Group exhibition catalogues often come across as slightly impersonal, probably because they have to be even-handed with all the artists. This is the catalogue of a presentation in the Dutch embassy in Berlin, the works being in the collection of Holland’s formerly state-owned telecoms giant KPN. The book’s designers sidestep the problem of impersonality by cunningly weaving into it some of the features of the embassy building.
The embassy’s architect Rem Koolhaas designed it in the shape of a spiral from reception desk to rooftop terrace, and it is distributed through this spiral, rather than in a separate exhibition room, that the KPN artworks hung. This meant that all visitors viewed them in the same order, which has been retained for the book. Against each reproduction there is a statement of its height on Koolhaas’s spiral, from 3.70 meter to 23.60 meter above ground level.
The reproductions themselves are more or less stuck to the matt paper under an innovative bar of varnish, in each case as wide as the image but vertically placed and bled off at top and bottom. The covers and first few pages of the book carry full-bleed close-ups of some of the materials used in the building.
There are some aspects of this book to which it is possible to object. For example, a book is surely not an embassy building, and aren’t the solutions chosen not simply so many ornaments? And this in Adolf Loos Year 2008, a hundred years after the publication of Ornament and Crime! Perhaps the panel has progressed beyond Loos’s belief in progress. In any event, the chosen solutions were deemed to be ‘nicely contemporary’.