The Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art incorporates film clips, photographs, posters, documents, and cameras representing 25 films, 20 artists, and 14 directors from the Weimar cultural period between World War I and World War II.  Designed by Michael Maltzan and Amy Murphy, the exhibition balances visitor movement, subtle lighting, impactful graphics, and enriching sound elements, while embracing the aesthetic themes, historic context, and most importantly, the curatorial interpretation of the objects themselves.


The exhibition is organized around five primary curatorial themes which are arranged in loose chronological order including Madness and Magic; Myths and Legends; Cities and Streets; Machines and Murderers; and a sub-section within Machines and Murderers called Stairs.  The bold architectural abstraction, strong forms, choreographed movement, and inventive juxtaposition, are a contemporary compliment to the collection.  Without trying to mimic the iconic aesthetic of the period, the designers engage the spirit of the works through a contemporary series of forms and spaces that highlights the simultaneous and often overlapping worlds of art, film, and design.

The exhibition’s architectural elements, especially the “carpet” which is at once a floor, a ceiling, and a wall, intentionally create an undulating dialogue between dark and light, inside and out, space and form, rupture and unity. Open spaces such as the areas filled with columns contrast with the dark tunnels that house the moving images and display a wide range of works on paper, books, and posters within their own thematic context. The physical interplay between the framed pieces and the selected film excerpts creates two inherently interconnected but distinct sets of objects.  Rather than placing the film images directly right next to the selected works within each theme, the exhibition leaves the films to remain true to their form, ineffable wholeness, and within their more ‘natural’ context of a darkened screening space.

LOCATION / Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
TYPE / Exhibition Design
STATUS / Completed 2014
ROLE / Co Designers Michael Maltzan and Amy Murphy with Michael Maltzan Architecture
CURATOR / Britt Salvesen