Marking his U.S. debut, the Rotterdam-based designer and artist Bas van Beek will create an immersive, jewel-box exhibition for The Wolfsonian–FIU in an expansive Miami Art Week takeover of the museum’s South Beach site. Shameless, on view November 29, 2021, through April 24, 2022, will present Van Beek’s new work and installations derived from the Wolfsonian collection as well as recent career highs at Dutch institutions like Het Nieuwe Instituut, Boijmans van Beuningen, Van Abbemuseum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Kunstmuseum Den Haag.
“Looking back at our historical heritage, Van Beek brings to life credited and anonymous designs,” said Wolfsonian chief curator Silvia Barisione, who organized the exhibition. “By reshaping and improving them using new materials and techniques, he is ‘shameless’ in his provocative approach that goes beyond time, genre and geographic boundaries. He never hides his source of inspiration; on the contrary, it becomes part of his creation.”
Added Aric Chen, general and artistic director of Het Nieuwe Instituut: “We are delighted to contribute to an exhibition that reimagines design history by creating new perspectives and alternative narratives — something that is core to what we do as both an archive and producer of contemporary knowledge.” In addition to serving as one of the seven participating Dutch organizations, Het Nieuwe Instituut helped coordinate the project in the Netherlands and edited a small publication accompanying the exhibition.
Bas van Beek, known for dynamically repurposing historical design, ignores traditional boundaries by exploring relationships between “old” and “new,” turning admired, familiar artifacts into fresh, contemporary work — often with a wink. Intrigued by the richness and variety of existing material, he reconsiders shapes, functions and meanings by playfully riffing off work by artists past. Van Beek’s project is the latest in an ongoing series at The Wolfsonian that engages contemporary artists and designers in reinterpreting its historic collection and building.
“I try to unravel the intentions and principles of the original designer and unlock them,” said Van Beek. “Exactly fitting my interests, The Wolfsonian has a vast collection and is one of the rare institutions that chooses to collect and preserve works of often-overlooked cultural value. It was exciting to find so many works in their holdings that feel as contemporary as they are modern, like in the design drawings of Wilhelm Poetter that became fodder for my new, Wolfsonian-specific tapestry work, which evokes the effect of a computer glitch.”
Transforming The Wolfsonian’s ground floor, Shameless will feature a unique graphic scheme for each component of the exhibition:
- 5xWP, a new Wolfsonian-commissioned tapestry work designed by Van Beek, woven by Miami-based Odabashian, and drawn from Wilhelm Poetter modernist textile patterns;
- Lauweriks Teakettle, a 3D-printed teakettle derived from a Wolfsonian collection piece, a 1907 design drawing by Mathieu Lauweriks;
- Enormous blue, purple, and bronze wall tiles inspired by Verner Panton and Frank Lloyd Wright in addition to wallpaper and tapestries that fuse elements from the Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus, Mediterranean Revival, and Art Deco;
- Christmas ornaments, textiles, and aquarium sculptures nodding to highlights from the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, such as Claes Oldenburg's monumental Screwarch and Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone;
- An overview of Van Beek’s work from the past 15 years, including Cup and Paste—an espresso cup based on H. P. Berlage’s never-executed sketches for pressed-glass pieces and A. D. Copier’s planters for Leerdam Glass Factory—and a 3D-printed recreation of an unrealized coffee service design by Frank Lloyd Wright; and
- An installation that alternates Amsterdam School Lambertus Zwiers-esque wallcoverings with a geometric grid animated by digital screens, based on the method of conceptual artist Sol LeWitt and the aesthetics of Memphis artist Nathalie du Pasquier.
Additionally, Van Beek, who teaches in the Industrial Design Department of the Royal Academy in The Hague, partnered with FIU architecture professor Nick Gelpi to co-teach a virtual course in Spring 2021, Morphology in The Wolfsonian. Students from FIU and the Royal Academy were guided in reverse-engineering existing historical design objects, investigating their form and aesthetics, and applying those principles to create new, 3D-printed objects. Each work will be displayed alongside the associated Wolfsonian collection item that served as muse.“As part of Florida International University, The Wolfsonian is committed to creating one-of-a-kind student learning opportunities,” said Wolfsonian acting director Casey Steadman. “That the result of this international venture winds up in a major institution during Miami Art Week is a testament to the true and unexpected power of artistic collaboration.”