What more suitable venue to host a design exhibition that explores the importance of heritage than the eight-centuries-old castle of Schloss Hollenegg, an architectural palimpsest of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and neo-classical elements. Located near the Austrian market town of Schwanberg, the stately castle, which now serves as a private residence for the Liechtenstein Family, dates back to the 12th century, since which time it has been renovated and extended several times to include a fairytale-like Renaissance courtyard modelled on the Landhaus in Graz, one of the most important Renaissance buildings in Europe, and a Baroque church, still in use today.
From the 4th to the 7th of May 2018, and on appointment until Sunday May 27th, the public now has a rare opportunity to visit the castle thanks to “Schloss Hollenegg for Design”, a project developed by Alice Stori Liechtenstein in order to support established and emerging designers. “LEGACY”, the program’s third reiteration, looks both to the past and the future through contemporary works by fifteen international designers, set against antiques from the Liechtenstein collection, as well as site-specific installations by the four resident designers, BELÉN, Breaded Escalope, Commonplace Studio and Odd Matter.
Curated by Alice Stori Liechtenstein who has been living with her family in Schloss Hollenegg since 2014, the exhibition takes advantage of the unique setting to complement, juxtapose or balance the designers’ works with the richly decorated staterooms, the grandest of which is the castle’s magnificent ballroom, a baroque fantasia enveloped by Austrian painter Philipp Carl Laubmann’s trompe-l'œil frescos. It is here that the visiting designers’ pieces are showcased on a bespoke display structure that zigzags around the space. Constructed as an irregular series of trapezoid facets or frames made of blond timber, upon which the items are placed or hanged, the jagged structure changes shape as visitors walks around creating a sense of false perspective, not unlike the illusory architecture of the surrounding murals and the mesmerizing three-dimensionality of the geometric flooring.
The works on display explore the significance of legacy, both in personal and collective terms, in a range of mediums, from Polish duo Chmara Rosinke’s collection of vases made of concrete moulded plastic parts and Dutch Studio Nienke Hoogvliet’s urns made of bioplastic and cremation ashes, to Norwegian designer Sigve Knutson’s undefined sculptures that try to establish a connection with Homo Erectus, our species’ ancestor, and Austrian, Rotterdam-based designer Laurids Gallée’s series of folkloric lamps inspired by the life jacket that kept his grandfather afloat in the Corinthian Gulf during World War II.
Unlike the fifteen designers that Alice invited to present new work, some of which was especially commissioned for the exhibition, the four resident designers were also invited to stay in the castle for a couple of weeks in order to familiarize themselves with its history and find inspiration in its heritage. The site-specific installations that resulted from this weeks-long immersion draw on Schloss Hollenegg’s nine centuries of legacy, reflected in their concept, medium or visual impact.
For Jon Stam and Simon de Bakker of Netherlands-based Commonplace Studio what impressed them the most was Schloss Hollenegg’s pastoral surroundings that dominate the views from the castle. Their installation comprises three small screens, discretely framed and hung among paintings, picture frames and other decorative elements, each depicting a scene from within the neighbouring woodlands. And once the visitor touches the frame the static image begins to move slowly deeper into the forest, stopping only when he or she lets go.
Meanwhile, Dutch-based duo Els Woldhek and Georgi Manassiev, aka Odd Matter, have taken over a grand stateroom to display their abstractly shaped carpet of blood red exuberance amidst the gilded wall-panelling, Flemish silk tapestries and Renaissance hand-carved wooden chairs, perhaps alluding to some tragic act that has occurred in this space, whereas Dutch design duo BELÉN lead visitors to one of the castle’s bedrooms where their meticulously crafted, multicoloured fabric throw languorously stands out from the room’s musty ambience.
The Viennese collective Breaded Escalope found inspiration in the travel diaries of Heinrich Liechtenstein, an ancestor of Alice’s husband, whose voyage to California in the 19th century is the reason that redwood trees, one of the tallest trees in the world, can now be found on the castle’s grounds. For their installation, they were graciously allowed to cut down one of those redwoods to create an imposing table and matching bench, displayed in one of the castle’s austere loggias, evocatively capturing the importance of heritage in building a sturdy future in the hefty red planks of the structure.