Until August 2009 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will launch its new cultural season with a sporting theme. For the next year, every visitor to the museum can play football inside ‘Apollo’, the artwork specially created for the museum’s inner courtyard by German artist Olaf Nicolai. Design Bureau Thonik, which is responsible for the museum’s house style, created a design for the inner courtyard in collaboration with Nicolai, with the floor mural accentuating the interplay of lines and the reflection of ‘Apollo’.
With ‘Apollo’, Olaf Nicolai has created a sculpture that is also a podium for performances. The circular, half-open pavilion forms the setting for a potential football field, where the players’ movements are reflected in the mirrors that shoot up at regular intervals around the red playing field and generate a strobe-like effect as a result. This creates a reinforcement and an aesthetised performance dynamic that, like a stroboscope, appears mediatised. However, ‘Apollo’ most of all resembles the zoetrope, or phenakistiscope, invented by the mathematician William Horner in 1834.
In classical mythology Apollo was the god of light, reason and the arts. With its playing field Nicolai’s Apollo also refers to Dionysus, the god of pleasure. In this installation Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s courtyard has become a platform for wannabe Apollos. Anyone entering the arena is bathed in the radiant aura of the mirrored pavilion and almost consecrated by the aesthetised motion dynamic. Olaf Nicolai has worked with similar issues and themes in other ‘football works’. For example, his camouflage-painted goalposts featured in the well-known ZDF classic ‘das aktuelle Sportstudio’ (2001) as well as ‘Ballack’ (2004-2006), a collection of press photos of the German football icon, in which the facial details were magnified considerably. For ‘Ballack’, Nicolai investigated whether a medial figure can, by definition, also be portrayed as an individual with real character traits.
‘Apollo’ is made possible by the H+F Patronage for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The work is one of a series of sculptures by Nicolai with an architectural background that can also be entered into, which marks a connection with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen’s collection, in particular Bruce Nauman’s ‘Double Steel Cage Piece’ (1974).
The museum is giving contemporary art a prominent place in its new displays in the form of three artist’s presentations that reflect upon the collection and the building. These visual statements are intensified through alternation with works from the permanent collection, establishing a dialogue that heightens the senses and encourages contemplation. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has an active programme of exhibiting and responding to leading international artists.
Olaf Nicolai was born in Halle a.d.Saale in the former German Democratic Republic in 1962. He lives and works in Berlin. Since the early 1990s, his work has been displayed in many international group and solo exhibitions including documenta X (1997) and the Venice Biennale in 2001 and 2005. Nicolai’s art is mostly conceptual in nature and is often characterised by (socio)political references, in which multiple antipodal socialist and capitalist, hedonist and idealist aspects merge and even overlap. In addition, the playful element, in the sense of Johan Huizinga’s ‘Homo Ludens’, is a ambivalent motif in his oeuvre. It is precisely this game that makes it possible to combine extremes under a new common denominator.
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, www.eigen-art.com