El Lissitzky The Abstract Cabinet The New Reconstruction

18. February 2017 – 31. December 2018
Sprengel Museum HannoverSprengel Museum Hannover
In cooperation with and thanks to the generous support of E)(POMONDO by Holtmann, Han- nover-Langenhagen, the Sprengel Museum Hannover has produced a new reconstruction of El Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet (1927). The space, which existed until 1937 in the then Museum of the Province of Hannover, not only represents an important stage in the history of Hannover’s museums but is also one of the Russian artist’s masterpieces and a milestone in the develop- ment of exhibition architecture.
As an international avant-garde artist, the architect, painter and typographer Lissitzky (1890−1941) pursued the goal of bringing abstract forms of art in harmony with the demands of modern life. His works reflect the newest technical possibilities, materials and media. His ties to Hannover were not only particularly close since 1922 because he found recognition among the city’s curators and collectors but also because he met his future wife Sophie Küppers here.
In 1926, he was commissioned by Alexander Dorner, the director of the “Landesgalerie” in the “Provinzial-Museum Hannover” to design an innovative “demonstration space” for contempo- rary art that even then attracted attention from far and wide as a pioneering experiment and is still in the focus of art historical research. Lissitzky invented an unprecedented form of present- ing works of art. He compared his demonstration space to a kind of “showcase” or “stage” on which justice would be done to each work and shown to its best advantage. The modern exhibi- tion display with slatted wall and slidable elements were intended to activate the visitor and reflect his perception. The design was “not a private salon decoration” but intended to “set a standard for spaces where new art was shown to the general public” (Lissitzky). Abstract works by Cubist and Constructivist artists such as Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky and Frie- drich Vordemberge-Gildewart were (and are) exhibited in the Cabinet.
The original space was destroyed in 1937 in conjunction with the suppression of modern artistic tendencies by the Nazis and reconstructed for the first time in 1968 at the Lower Saxony State Museum to commemorate Dorner’s services. This initial, no longer fully functional reconstruc- tion was in operation in the Sprengel Museum Hannover until 2016 as a material substitute for the lost original. As site of memory and unique feature of the museum, a reconstruction was still viewed as indispensable to the extent that the space enables an immediate tangible experience of the artistic utopias of the international avant-garde in Hannover of the 1920s, despite the fact that a modern copy always inherently contains a manifest risk of falsifying the historical truth.
The new replica is now permanently open to the public at the same site in the collection. Its objective is to reconstruct the original Cabinet as accurately as possible as regards architectonic characteristics, colour and lighting. There are now two entrances again (instead of the one door in the previous reconstruction), a black linoleum floors (instead of a light grey carpet), a nettle ceiling and window facing (instead of a plastic grid and Plexiglas cube) and a colourfully painted mouldings as opposed to black, white and grey.
The opening of the newly reconstructed space will be accompanied by a small presentation of works and documents relating to Lissitzky, Dorner as well as to the genesis of the “Abstract Cab- inet” and the reconstruction. Both spaces will play a central part in the coming special exhibition “revonnaH. Avantgarde in Hannover 1912 – 1933” (23 September 2017 to 7 January 2018).
A 12-page illustrated visitor’s brochure in German and English has been published to accompany the reconstruction.
In cooperation with and thanks to the generous support of E)(POMONDO by Holtmann, Hanno- ver-Langenhagen.

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