The Stedelijk Museum in Den Bosch is planning an exhibition on Third Reich design in collaboration with the Deutsches Historisches Museum, its director Timo de Rijk has announced.
This an area that needs to be part of the public discussion like the Dutch colonial past which gave rise to an exhibition on slavery at the Rijkmuseum, De Rijk said in an interview with the Volkskrant.
‘Everyone said it was about time. And it’s the same with Nazi design. If you want to show the history of design you can’t ignore what was happening in the 1930s and 1940s.’
The exhibition, he said, will be educational in character. ‘The question we are asking is: would the Nazis have been as successful if their design had not been so effective?’ De Rijk told the paper.
Reactions to the plans have been mixed.
According to Frank van Vree of Dutch institute for genocide studies NIOD, an exhibition about the aesthetic aspects of totalitarian movements can work. ‘People can find whatever they want on the internet so it would be good to show the material in a responsible context which explains how people were seduced by it.’
However, Annemartine van Kesteren, design curator at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, said a design exhibition on the Third Reich would only be relevant to the public debate if it takes in the design and architecture of other totalitarian systems, such as Stalinism or the North Korean regime.
She would also like to see more research on the role of companies like Google when it comes to shaping public opinion. ‘Totalitarian control systems are occupying very different seats these days,’ she told the Volkskrant.
De Rijk has permission for the exhibition from the council whose alderman for the arts Huib van Olden called the idea ‘exciting and challenging’. ‘We say yes but only if the museum handles the subject prudently and doesn’t hang up Nazi banners with swastikas on them.’
De Rijk, whose museum has no Nazi design in its collection, said there is no date for the exhibition yet and that he is in talks with the Deutsches Historisches Museum.