Glory and Grandeur of the Middle Ages

Customer: Museum Schnütgen

Year: 2011

Museums and exhibitions

This special exhibition was intended to cause a stir and celebrate the art. It was considered important that the exhibition design should not overwhelm the works of art, so facts and fiction dramatically contrasted tranquillity and tension allowing the glory and grandeur of the exhibits to shine.

The Schnütgen Museum wanted to do something special in celebration of their 101st anniversary. The exhibition Glory and Grandeur of the Middle Ages displayed significant works from Cologne’s most creative epoch. Between 1000 and 1500 the city was one of the leading centres of art in Europe.

Many of the important exhibits had not been shown in Cologne for decades, some even for many centuries. For this exhibition, about 160 valuable works returned to the place of their creation on the river Rhine. Exhibits from Berlin, Bonn, Darmstadt, Budapest, London, Vienna, Paris, Lisbon, New York, Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles, were complemented by 60 exhibits from the museum’s own collection.

Based in Cologne, facts and fiction was particularly delighted to be able to place these homecomers in the right light and developed the exhibition concept to best emphasise the effect of the pieces in close cooperation with the museum. The dominating exhibition principle of the museum’s permanent collection was more daringly developed for the special exhibition with one of the main aims being to break with cliché of the dark Middle Ages.

Firstly, the darkness was killed off. A liturgical colour concept subdivided the exhibition into topical sections ranging from ‘church and city’ to ‘living and loving’. The brilliant colours were extensively applied to the otherwise grey and formally reduced architecture of the exhibition. The main exhibits were highlighted with colour, details were dramatically enlarged, architectural quotations were set tone-in-tone, here, as a discrete window relief; there, as a space-filling vault. In this way tranquillity and tension were dramatically contrasted providing a stage for the art to shine in all its glory and grandeur.