The King’s Rembrandt at Wawel Castle: “The Polish Rider” from The Frick Collection Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, Poland
The exhibition design for The King’s Rembrandt at Wawel Castle: “The Polish Rider” from The Frick Collection is a work of architecture built around a single picture – a space whose every element is an attempt to initiate a multilayered dialogue between the exhibited work of art, the wider context of the artist’s oeuvre, and the castle’s historic interiors. One of the aims of the design was to create a space that is distinctive, unique, and contemporary in expression, diametrically opposed to the historic surroundings in which it was exhibited at Palace on the Isle in Warsaw and in its permanent home at the Frick Collection in New York. At Wawel Castle, Rembrandt’s canvas is at the center of a space tailor-made for it. Its principle element, the fluid form of the plywood and wood wall, contrasts with the regular outline of the existing room and the checkered marble floor. The shape of this lightweight screen was inspired by a single, flowing line that can be noticed in Rembrandt’s sketches, paintings, and engravings. The outwardly curving spatial plywood passe-partout draws the viewer into the enigmatic story depicted in the painting. The two oval openings/windows are an indirect reference to Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Two Circles (1665–1669). In the first opening, the painting becomes another “inner” window onto the world of art and the artist’s imagination. In the second, on the opposite side of the room, a lamp emitting light similar to the glow of the setting sun, symbolically complements the Dutch Old Master’s work, creating the illusion of a source of natural light, whose reflections are visible on the canvas. The exhibition’s discreet, delicate, indirect illumination is another element of the dialogue with Rembrandt’s painting. The coloring of the natural material of the wall, on the other hand, is drawn from the tonality visible in the canvas. The mysterious portrait of the Polish horseman has engendered many hypotheses, speculations, and commentaries. The design of this intimate exhibition is therefore also intended to allow for a certain freedom of use, perception, and interpretation.