Johannes Duiker in Museu Serralves in Porto
This autumn, the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal, is showing a large number of drawings and photos of the Zonnestraal sanatorium in Hilversum and the Cineac cinema in Amsterdam. The exhibition Not Post-Modernism: Dan Graham and 20th Century Architecture revolves around the artist Dan Graham’s (1942-2022) fascination with architecture. It features works by eight architects who influenced his work in various ways, including two projects by architect Johannes Duiker (1890-1935) from the archives of the Nieuwe Instituut.
2 November 2023
Architecture always played a role in Dan Graham’s work. This is reflected in his essays, reviews, sculptures and photo installations. His 1981 work Cinema, for example, refers directly to the design of the Cineac in Amsterdam. The exhibition examines not only Graham’s critical view of the projects shown, but also the influence and relationships these projects had on and with Graham’s own ideas and work.
Zonnestraal sanatorium in Hilversum and the Cineac in Amsterdam are two iconic examples of Nieuwe Bouwen, the Dutch functionalist style. Zonnestraal sanatorium (1928-1931) was designed as a convalescence home for diamond cutters who had contracted tuberculosis. The ideas of Nieuwe Bouwen are reflected, for example, in the functionality of the design, the lack of decoration and the use of materials: reinforced concrete for the construction and non-load-bearing façades of single glazing in steel frames. The Cineac in the Reguliersbreestraat in Amsterdam (1933-1934) was designed as a steel structure. The building had to be as light as possible to make use of the existing foundations.
Johannes Duiker’s work is on display in Porto along with that of seven other architects: Lina Bo Bardi, Atelier Bow-Wow, Sverre Fehn, Itsuko Hasegawa, Kazuo Shinohara, Anne Tyng and João Batista Vilanova Artigas. Their work is juxtaposed with that of Dan Graham himself.
Bartomeu Marí, the curator of the exhibition, contacted the Nieuwe Instituut early in 2022. He and Dan Graham were already busy preparing the exhibition when the artist unexpectedly passed away in February. The heirs, the museum and Bartomeu Marí then decided to go ahead with the project and honour Graham’s memory with this exhibition.
During a visit to the Research Centre, Marí and the archivist Ernst des Bouvrie made an extensive selection from the National Collection. This includes not only material from Johannes Duiker’s own archive, but also from the archive of Evert Jelle Jelles (1932-2003), an admirer, collector and advocate of Nieuwe Bouwen and Duiker in particular.
In addition to the more general items relating to Zonnestraal sanatorium and the Cineac, the museum was particularly interested in the technical drawings and photographs of the construction. This interest stems from the question of how the architect’s ideas were translated into the construction of the building.
The drawings in Duiker’s archive had long been in poor condition. Since they were restored in 2011 with a grant from Metamorphoze, they can now be borrowed, framed by the Nieuwe Instituut. The selected photos, including those from the photo album Wording van ‘Zonnestraal’ [Creation of ‘Zonnestraal’] 1927-1929, will be delivered digitally. In this case, the institute asks that the works not be reproduced as if they were original prints, but that they be presented digitally. Nieuwe Instituut’s Digilab has digitised the pieces to a high standard, so that the photos can be enlarged and visitors to the exhibition can digitally ‘leaf through’ through the photo album.
In total, more than 30 drawings and as many digital files went to Porto. It is unusual for such a large selection of works from only two projects to be included in one exhibition.