Meissen | SO - IL 18th-century Porcelain in Contemporary Architecture

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Meissen | SO - IL 18th-century Porcelain in Contemporary Architecture

In the Netherlands, Meissen porcelain is often regarded as ‘high-class kitsch’. Its sumptuous, often narrative style of decoration puts it at odds with the minimalistic and conceptual traditions of Modernism. In this exhibition, KAdE seeks to challenge this prejudice and focus attention on the great sculptural, artistic and technical strengths of Meissen. 

KAdE commissioned the Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO – IL) architectural office to design an ideal contemporary three-dimensional setting in which to present the porcelain.
In response, SO – IL has designed 32 modern, geometrically shaped showcases in bright colours and with ‘pointed tops’. As well as showing off the fifty-plus Meissen objects to best advantage, these vitrines are autonomous works in their own right. As Florian Idenburg of SO – IL explains, “We wanted to come up with a strategy to help visitors ‘take a fresh look’ at Meissen so that they could understand the pieces in a new way. By using the vitrine to ‘upset’ conventional ways of looking at the works, we force viewers to redefine their relationship with them. Through the organisation of colour, form and material, we seek to reduce the objectness of the individual pieces in order to generate a more fluid and visceral perception. It is about a transition from object to experience, and the power of architecture to act as a mediator in that process.”

The porcelain in the exhibition will be drawn from a number of sources, including the Von Klemperer collection, the Meissen factory collection and various private collections in England and Germany.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a book discussing both the porcelain and the architectural philosophy of SO – IL.

Von Klemperer collection
Gustav von Klemperer was a Dresden-based Jewish banker and collector who owned one of the finest pre-war collections of Meissen in private hands. It included over 800 items, mostly dating from the 18th century. During the Second World War, his collection was confiscated by the Nazis, crated up and stored in the hills outside Dresden. When Dresden was bombed by the allies in 1945, the entire collection had just been brought in to the city from the hills to the west. Acting against orders, the truck driver decided to leave his vehicle overnight in the courtyard of the royal palace. The devastating bombing raid of that night reduced the building to ruins. The post-war Communist regime left the ruin untouched. In 1951, a labourer discovered the battered cases of porcelain among the rubble. It quickly became clear that they contained the Von Klemperer collection (or part of it). Following the reunification of Germany in 1991, 83 pieces were returned to Von Klemperer’s heirs. They donated 63 of them to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) for inclusion in the institution’s renowned porcelain collection; the rest were auctioned off by Christie’s.

A few years ago, further items from the Von Klemperer collection were discovered in the SKD depots. The pieces were returned to the family and auctioned off in 2010 by Bonham's Fine European Ceramics in London. Although almost all the items in the auction had been damaged by the bombing (many seriously so), they sold for extraordinarily high sums. The exhibition at KAdE will feature a number of them, including a ‘Temple of Minerva’ table decoration (c. 1747), the figure of a Turk (c. 1745) and a nodding pagoda (c. 1745).

The exhibition will also include pieces from the Meissen factory collection which were produced in the 19th or 20th century but based on 18th-century models. Among these are various Commedia dell’arte figures (Brighella, Gondoliere, Arlecchino, Beltramo and Avvocato).

About the SO – IL architectural office
SO – IL (Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu) was established in 2008 by Dutchman Florian Idenburg and Chinese architect Jing Liu. Florian Idenburg graduated in 1999 from Delft University of Technology. Between 2000 and 2007, he was a project architect in the SANAA architectural practice in Japan. Idenburg is a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Harvard and Columbia, where his teaching explores the role of architecture in differing social, cultural and economic situations. He is also a regular contributor to periodicals such as Abitare, Domus, A+U and Mark Magazine. In 2010, Idenburg received a Charlotte Köhler Award. 
SO – IL’s recent projects include a wedding chapel in Nanjing, China, and the Kukje Art Center in Seoul (due for completion in November 2011). Last year, the practice was awarded the MoMA PS1 Young Architects prize. This year, its design for the Kukje Art Center won the American Institute of Architects’ AIA 2011 Design Award for ‘Unbuilt work’.
SO – IL is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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