Monday, June 14, 2010

Empty is the new full

No matter how great the work on display, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin is one of those places you can’t help but want to experience empty. Designed by Mies van der Rohe it is a modernist classic. 

Sometimes museums do give us the opportunity to seem them empty when they are brand-new and yet to install their first exhibitions. The Neues Museum here in Berlin did it giving performers Sasha Waltz & Guests the opportunity to work in this astonishing new building. One of New Zealand’s great cultural exports, dancer Lisa Densem, was part of the company and you can see her performing and get a taste of the work here. In another Berlin/NZ connection the Jewish Museum was also a major public sensation as an empty piece of architect Daniel Libeskind sculpture before NZer and ex Te Papa stylist Ken Gorbey helped turn it into the curatorial muddle it is today. 

Thanks to artist Rudolf Stingel’s installation at the Neue Nationalgalerie we found ourselves (as near as damn it) alone in an empty van der Rohe masterpiece. The only additions Stingel had made to the space were a large chandelier and a huge carpet that covered the entire floor area. Even thought they were intended to give a twist to the tail of the building’s famous modernity, in the end they only helped reassert architecture’s power in one of its purest forms.