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”The MoMA in Berlin” Receives Company:
Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures / Design Seen at MoMA

From Warhol to the Wiggle Side Chair: The Museum of Modern Art in New York not only has the most famous collection of Modernist paintings, drawings, and sculptures; it also has the most important film department of any museum worldwide, while its collection of 20th-century industrial products is every bit as significant. Visitors who have missed these areas in ”The MoMA in Berlin” should look out for two new exhibitions opening in the German capital.

Mary Lea Bandy, artistic director of the film department of the Museum of Modern Art, presides over several thousand videos and 19,000 films. On the occasion of MoMA’s guest appearance in the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, which features its painting and sculpture collection, she was invited by one of the most active art institutions in Berlin to develop an experimental form of presentation for Andy Warhol’s art works on film. The point of departure for the unusual exhibition in the Kunst-Werke is Warhol’s Screentests, short films three to four minutes in length that show moving portraits of the Factory superstars as well as famous personalities such as Salvador Dali, ”Baby” Jane Holzer, and Dennis Hopper . Over 500 of these ”screenings” were made between 1964 and 1965. With his Screentests , Warhol didn’t only ironically adopt Hollywood’s casting system for the underground; he also wanted the works to be understood as ”moving stills,” as portraits in a painterly sense. It’s impossible to overlook the conceptual proximity between his silkscreen portraits and the unmoving camera positions of the ”plotless” screentests. Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures now offers viewers the possibility to experience this proximity directly.

Andy Warhol. Screen Test: "Baby" Jane Holzer. 1964. Film: 16mm, approx. 4 min. © The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

In the Kunst-Werke, Warhol’s films are presented like paintings, and the viewer is free to move among them. A selection of Screentests is shown in continuous projection together with other Warhol films ( Eat, Kiss, Sleep, Empire) presented on ultra-flat screens let into the wall. In order to underscore the museum-like impression, Mary Lea Bandy is also showing a part of the works in classically fashioned wooden frames. The result is an initial impression of a painting gallery before the viewer notices the moving images among the works. The exhibition concept has already created controversy among critics. Anyone interested in getting an impression of Warhol’s films shouldn’t let this opportunity slip by. ”Nothing can substitute the experience of walking among these images,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote in spite of its reservations concerning the show’s concept, ”and maybe, in this way, they will be accessible to many for the first time.”

The exhibition Design Seen at MoMA invites the visitor to another experience entirely. Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum – founded in 1867 as the first craft museum of its kind in Germany – possesses a design collection that includes around 2,500 serially manufactured products from the 20th-century international avant-garde. The design collection concentrates on objects in the areas of furnishing, decoration, jewelry, and fashion whose design and manufacture took place under equally high standards of functionalism and aesthetics. Hence, the museum is an ideal location for the show, augmenting the MoMA exhibition in The New National Gallery by presenting modern design from its own collection with an equivalent in MoMA’s design department.

The MoMA collection – part of the ”Department of Architecture and Design” founded in 1932 – today includes nearly 4,000 objects and textiles. It is remarkable for its broad spectrum, which is unique worldwide. The collection includes hair dryers, surfboards, household appliances, office machines and furniture, sporting devices, chairs, and microchips as well as cars, tools, a propeller, and even a complete helicopter. The main emphasis of the design collection is on industrially manufactured serial products. In a historical sense, MoMA’s design collection offers a comprehensive overview of Modernism and underscores the connections between industrial production, Bauhaus ideas, and Machine Art.

Barcelona Chair by L. Mies van der Rohe: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Fotostudio Bartsch Television Jim Nature by P. Starck: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Fotostudio Bartsch

Furniture plays an important role both at the MoMA and the Kunstgewerbemuseum. In terms of mobility and function, it is the ideal design object for trying out new materials, forms, and colors. Highlights such as Gerrit T. Rietveld’s reclining armchair Red-Blue (1923) can be seen, as well as tubular furniture by Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Included in the exhibition are the Splint (1942) and the Rocking Chair (1950) of the famous American designer team Charles and Ray Eames as well as Frank O. Gehry’s Wiggle Side Chair (1972) and the portable television with the biodegradable case, Jim Nature, designed by Philippe Starck in 1993. The selection of over 40 pieces offers a glimpse into the variety and quality of modern industrial design both at the MoMA and the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

Hardoy Chair by J. Ferrari-Hardoy: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Foto Saturia Linke Wiggle Chair by F. O. Gehry: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Foto Saturia Linke

But contemporary design has its place here, too. In an exhibition conceived under the direction of the Berlin-based designer and curator Oliver Vogt and the art historian Jörg Klambt, seven young designers from Berlin and New York were brought together to work on the common task of designing products for MoMA’s museum shop in The New National Gallery. 14 individual objects transcending the borders between art and design came about in this way. The transatlantic exhibition 7+7 = vierzehnmal - Junges Design aus Berlin und New York (7 + 7 = fourteen examples of young design from Berlin and New York) offers a contemporary counterpart to the modern design on exhibition. And so whoever is planning on visiting The MoMA in Berlin or has already become addicted to the Museum of Modern Art should take some time out – there’s a lot more to look at!