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Villa Design Group

The Bernard Natan Centre for the Arts

Thursday, February 12, 2015 to Sunday, September 13, 2015

In 2015, mumok was presenting on four levels one of the world’s most significant holdings of Pop Art—the collection of the German industrialists Peter and Irene Ludwig. In this extensive overview, around 100 works from seven different institutions associated with the Ludwigs were brought together. Among the most important acquisitions by Peter and Irene Ludwig were Claes Oldenburg’s Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing, created around the same time by the artist. These two key works of Pop Art were shown in a prominent place on mumok’s highest level. While Ray Gun Wing looks at the gun in its various manifestations, Mouse Museum is a walk-in “museum” in the shape of a geometrical Mickey Mouse, for which Oldenburg collected consumer goods, souvenirs, kitsch objects, mementos, and studio models since the 1950s. A synthesis of trivial culture and the standards of a museum is the starting point for the contemporary contribution to this exhibition by Villa Design Group, founded in 2011 at Goldsmiths College (Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys). In parallel to Ludwig Goes Pop, Villa Design Group opened a pop-up museum at mumok—the Bernard Natan Centre for the Arts (BNCA). With a view to Oldenburg’s major work, Villa Design Group designed a spectacular master plan for a museum. The architectural setting installed on mumok level 3 refered to an ocean liner of the kind that traveled between Europe and the USA up to the 1960s.

Villa Design Group’s paraphrase of a museum focused on the Romanian-French film producer, director, actor, and first gay porn star, Bernard Natan, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942. As the owner of the Pathé film company he was one of the world’s most successful film producers in the 1930s. Between 1929 and 1935 around 70 feature films were made in his studio. He also imported Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse to Europe. While Pop Art moves between high and low culture, Villa Design Group introduced a further level by choosing a controversial and fascinating figure from the queer subculture of the 1930s as the star of their narrative.