From Jan van Eyck to nendo, Design Museum Gent Catalogs How Research Informs Color

Marking the recent restoration of van Eyck's canonical Ghent Altarpiece, the exhibition lays out Experience Rooms, a Pigment Walk, furniture pieces, and histories of color.

Kleureyck: Van Eyck’s Colours in Design contains 11 Experience Rooms, including “Vitrum,” an installation that aims to materialize significant moments in the history of the color blue, beginning with a wall from Schloss Hollenegg in Austria. Courtesy Studio Plastique x Wonderglass x Schloss Hollenegg of Design

Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck didn’t invent oil painting in the 15th century, but he was, in today’s parlance, an early adopter of the technique. By using oil-based pigments and transparent glazes, van Eyck achieved color saturation and nuance not possible with the tempera that prevailed in his day. This virtuosic use of color, evident most notably in his recently restored Ghent Altarpiece, is the impetus behind Kleureyck: Van Eyck’s Colours in Design, a new exhibition at Design Museum Gent in Belgium. “Van Eyck’s color palette is an endless source of inspiration,” observes curator Siegrid Demyttenaere, who compiled objects and projects by contemporary designers that share the painter’s interest in color experimentation and research.

The exhibition’s Experience Rooms transform the museum’s period interiors into 11 immersive installations that engage multiple senses through the lens of color and objects deployed by van Eyck. Next, the Research Projects section highlights contemporary examinations of the relationship between color and human behavior, like Lynne Brouwer’s “Designs for discomfort” project, which catalogs how color psychology informs the design of stressful settings such as courtrooms, crematoria, and psychiatric facilities. The Pigment Walk, cocurated with Sofie Lachaert, takes visitors on a journey through the eight color groups in van Eyck’s palette, tying in objects by Patricia Urquiola, nendo, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, among others, to showcase how those colors interact with different types of light and materials.

“Looking at [van Eyck’s] work, you understand that knowledge and research are at the base of these masterpieces,” notes Demyttenaere, who also cofounded design publication DAMNº magazine. “This is the same working process of the talented designers and artists of today. The aim of the exhibition is to show to visitors of all layers of society and age that design concerns all of us.”

The exhibition Kleureyck: Van Eyck’s Colours in Design runs at Design Museum Gent from March 13 to September 6, 2020, when it travels to Lille, France, to close the city’s World Design Capital 2020 celebrations.

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Categories: Arts + Culture, Process