In a fusion of art and architecture that goes beyond the mere structural framing of an artwork, Frank Stella and Santiago Calatrava have collaborated on “The Michael Kohlhaas Curtain”, which was recently unveiled at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. Consisting of a 30m long canvas by Stella that is based on writer Heinrich von Kleist’s story “Michael Kohlhaas”, the painting is transformed into a ring-shaped panorama by Calatrava’s elegant hanging chassis. Suspended from the ceiling of the Mies van der Rohe-designed great hall, the work is again given new perspective. Having first met in 1990, Stella and Calatrava have long intended to collaborate but only recently came together after visits to each of their studios. With a shared interest in structures that intervene directly into the viewer’s physical space, the artist and the architect have succeeded with the Michael Kohlhaas Curtain in creating what they describe as a “complex spatial experience”.

“We are doing something with a toroid which is an enormous, unusual geometry, both in architecture and outside of it. You have the eight massive columns of the Mies van der Rohe
building surrounding it, as if it were a Greek temple; very classical. And inside there is the
huge, dynamic painting. So you go in through the columns, into the space, see the frame and are finally inside the painting. It will be a kind of contextualization of the space, giving it movement.”
- Santiago Calatrava

“I think it’s going to be really interesting and it’s going to feel really good. On the one side,
it is a way of dealing with a conventional thing, such as surface to canvas, but it really
is going to make it lighter and it really is going to essentially float. And that’s going to
be a tremendous sensation, because you are floating something very heavy. On the flip
side, you’ll be able to feel that it is heavy and it will still be floating and people will be able to move around it and go inside. And it will still be about painting; it will make it available, but contain it. For me, the main thing is the spatial gesture. It’s all about painting wanting to soar.
Architecture likes to soar, too. The sense that the structure can float will be sensational.”
- Frank Stella

More info:
15 April - 14 August, 2011 at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin