05 Mar 2021 • Wien, Austria
Beethoven Moves Exhibition
Tom Postma Design
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (KHM)
Graphic + Wayfinding Design
This unique exhibition on the life and work of Ludwig van Beethoven goes beyond a mere historical display of objects and artefacts. Instead, it aims to simultaneously deepen our understanding of Beethoven and his work, and explore his impact on the arts and society through an associative display of diverse artworks housed within a series of distinct spaces.
The vision for Beethoven Moves has resulted in an exhibition that celebrates the historical and contemporary power of Beethoven, his multifaceted work and character, and his position as an ongoing source of inspiration across all disciplines of art.
It was imperative that the exhibition architecture not only provide a cohesive backdrop for the multitude of different artworks on show, but that it also convey the varied atmospheric moods associated with the themes of Beethoven’s life.
Separated into four distinct spaces, the use of lighting, materiality and form shifts with each room, slowly revealing the historic galleries as visitors progress through the show. The creation of ‘sound tunnels’ providing acoustic and visual separation, and acting as buffers between rooms. The total transformation of each gallery – something never seen before at KHM – assists in bringing together historical artefacts, music, performance, and visual arts spanning centuries.
The project is innovative on a number of levels, the most profound of which is perhaps the dialogue created between the exhibition architecture and the existing KHM building. Never before has such a radical architectural proposition been realised within these spaces. In situating a highly contemporary exhibition architecture within the walls of the Hapsburg Empire KHM building, the exhibition creates new and exciting readings of both. This mirrors the exhibition content, where contemporary artworks sit in dialogue with the work of old masters, such as the work of Rebecca Horn sitting in direct dialogue with a Rodin sculpture.
Further to this, the innovation in this project also exists in the use of materials that activate the senses: from soft carpets to hard surfaces and from mirrored flooring and acoustic foam; to the inclusion of soundscapes and haptic surfaces. The curatorial vision provided the inspiration for this outcome, impacting everything from the ‘sound tunnels’ that alter one’s auditory experience from one space to the next, to the carpet that dampens the sound of footsteps so you experience music or silence as you walk through the space.
These haptic, visual and auditory experiences are supplemented with subtle shifts in height - floors that ramp up or down without being too obvious to give viewers of all ages, abilities and vantage points different perspectives of artworks throughout the show and directly enhancing inclusivity as an integral part of the exhibition experience.
In terms of wider inclusivity, the exhibition is designed as a layered experience that allows for audiences of all knowledge or appreciation levels to engage with Beethoven. Both a Beethoven ‘novice’ could engage with work they know nothing about, perhaps ‘discovering’ him for the first time, whilst simultaneously an expert on the topic could dive into details and learn something now. This was achieved through the creation of singular, cohesive spaces that engaged multiple senses and presented multiple art works as installations and/or in dialogue with each other.
On a sustainable level, the repurposing of existing museum showcases, integration of rental structures and existing lighting ensured a good outcome in terms of both environmental and economic impact. The main supporting structure behind all exhibition walls is a rented re-usable rigging system that allows for lighter-weight (lower impact) materials to be used for finishes. For example, in the third room, the blue walls look solid, but are in fact fabric stretched over a light-weight rented frame to look like solid walls. Using fabric also allowed us to use the minimum amount of paint possible, which was only employed for refurbishing showcases and plinths.
The design aims to be radical yet poetic; monumental and intimate at the same time – a tribute to Beethoven and his legacy.