arp, Moore and Giacometti. The fundamental duality be-tween geometric and organic is addressed in the shape of a confrontation between the com-puter-generated, soft and dynamic ''Embryological House'' by Greg Lynn (1999-2001) and a reinterpretation of Jean Nouvel’s ''Monolith'' for Expo.02, a cubic configuration that expands the idea of the ''box'' and its hermetic nature to monumental, hieratic proportions. A virtual look into its interior addresses the challenging combination of real and virtual space. Another project conceived specially for the exhibition, the installation with works by Lynn, a leading representa-tive of Blobmeister architecture, raises the issue of whether this approach is capable of bringing the old relationship of architecture to sculpture to a new level, or even of introducing a new era in sculptural architecture.

In view of its incredible creativity, might not contemporary architecture be said to continue the history of sculpture in the form of buildings? On the other hand, postmodern sculpture can no longer profitably be discussed without reference to the architectural (Schütte). After sculpture adopted from architecture the aspect of functionality (''useful sculpture,'' Kirkeby), the future po-tential of sculpture lies in a forcefield between virtualization and plasticity, high tech and high touch (Cragg). Standing for the former is the computer-animated and interactive video installa-tion ''Cave'' (1999) by Peter Kogler. Here, equipped with 3-D glasses and a joystick, the viewer can navigate through a surreal configuration located somewhere between blob and box. The latter is represented by the urge to touch, the need for the tangibility of sculpture, which offers an alternative to the increasing dematerialization of our environment.

As if uniting both high tech and high touch, Herzog & de Meuron’s enterable and climbable nine-meter-high archisculpture ''Jinhua Structure II – Vertical, For Berower Park, Riehen/Basel'' rises in the museum park. This pavilion will be milled from laminated wood on a computer-controlled work-bench, and, as the authors state, will remain a ''purely digital matrix'' throughout its emer-gence and until its physical production comes to an end.

''Jinhua Structure II – Vertical'' in the museum park links the ''ArchiSculpture'' project with an already existing, thirty-seven-square-kilometer urban exhibition area: the city of Basel. Thanks to its out-standing international architecture, Basel has advanced over the past twenty years to become the architectural capital of Switzerland. A city tour, ''On the Trail of ArchiSculpture,'' is planned.

''ArchiSculpture'' also takes up the thread of two sculpture exhibitions in Basel, organized by Ernst Beyeler (held at Wenkenpark, Riehen, 1980, and Brüglingen near Basel, 1984). In the history of the Fondation, the present exhibition continues the tradition of large-scale thematic presentations, such as ''Color > Light (2000), ''Ornament and Abstraction'' (2001), and ''Claude Monet... to digital Impressionism'' (2002). The museum’s trademark dialogues between old and new, classical modernism and contemporary trends, revealing intriguing links through the pres-ence of outstanding works, are likewise supplemented by ''ArchiSculpture.''

Many private collections, museums and architectural archives supported this project by providing valuable loans. These include Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt am Main; Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität, Munich; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin; Bauhaus Universität, Weimar; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; frAC-Fonds régional d’art contemporain du centre, Orléans; Chillida-Leku Museum, Hernani; Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya, La Pedrera, Barcelona; The Henry Moore Foundation; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz; Rudolf Steiner Archiv, Dornach; Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel; Kunsthaus Zurich; Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Menil Collection, Houston; Gehry Partners, LLP; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

The catalogue is published in a bilingual German and English edition by Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern. It con-tains essays by distinguished authors, including Friedrich Teja Bach, Markus Brüderlin, Werner Hofmann, Philip Ursprung and Viola Weigel. A virtual roundtable provides an opportunity for experts from both fields (including Aaron Betsky, Bazon Brock, Hans Hollein and Stanislaus von Moos) to air their opinions. The present publication is the first ever to juxtapose architecture and sculpture in a comprehensive visual section. 224 pages, with 370 illustrations, including 220 in full color (CHF 58.00).

Image: Kazimir Malevich, Architekton Gota, 1923, version 1926
Plaster, 85.3 x 56 x 52.5 cm. The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Press Contact: Catherine Schott Phone: + 41 (0)61 645 97 21, Fax: +41 (0)61 645 97 39

Opening hours of special exhibition:
10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. daily; Wednesdays until 8.00 p.m. (except 31.12.03)
The Museum is closed on 24 and 25 December 2003!

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