“I am not a designer, just a mere provocateur. I confine myself to making suggestions. What has been defined is the concept of New Babylon, not its physical form.”
For almost twenty years, Constant (Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys, Amsterdam, 1920 – Utrecht, 2005) realised scale models, paintings, drawings and collages displaying his concept of a nomad city of the future – New Babylon – a complex and expansive labyrinth that transformed the whole world into one sole network. The earth would be collective property, work would be completely automated and run by robots and people would have the freedom to devote their time to creative play.
With this exhibition, which will bring together 150 works and large amounts of documentary material, the Museo Reina Sofía and Gemeentemuseum Den Haag aim to bring a wide audience closer to Constant’s project, which has sparked the growing interest of artists, architects and curators in recent years. The cornerstone of the show is New Babylon as a “work of art” inside the social context of its conception, whereby drawings, collages, models, paintings and prints are complemented with a series of reconstructions, fragments of historical films and archive materials.
However, the exhibition is not solely circumscribed by the period between 1956 and 1974, the years New Babylon is usually classified within. It also encompasses other phases as it aims to demonstrate that the ideas expressed in the New Babylon project were already present in Constant’s work. Although they were formulated with less clarity – from a period some time before, when he was a member of the CoBrA group between 1948 and 1951 – they did not disappear altogether after 1974. A section will also be devoted to the influence in Constant’s work of a widespread cultural imaginary (gypsy, flamenco and lumpen aspects), which could be identified with Spanish culture.
Organized by: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Curatorship: Laura Stamps and Doede Hardeman
Artists: Constant (Constant Nieuwenhuys)
In collaboration with: Fondation Constant and RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History