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Ariane Spanier Transforms Construction Site Fence Around the New “berlin modern” Museum


Ariane Spanier has transformed the construction site fence for the future Museum of the Twentieth Century (aka berlin modern) at the Kulturforum. Her work BORDERS is now on view as art in public space along the construction site for the Neue Nationalgalerie’s expansion venue designed by Herzog & Meuron.

In coming years, the construction site fence will present changing artistic and graphic designs addressing topics related to the site and the 20th century art collections. In a limited competition organised by the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), a jury representing the Kulturforum’s museums selected three designs that are being realised successively beginning in fall 2023.

BORDERS by Ariane Spanier

Berlin graphic designer Ariane Spanier kicks things off with BORDERS. Around sixty thought-provoking sayings trace the perimeter of the construction site in a ribbon of letters. Spanier collected expressions and quotes from media, music, and literature, even motivational slogans posted on social media. She altered the texts with the word border in such a way that new meanings resulted – sometimes committed, sometimes ironically critical, and sometimes lyrical. The aphorisms refer to various kinds of borders and boundaries, including territorial, political and individual ones. This leads to ambiguities that can be intriguing as well as irritating.

Which Border, Whose Border?

Such questions touch on the history of the location because the construction site is in the former border zone. Some thirty-five years ago, the Wall dividing Berlin into East and West still stood nearby at Potsdamer Platz. The Nationalgalerie collection, which will be displayed in the building now taking shape behind the construction fence, includes a large number and variety of domestic and international artworks from the period when Germany was separated into the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The same applies to the collections of the Kunstbibliothek and the Kuperstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), which will present their works on paper, book and poster art, archival materials and 20th century models in the new museum.

Aren’t borders inevitably a source of irritation? They are drawn by people wanting to protect something: their ideas, themselves, other people, possessions, or territory. Borders and boundaries are sought out by those wanting to cross them – for reasons of ambition, curiosity or a desire to expand consciousness, but also out of desperation, a will to survive and aggression. When is a border or boundary good; when is it bad? The answers are rarely clear-cut and depend on one’s point of view. Twentieth and twenty-first-century art has often concerned itself with questioning and transcending borders and boundaries, visualising personal borderline experiences, and initiating discourse. BORDERS is relevant to the here and now, because this work represents an ambivalent, historically and culturally charged, genuinely political, and omnipresent phenomenon – borders and boundaries define our world. They challenge and limit us. They mark – intentionally or unintentionally – beginnings, transitions and endings.

The more quotes I collected and paraphrased, the broader the terms’ definitions became: geographical borders, social boundaries, physical borders, inner limitations, your boundary, my boundary … I noticed that the more faulty the quotations sounded, the more they made me think. Some are cautionary – that not everyone is in the privileged position of being able to think deeply about self-optimisation. Others raise almost existential controversies and spark heated debates. Some are quite poetic or philosophical as if the word border or boundary makes them more meaningful.

Ariane Spanier, graphic designer