Staging the message - The open work of Jan van Toorn

Jan van Toorn, Falconplein, 2012
Jan van Toorn, The Intellectual Gearbox
Affiche Van Abbemuseum, 1971, design Jan van Toorn
Jan van Toorn, A passion for the real
Affiche Van Abbemuseum, Donald Judd, 1970. Design Jan van Toorn
Jan van Toorn, Newviews 2, 2008
Jan van Toorn, The nature of things
Jan van Toorn, Leafing through my findings

Staging the message The open work of Jan van Toorn

27/09/2014 - 29/03/2015
Curator: Diana Franssen

An unorthodox graphic designer

Staging the message – The open work of Jan van Toorn is a homage to the Dutch graphic designer, design theoretician and exhibition designer Jan van Toorn. The exhibition shows the working process at the basis of his graphic oeuvre. This does not take place in a traditional chronological way, but as a visual journey full of associations, historic events and image reports. For a long time, Jan van Toorn – who was nominated for the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts this year – also created many groundbreaking designs for the Van Abbemuseum.

The presentation examines Van Toorn’s unorthodox way of thinking with which he adds critical notes to the art of the graphic designer. His work is inspired by a strong social commitment, a need to share, and to enter into a dialogue with people. These are discussions about the public importance of critical research into the visual media. What do you see? Why do you see it like that? Is it manipulation or reality?

Jan van Toorn constantly challenges the effects of the image and the power of its message. By presenting a visual game, he tries to liberate the viewer/reader from the passive role of a consumer of marketing messages. It is not the design itself, but the effect that the message has that is one of the most important driving forces in his work.

Staging the message, which should be seen as a work in progress, shows the open process of collecting images – his “visual journalism”. The exhibition illustrates and examines the development and the ideas of a man whose original and sometimes controversial oeuvre is a challenge for anyone who is engaged in visual communication.

Dutch Design Week

The exhibition is also on view during the Dutch Design Week, from 18 to 26 October 2014. The museum is hosting the show by Design Academy Eindhoven in the old building at the same time. Both exhibitions allow us to take a critical look at themes such as the relationship between image and content, presentation and representation, and process and outcome. Introducing new knowledge and expertise into the contemporary art museum uses culture to strengthen and reinforce reflections about what is relevant and urgent in society today.


Diana Franssen, Els Kuijpers, in cooperation with Jan van Toorn.

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