King Size: Art & Design Fit for a King @ Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

One of the oldest and most rigorously applied global corporate identities is without question the use of the colour orange by the Dutch.

The “Orange” in “The House of Orange” may have arrived by accident of marriage, but the Dutch instantly recognised its value and since the 16th century have ensured that everything, but everything, with even the vaguest relation to Nation and/or royal family is identified by a uniform colour.

Even going so far as renaming the towns where they built their palaces.

North of Berlin, for example, stands Oranienburg, known as Bötzow until in 1652 the Dutch royal family built a palace there.

South of Berlin stands Oranienbaum, known as Nischwitz until in 1683 the Dutch royal family built a palace there. And where in 2011 the Dutch creatives Gemma van Bekkum, Niek Wagemans and Rolf Bruggink built an art and design gallery.

Or better put converted an abandoned house into the art and design gallery Ampelhaus.

The inaugural Ampelhaus exhibition “Use it Again” was staged in the summer of 2012 and featured the works of over 50, predominantly Dutch, artist and designers exploring subjects around transformation, recycling and upcycling.

The 2013 edition is titled King Size: Art & Design Fit for a King and explores similar themes, but with a royal wink.

“Fit for a King” as in, what could one create from royal waste. “Fit for a King” as in, “…of the highest standards”. “Fit for a King” as in, Welcome Koning Willem-Alexander der Nederlanden.

And Willem-Alexander himself is present, in the form of a huge artwork by Rotterdam based artist Kuin Heuff. Rather than simply painting portraits Kuin paints portraits and then cuts pieces out of them to create works that from afar resemble much more woodcuttings or oil paintings than the water colours they are. And which from close up present, on account of the missing elements, a completely new impression of the subject.

Koning Willem-Alexander’s family meanwhile are honoured by Mischa van der Wekke. And one must really say honoured.

Created as part of his Recreated Furniture project the tables “Queen Maxima” and “Princess Amalia” are formed by taking old, dark,old, wooden tables and sawing through the individual elements. These are then reassembled with the old, dark, old, wooden face inside and a fresh, light, modern face outward. Two worlds united in a fascinating play on tradition, heritage, but for all in an inspired example of how superfluous pieces of furniture can be given a new life, a new identity.

Delightful.

Sawing and members of the Huis Oranje-Nassau also play central role in the objects from Utrecht based Studio Rolf.fr’s “Juliana and Rolf” collection.

Rolf bought, at an auction, a wardrobe, sidetable and desk that had previously belonged to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, the grandmother of the current King.

Having invested in furniture with a royal pedigree, Rolf sawed them into pieces.

Not sympathetically as in the work by Mischa van der Wekke.
But brutally.

Having dissected the furniture Rolf extended the individual elements with new, modern materials to create a series of objects that don’t so much combine the traditional with the modern as Mischa does, but much more use the historic as a basis for the modern and so underlines that history needn’t be preserved in its original form to be relevant for future generations.

Elsewhere we were very impressed with the works of Niek Wagemans who has crafted a series of cabinets from salvaged windows and doors, Lizan Freijsen’s carpets with their fascinating fungal optic that remind us that everything, even monarchies, will rot if left unattended, while Frank Halmans’ Burnt Cuckoo Clocks are just the most deliciously macabre objects.

When we were there one of the clocks struck three. No cuckoo appeared. Tragic.

However, the real star of King Size is the exhibition design.

On account of conditions imposed by the local authorities the first floor of the Ampelhaus currently cannot be used.

At least not by the public.

The curator’s solution: cut two holes in the floorboards, place raised seats under the holes and let visitors view the objects on the first floor from the “ant” perspective.

And because there is a seat at either end of the house, visitors can engage in conversations through the objects.

Just a wonderfully simple, effective and inspiring idea.

In these pages we have often reported on and spoken with contemporary Dutch designers, and have long wondered at the apparent endless depth of the Dutch talent pool.

The range of projects, approaches and positions presented by the ca. 34 designers and artists represented in Oranienbaum further underline just how important Holland currently is for European creativity.

And does so in a collection of objects that illustrates just how many options are available to helps us make better use of existing resources and so help preserve future resources for future generations. Be that future generations of royals or commoners.

King Size: Art & Design “Fit for a King” runs at Ampelhaus, Brauerstraße 33, 06785 Oranienbaum until August 17th 2013.

And if you’re worried you might not find the gallery.

You will.

It’s bright orange……..