Shining a contemporary light on a classic topic
How to find urgency and originality in an exhibition about a much covered topic like Pompeii? That was the design challenge for NorthernLight in our latest museum exhibition “Dying in Beauty” for the Drents Museum in Assen, The Netherlands. The solution was to focus on lightness, on beauty – and on the link with modern day life. Something that Pompeii exhibitions until now did not do. This has resulted in an exhibition that shines a very contemporary light on the beauty of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Living in beauty
“Dying in beauty”, with highlights from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Napels and the Parco Archeologico Ercolano in Herculaneum, focuses on life before the devastating volcanic eruption. On the art and beauty with which the inhabitants surrounded themselves. On display are more than one hundred archaeological art treasures, including colourful frescoes, marble statues, a bronze fountain and golden jewelry.
Relate to modern day life
In our visual and spatial design, we use a contemporary aesthetic to showcase the objects and bring them into the foreground, making them relatable to modern day life. A clear grid of concrete blocks cut through by two diagonal lines, that follow the architecture of the room. They divide the gallery into three perspectives on beauty: the public propaganda on the forum, the private beauty in homes and the created beauty in roman gardens. The design refers to ideals of beauty that have its origin in ancient time – and last until today. By that it transfers the context of beauty into the now.
“Ancient original graffiti within a street grid of concrete blocks are both roman inventions that are found in our modern day cities. Playing with the ideas of order and beauty, of disruption and subversion, then just as now.” Max Pecher, Lead Creative
Ancient aesthetics – hyper digital
The highlighted pieces of the exhibition are not only set in scene by reflective glass and lighting, the text layer also gives a hint to the visitors on what beauty ment then and now: “Would you give it a like?” “Would you swipe right?”. The lighting and scenography combines ancient aesthetics with a hyper digital feel. Think of nowadays pixels and QR codes, which are just another invention that dates back to roman mosaics and ideals of beauty and order. Think of the bright colours that were just as much a part of Pompeii, as they are of the current hyper digital Vaporwave aesthetic.
A big thank you
We would like to thank the Drents Museum for the opportunity to design this challenging exhibition. A personal thank you to curators Bastiaan Steffens and Eva van Diggelen for their inspiring support of our daring design approach. A big thank you also to production company IRIS, lighting designers 50LUX, Bagerich type foundry for the use of Digitany font, Yellowbloom for composing the soundtrack and many others that were involved in production and installation of the exhibition.
“Dying in beauty” will be at the Drents Museum from 20 November 2022 till 26 March 2023.
Photo credits: Sake Elzinga, Drents Museum, NorthernLight
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