Breathing Colour - Hella Jongerius

09 June 2018 – 12 August 2018

‘Breathing Colour’ is designer Hella Jongerius’s plea for unstable colours. In this exhibition, she shows us the beauty and dynamism of colour, and challenges us to experience colour as powerfully as we experience forms. ‘Breathing Colour’ is on view this summer at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

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Hella Jongerius – Breathing Colour - The Colour Catcher, 2017 - photo Roel van Tour.jpg
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After more than fifteen years of colour research, designer Hella Jongerius (1963) presents a series of spatial installations that demonstrate colour’s often-unfulfilled potential. Jongerius shows how colour responds to form, texture and changing light effects throughout the day. In the exhibition, her own work is supplemented by 150 artworks by a variety of artists, selected from the museum’s collection by Jongerius and artist Mathieu Meijers. The selected works offer the visitor a vivid experience of colour. They are objects that have inspired Jongerius in her own research or in which she, as a maker, recognises a similar use of colour or impulsiveness. The exhibition ‘Breathing Colour’ was previously shown at the Design Museum in London.

Colour revolution

Jongerius criticises the colour industry for its limited palette of pigments and the pursuit of colours that remain the same under all lighting conditions. The result, in her opinion, is flat, static colours. Jongerius: ‘We select colours from colour charts or systems with the help of numbers and codes. Knowledge about the complexity and composition of colour is extremely simplified. The standardised colour-matching systems of Pantone, Dulux, RAL and others offer a wide range of hues, but they do not sing like the colours in Old Master paintings. Industry today lacks the ambition to develop recipes for intense colours.’

Old and new work

Together with artist and colour expert Mathieu Meijers, Jongerius has selected more than 150 objects from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Old Master paintings, drawings, pre—industrial cooking pots and other archaeological finds are presented alongside Jongerius’s own works, including her famous Coloured Vases. The works chosen from the collection include paintings by Francis Picabia (Egoism), Giorgio Morandi (Still Life), Rob van Koningsbruggen (Untitled), Richard Artschwager (The Tree) and Cornelis van Haarlem (The Fall of Ixion).

Fascination with colour

As a designer, Jongerius is constantly looking for new ways of using the industrial production process to create products with an individual character. In 2017, she received the Sikkens Prize for her research into colour. Through her series of colour studies, Jongerius encourages discussion about one of the most fundamental aspects of design. She now offers the Dutch public a unique insight into her research, and shares her knowledge as a true colour activist.

The power of colour

Jongerius: ‘Colour is not an academic experience, but a visual one. Colour is subjective and that is a blessing.’ In ‘Breathing Colour’, Jongerius shows not only the impact of colour, but also its imperfection and versatility. Jongerius simultaneously challenges us and presents a new experience of beauty. She pits the power of colour against the power of form.’


The exhibition 'Hella Jongerius-Breathing Colour' is developed in partnership with the Design Museum in London.

About Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The world-renowned art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has over the span of 170 years expanded to more than 151,000 artefacts, which includes some 63,000 paintings, photos, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings.

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