The exhibition crosses cultures and religions, examines works of old masters and contemporary artists and through personal stories from famous and everyday Dutch personalities allows visitors to get to know Mary and discover the many faces of a truly international woman.
The life story of Mary is extensive and her representations in art are limitless. To showcase this diversity yet still maintain cohesion, Kossmann.dejong designed the exhibition as a chronological narration of her life in the long corridors of the cloister. In the surrounding rooms six different themes elaborate her story, such as Primal mothers and goddesses, Devotion and Mary in contemporary art. Each different realm is created using a dynamic combination of audio visual media, colour, light and sound. In one space visitors imagine themselves between pilgrims through life-size wall projections and accompanying singing of Mary processions, while the resonance of the Hail Mary in a room filled with prayer benches stirs up a feeling of devotion.
The symbolism of Mary is clearly visible and tangible throughout the exhibition. At the introduction in the stairwell that leads to the exhibition on the first floor, Mary – shown in Ascension – leads visitors to higher realms. The main exhibition space is bathed in beautifully coloured light, filtered by film on the windows, and when paired with different soundscapes, this creates an atmosphere that tickles the senses. The aim was to create a dynamic interplay between old and new: historic icons, paintings and Pietà figures are juxtaposed with contemporary interpretations of Mary, for example, from tattoos, video installations and the internet. Film clips featuring personal stories and experiences from varying Dutch personalities also show the human side of Mary.
To maximise focus on the artworks, Kossmann.dejong placed them as freestanding elements in the space, elevated from the floor and away from the walls. The narrative quality of the centuries-old cloister corridors is incorporated into the experience through showcasing previously hidden features of the building. The courtyard also forms part of the exhibition: a large sculpture of Mary stands – literally and figuratively – centrally, as a symbol everyone can relate to. In this way, this exhibition of Mary becomes an all-encompassing experience that connects the worlds of art, culture, architecture, religion and spirituality.
Mary is on view until 20 August 2017 in Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
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