Two drawings by Theo van Doesburg of designs for Café Aubette will be exhibited at the Belvedere, Vienna, from 14 February to 1 June 2020. On loan from the Theo van Doesburg Archive, these drawings are part of the touring exhibition Into the Night, Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art, which was previously seen at London's Barbican Centre. That these drawings can now be exhibited at all is entirely due to intensive research and conservation work carried out by the Disclosing Architecture restoration and conservation programme.
In 1926, Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber engaged Van Doesburg in the refurbishment of Café Aubette, an eighteenth-century, neoclassical building in Strasbourg. Their aim was to create an innovative and modern amusement complex modelled on the great entertainment venues of Berlin and Paris. Van Doesburg envisaged integrating space, colour and movement, and so used the same lines, colour planes and modern materials for ceilings, walls and floors. This is an iconic design within Van Doesburg's oeuvre and a highpoint of De Stijl
The Van Doesburg collection
Works by Theo van Doesburg had been loaned so intensively and the material was in such poor condition that the decision was taken in 2018 to stop all lending of his work. But, the Van Doesburg archive is one of Het Nieuwe Instituut's most important collections. It is vital that the archive is fully accessible and can be used without risk to the work. Research carried out with the Dutch government's Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) into pigments, mediums and the exact use of colour, yielded knowledge about the optimal conditions under which the work should be preserved. The investigation, restoration and conservation of this archive is part of the programme Disclosing Architecture, which is working on the restoration, conservation and digitisation of large parts of the Het Nieuwe Instituut collection to ensure it will be accessible to a broad public in the future.
Into the Night
The exhibition Into the Night surveys the role of nightclubs, cabarets and cafés from 1880 to the 1960s. These places provided fertile ground for radical thought, where artists could share provocative ideas and new forms of expression evolved. The two drawings will be hung inside a reconstruction of Theo van Doesburg's Café Aubette dance hall, ciné-dancing, which has been built for this exhibition.
Note to editors
Theo van Doesburg. Café Aubette, colour design for a wall in the Grand Salon, 1927. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, donation Van Moorsel, DOES ab5205. Drawing on display in Belvere, Vienna.
Theo van Doesburg. Café Aubette, definitive colour design for the ceiling of the Grand Hall, 1927. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, DOES ab5168. Drawing on Display in Belvere, Vienna.