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Few exhibition visitors are aware of how artworks are displayed. Art on Display 1949-69 focuses specifically on the manner of presentation. It reveals, through six iconic examples, how the display itself helps to create the experience. The exhibition design, in other words, has an influence on the viewer’s perception, both of the exhibition space and the exhibits. Six progressive, post-war exhibition designs by architects Carlo Scarpa, Franco Albini and Franca Helg, Lina Bo Bardi, Aldo van Eyck, and Alison and Peter Smithson illustrate how design explicitly shape the relationship between artwork and viewer. These architectural approaches are reconstructed on a 1:1 scale, allowing visitors to experience them in three dimensions.

"Curators Penelope Curtis and Dirk van den Heuvel want to show that exhibition design, particularly by architects, was more radical in the midcentury than it is today. By placing artworks in non-traditional contexts – examples include paintings without frames and sculptures on the floor – these architects were trying to democratise art for a postwar audience.''

Dezeen, Amy Frearson 12 November 2019

Partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Art on Display, and the research that underpins it, are the result of a unique international partnership between Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. In addition to the exhibition of six historical reconstructions and dozens of works of art, the ambitious project also includes a web magazine, an (online) public programme and a catalogue. Unlike a standard travelling exhibition, the project has taken on very different forms in Lisbon and in Rotterdam, where the exhibition has been designed by architect Jo Taillieu.

The exhibitions in Lisbon and Rotterdam were both curated by Penelope Curtis, director of the Gulbenkian Museum, and Dirk van den Heuvel, head of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Art works

The dozens of paintings and sculptures displayed in the reconstructions are from the collections of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. Pieces from these collections have never been shown in the Netherlands before. Exhibits include 18th- and 19th- century works from the private collection of the British-Armenian businessman and philanthropist Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, and works by modern Portuguese and British artists, including Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Terry Frost and John Hoyland, from the Modern Collection.


Since its foundation in 2013, Het Nieuwe Instituut has experimented with a range of different exhibition models. Art on Display is part of a series of exhibitions which consist of 1:1 scale models and explore the mediation of art and design and the possible role of the visitor, while reflecting on the exhibition design. Earlier examples include: 1:1 Sets for Erwin Olaf; 1:1 Period Rooms; Temporary Fashion Museum and Neuhaus. Art on Display will be accompanied by a small exhibition featuring photos of these 1: 1 projects by Johannes Schwartz. For more information, see

Note for editors

  • Exclusive press preview tours can be requested on October 1 and  2..
  • The opening on 3 October will consist of a full-day programme with a number of intimate salons that you can attend online or at Het Nieuwe Instituut. The salons will welcome a variety of guests for discussions about exhibition design and other topics. You can also visit the exhibition as part of a small group.
  • Press images are available for download here.
  • or more information or to book a preview tour, please contact: Eveline Mulckhuyse,, +31 6 – 26 67 12 15 or Christiane Bosman,, +31 6 – 24 11 04 19.