• Duration of the Exhibition15. April 2011 - 14. August 2011
  • VenueNeue Nationalgalerie
  • An exhibition by the Nationalgalerie in cooperation with the IAACC Pablo Serrano, Saragossa (Spain). Made possible by the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie.

Two stars are going to meet in the glass pavilion of the Neue Nationalgalerie: Frank Stella, a painter and sculptor, who in his works is spreading out from the plain canvas into the surrounding space, and Santiago Calatrava, an architect, who has become known for spectacular bridge constructions. Although at a first glance this may seem quite an astonishing combination, on looking more closely there is a striking overlap of questions inherent in their work. There is, for instance, the question of balance or that of the relationship between individual elements.

Santiago Calatrava, who was born in Valencia in 1951 and has studied architecture and engineering in Valencia and Zurich during the 1970s, stands out with projects employing unconventional, biomorphic overflowing load-bearing structures, which rely on the statics of his constructions as formative principle. It is especially these load-bearing structures which often turn his bridge constructions into sculptures and which suggest evocations of natural shapes such as foliage, skeletons or wings. With an elegant sense of form he addresses the relationship between static and mobile architectural segments, e.g. that between immense projections and the connecting filigree steel cables, and the relationship of the whole to its constituent parts.

Frank Stella, who was born in Boston in 1936, studied fine arts and history in Andover and New Jersey during the 1950s. He made his debut in the Sixties with black paintings. Black stripes of paint interspersed by fine bright lines, which were often running parallel to the margins of the canvas, are lending a structure to these pictures. The bright lines were created by leaving blanks free of colour and making visible the underlying canvas. Frank Stella did not so much regard a painting as a picture but as a real object. He later referred to the “shaped canvas” to point out that the ground was not only used as support but that both paint and canvas together had to be seen as a three-dimensional piece of work. What is already announcing itself here is the spatial dimension which his paintings adopted during the Seventies. Stella began to shape surfaces as reliefs, i.e. he provided them with quasi architectural extensions. Thus, during the Eighties and Nineties, mainly sculptures came out of Stella’s studio. These were three-dimensional metal objects of garish colours which lift themselves above the flat surface, overflow and grow into space.

Today, his continued pursuit of the gesture of spatial expansion in the current co-operation with an architect like Santiago Calatrava presents an extraordinary opportunity to get acquainted with the late work of Stella who will be 75 in May. In 1990, Stella and Calatrava have met for the first time in Lyon where Calatrava built the Saint-Exupéry train station. Cristina Carillo de Albornoz, a Spanish curator, suggested a collaboration which eventually took shape during a visit to the studio. There, the two artists decided to fit out one of Stella‘s monumental paintings with a ‘load-bearing structure’ by Calatrava.

They chose the “Michael Kolhaas Curtain” for this project: a curtain made of robust linen about 40 m long with eyelets inserted into the long sides to facilitate hanging it up. Frank Stella took his inspiration from Heinrich von Kleist‘s novel “Michael Kohlhaas” (1810). Stella assembles a breathtaking abundance of geometric and ornamental elements reminiscent of comic strips or technical drawings which, applied to both sides in garish synthetic colours, seem to pop out of the canvas. The reference to the eponymous novel is reflected by this accumulation of colours and motifs which produce an overwhelming expressive dynamics. For the enormous canvas, Calatrava designed a torus, a bulging closed geometrical object made from a thin metallic screen, into which the canvas is embedded – now as continuous loop panorama. In Berlin, the painting and its round supporting structure will be hung from the ceiling of the Neue Nationalgalerie to enter into an additional dialogue with the ceiling pattern by Mies van der Rohe.