DLWP showcases the work of a design icon

Willem Sandberg: from type to image is the next big exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion and opens April 30 until September 4 in Gallery 1.

The show is curated by Carolien Glazenburg, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in collaboration with Fraser Muggeridge and DLWP, and examines the work of an icon of graphic design.

Sandberg was a Dutch graphic designer and director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1963 where he championed new artists, developed one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe and implemented radical transformations of the Museum’s environment.

He designed hundreds of posters, catalogues and cards for the Museum’s exhibitions, as well as stationery and other publicity materials.

This new exibition showcases his entire body of work from the 1930s-80s, telling the story of how he transformed text into image to create a unique graphic language, including his use of ‘warm printing’ experimental typography and the incorporation of simple materials and reuse of existing print matter in his work. Sandberg’s distinctive designs are characterised by asymmetric typography created from fonts, ciphers and the rough contours of shapes torn out of paper.

As WW2 began, Sandberg stashed the Stedelijk Museum’s collection in a vault inside dunes located close to the sea. He was actively involved in the Dutch resistance movement, designing forged identity cards and planning an attack with other artists on the Central Civil Registry Office that held records of the city’s Jewish residents. Though the attack was partly successful, almost all of Sandberg’s co-conspirators were betrayed and executed. He escaped and went into hiding where he began the Experimenta Typografica, handmade booklets in which he collected inspirational quotes in diverse typographic styles, which laid the foundation for his future design work.

Sandberg curated landmark exhibitions for the Stedelijk including Abstract Art (1938), Cobra (1949), Bewogen beweging (Art in Motion) (1961) and Dylaby (Dynamic Labyrinth) (1962). Under his reign the Museum purchased important works by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Kokoschka, Picasso, Léger, Mondrian, Malevich, Moore and Calder. The Museum also began collecting photography in 1952, unusual for the time, and Sandberg introduced film screenings, live music and an education programme, and opened a library, reading room and restaurant. After his retirement in 1962, Sandberg lived in Jerusalem from 1964-68, helping to create the Israel Museum. Later he was part of the design committee for the Pompidou Centre in Paris. He continued working as a graphic designer until his death at the age of 86 in 1984.