The Shape of Freedom


A bold art exhibition design, using bespoke concrete display walls for key paintings

Exhibition Design, Selected

The Shape of Freedom is temporary exhibition at MUNCH in Oslo, bringing together high-profile artworks from collections worldwide to tell the story of the great 20th century post-war art recovery, examined through the Transatlantic dialogue between the USA and Europe after the Second World War and the birth of abstract expressionism and its European counterpart, art informel.

The Shape of Freedom draws connecting lines between Europe in the aftermath of war, and America’s burgeoning, influential art scene over the same period.  On both sides of the ocean, society was reacting to the horrors of the war, the Holocaust and the coming of the atom bomb. The exhibition shows how artists searched for new ways to deal with these shattering events and includes artworks by Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Georges Mathieu, Mark Rothko, Hedda Sterne and Clyfford Still.

Nissen Richards Studio’s design approach was to create a loosely linear journey through the space. Throughout the visitor journey, interrelations and linking views are created between themes, with the forms that enable this a series of monolithic, temporary walls, as well as a number of ‘disruptor’ angled walls, showcasing key works in the exhibition and altering the exhibition’s flow, whilst encouraging visitors to stop and think.

The colours used to present and background the artworks are made up of a spectrum of six core colours, ranging from grey to brown, plus six additional shifting tones. A further six ‘concrete’ wallpapers then added to the palette of possibility for contextualising the artworks. A number of pieces of bespoke furniture in the space were inspired by real life artist studio furniture, particularly those from Mark Rothko’s studio. These include two ‘Chapel Benches’ located in the main space and two ‘Studio Chairs’ in the ‘Happening Space’.




Oslo, Norway


Exhibition Design
Graphic Design
Bespoke Furniture


Lighting Design – Light Bureau

photography: Gareth Gardner