Ariane Spanier About the Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje

“The Museum of Contemporary Art – Skopje entails an incredible narrative, stronger and more emotional than any other,” says the famous German designer Ariane Spanier, who is the author of the new visual solutions for the museum.

November 13 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the museum building, which was erected after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963 and is a donation from the Government of Poland as a sign of solidarity.

For this pleasurable occasion, Ariane – together with the support of the MoCA team – created a fresh, new visual start for the museum. Let us tell you how her story with the museum started to be turned a reality.

Ariane Spanier: MoCA entails incredible narrative, stronger and more emotional than any other

Published in TOCHKA, 18. 09. 2020

The famous German designer Ariane Spanier is the author of the new visual solutions for the Museum of Contemporary Art – Skopje. On November 13, the museum marks the 50th anniversary of the building, which was built after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963 and is a donation from the Government of Poland as a token of solidarity.

Thanks to the humane gesture of many world-renowned artists, the museum nowadays hosts a rich and diverse collection, including works by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulage, Zoran Mushich, Andre Mason, Victor Vazarely, Alberto Burri, David Hockney, Jasper Jones, Henryk Stazewski, Yanis Gaitis and other notable post-war artists.

The Museum of Contemporary Art – Skopje has, therefore, been a symbol of solidarity for 50 years.

Ariane Spanier was born in Weimar, Germany and holds a degree in Visual Communication from the Academy of Arts in Berlin. Clients entering her design studio in Berlin come from cultural backgrounds such as gallery owners, artists, directors, musicians, publishers and architects. The studio focuses on the design of books, catalogs, posters, as well as identities, animations, illustrations and digital design. Since 2006, Ariane has been the creative director of Fukt, an annual contemporary drawings magazine. She has been awarded many times internationally, and her work has been published in many magazines and design books. She is also a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, as well as of  the permanent jury of the annual competition Kieler Woche since 2018.

MoCa’s Story Became My Reality

When MSU / MoCA – Skopje is mentioned, her first thought is the history of Skopje, the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed the city, the urban plan of Kenzo Tange and the competition in which world-renowned architects applied to build the new building of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Before visiting Skopje, I had heard about the city from many of my friends, artists from Berlin, who were involved in some way with the museum; I also heard about the construction of ruined Skopje from friends, architects in Germany. When I got the chance to get to know the museum up close and come to Skopje, I finally managed to put the mosaic together.”

She visited Skopje and the Museum of Contemporary Art for the first time in 2006. During her residency at Press to Exit, a project by the Macedonian artists Hristina Ivanoska and Yane Chalovski, she also participated in a small drawing exhibition in the magazine FUKT.

“When I first entered the museum, it was raining and leaking from the roof into the gallery space itself. The floor was wet and somehow that memory remained more deeply etched in my head than the exhibition itself. I could not believe it, because I immediately recognized the beauty of the building, its monumentality, strategic location at the top of the hill from where you can see the city, I met people who were so hospitable and kind to me, and yet the museum had a leaky roof, space in top works of art are presented. Now, that hurts,” Ariane said.

Back in Berlin in 2008, Yane and Christina invited her to design a book, logo and a series of posters for their “Oscar Hansen’s MOMA” project. It was through this project that she was introduced to the history of the museum for the first time, through a utopian idea “What would have happened to the Museum and its art program if architect Oscar Hansen, who took part in the Polish competition for a new museum building, had had his unusual proposal for a museum building accepted, instead of the Polish architectural studio Tigers, who built the new MoCA building. What if Oscar’s idea of ​​a flexible architectural structure, which can be opened and adjusted depending on the needs of different exhibitions, had been realized?!”

“This was my introduction to and learning about MoCA from a very unusual aspect. Then I met the current director of the museum, Mira Gakjina, and curator Jovanka Popova, who gave me a chance to make a fresh, new visual start for the museum together, and my story with MoCA began to turn into a reality. When I read about the catastrophic Skopje earthquake of 1963, the solidarity of the whole world to help the city, the donations of world artists, its miraculous shape, which hovers over the city, the big illuminating cross on the mountain Vodno opposite the museum, and the sound of the mosques around the museum, the cracks in the museum from which it can still rain… all that mix of emotions related to the history of your country, and even “Skopje 2014″, as an attempt to lay new layers of architecture in the city … all those anachronisms were an incredible inspiration to me as I created the new video for the museum and the logos on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the building. All those cracks, all that space that can be further developed and grown, space that offers many possibilities, for me is a far greater inspiration for creation than perfectly renovated white, yet boring walls and facades. It is this that was the main trigger for my inspiration,” Spanier explains.

Historically, MoCA has been a strong symbol of “We”

“Your museum entails an incredible narrative, stronger and more emotional than any other,” Ariane says, continuing with her story.

“The visual design supports what is inside, sometimes new clothes can make a difference in how one feels from the outside, but the most important thing is that the clothes fit. When I visited the museum again last year and attended the Skopje Resurgent exhibition, I had the chance to see the exhibited original contracts with world artists, who donated their works to the museum after the earthquake, their handwritten signatures, contracts with world galleries… and it really was very emotional, and yet the roof of the museum was still leaking. I think it is time for your country to become aware of the importance of this museum and finally take action on it.”

Spanier created several variations of logos and videos, marking the 50th anniversary of the museum building.

The logo is broken, incomplete and restless. The letter M is seismically broken and can be interpreted in different ways.

“This letter contains memories of a great tragedy, of tectonic movements, and yet with the help of many world-famous architects and artists, the life of the museum was created. On the other hand, the viewer may ask himself: “Do I want a regular M, which looks like any other or does this broken, full of cracks M and an M which no one else may claim it is his, contain all the authentic beauty in itself?”

“Do we want to let it look just like any other M and forget that it is raining through its cracks or leave it like this?”

There is a visible connection with some anatomical elements of the building and the letter M.

Even the building’s pillars are also reflected in the two vertical lines of the letter M, but you can also find the diagonals in the building – its glass domes illuminate the museum ground floor equally diagonally. Looking at the internal stairs, on the other hand, it is exactly the same distortion of the diagonal path with the horizontal one at the letter M (as the support of the stairs with the pillar below) that is observable, to be then transformed again into the diagonal stairs leading to the gallery on the first floor.

There are also other symbols in the logo itself and the way the letter M is truncated to create two letters, N and I. In Cyrillic, if the letter E is added to “NI”, it becomes “NIE (WE)”. Historically, MoCA has been a strong symbol of “We”, a symbol and product of solidarity, something that is very important today. It can also be read as N and number 1, which refers to “National Institution No. 1”.

The logo has many meanings, but its essence consists in the message “what was”, “what is” and “what can be”, one of the essential roles of the contemporary art of a society.