Renaissance masterpieces on display in Warsaw
From June 21st to September 18th the Botticelli tells a story. Paintings by Renaissance Masters from the Accademia Carrara Collection’ exhibition designed by NArchitekTURA, on display at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland. The exhibition features nine Renaissance masterpieces, including works by the masters Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio, Cosmè Tura, Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Battista Moroni and Paolo Veronese. The highlight of the exhibition is Sandro Botticelli’s The Story of Virginia, which represents the late work of the artist. Loaned from the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, the works combine to form a captivating exhibition that evokes the spirit of one of the greatest phenomena in European cultural history – the Renaissance movement.
Notably, NArchitekTURA’s design of the display’s form reinforces the space’s distinctive Renaissance interior and draws on other works created by Botticelli, including his famous masterpieces The Birth of Venus and Primavera, as well as his illustrations of Dante’s writings. NArchitekTURA’s lead designer, Bartosz Haduch, comments that “Botticelli Tells a Story” seeks to create a contemporary architecture rooted in three key themes: the unique interior of the space that presents the exhibition, the specific nature of the paintings on display and the broader movement of Renaissance art.
The symmetrical, harmonious geometry of the new building refers to the ideals of the Renaissance
all images courtesy of NArchitekTURA and Jakub Certowicz
History meets the present in the exhibition by NArchitekTURA
The new temporary exhibition by NArchitekTURA will be presented in the center of the former Chamber of Deputies – the most important Renaissance interior of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. With an ornate hall divided by three free-standing columns, the chamber’s most spectacular element is its cross vaults, with the coats of arms of 32 former Polish provinces and countries laid out on an irregular background resembling a blue sky with clouds. This space forms a space in which present and history, reality and illusion, architecture and art face each other. In the center of the exhibition area, Bartosz Haduch inserts a new free-standing concave arch that displays the artworks, is a reflection, both literal and indirect, of the existing ceiling and forms a negative of the vault above. The symmetrical, harmonious geometry of the new building interprets the geometries of the Renaissance interiors designed by Giovanni Battista Quadro and alludes to Renaissance ideals. In transverse views, it creates a somewhat illusory sine wave that fuses the contemporary and the historical. Its darker navy blue color reflects the lighter hue of the existing vaulting above and is inspired by a shade of the famous lapis lazuli pigment used for the crown of the apse in the Botticelli painting featured in the exhibition.
While the historical ceiling shows a view of the sky during the day, the newly designed exhibition by NArchitekTURA suggests the same view, but at night. Reflective curved surfaces direct, obscure and distort the image of the existing chamber, reminiscent of the historic optical effects seen in both Renaissance art and architecture. The specular effect dematerializes and defragments the chamber’s architecture, giving it a new quality and blurring the lines between old and new. “Especially in two views in the direction of the longitudinal central axis, the impression is created that the three existing pillars are illusory sinking into a liquid surface that resembles the trough between towering waves.” notes Bartosz Haduch, founder of Design and Research Group. “This is certainly one of the most spectacular architectural motifs in the exhibition.”
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi), The History of Virginia (1500-1510) | Tempera on wood | 83.3 x 165.5cm | Image about the Royal Castle in Warsaw
Botticelli’s “The Story of Virginia” is in the foreground
Individual artworks not visible from these two axial perspectives are displayed in niches with a more neutral matte background. Each lateral edge of the navy blue monolith is slightly concave, inviting the viewer to get closer to the paintings. These Renaissance artworks are displayed on opposite sides of the chamber, all illuminated with indirect, soft light hidden in recessed niches. On one side there are eight works by Giovanni Bellini, Cosmè Tura, Vittore Carpaccio, Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Battista Moroni, Paolo Veronese, Defendente Ferrari and Jacopo Bassano, arranged by theme. On the other side is Sandro Botticelli’s The Story of Virginia alone on display, accompanied by an illustrated information panel.
The ingenious play of bodies and light by NArchitekTURA, combined with the chamber’s unique scenography, together create optimal conditions for interaction with the masterpieces of the Renaissance. The arrangement of all artefacts along the long walls of the hall also offers the viewers benches in the existing window niches – for a quiet, undisturbed viewing of the works. The exhibition is complemented and enhanced by subtle indirect lighting, subdued instrumental music and carefully curated elements of small architecture, graphics and typography. All new elements of visual identification are made of brass and refer to the golden color of the picture frames. Together this results in a holistic vision of the exhibition, based on specific multi-layered inspiration but open to different modes of perception and interpretation.