The Kunstbau, which was designed by the architect Uwe Kiessler, opened in 1994. The new subterranean space enhanced the Lenbachhaus’s ability to mount large special presentations. For the inaugural exhibition, Dan Flavin (1933–1996) created the installation "Untitled (for Ksenija)". Conceived specifically for our gallery, this late work is an imposing example of Flavin’s ongoing creative engagement with the dynamic interplay between light art and architecture. His longtime friends and patrons Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Ménil donated the work to the Lenbachhaus in memory of their parents, Harald and Erika Friedrich and John and Dominique de Ménil.
Flavin was a leading protagonist of minimalism, a movement in visual art defined by the radical reduction of the formal repertoire to simple geometric structures. Formal and resolutely unequivocal, they always relate to their environments, making the viewers’ perceptions of the work and its interaction with the space around it an integral part of the art.
At the Kunstbau, Flavin used the four lighting tracks running along the ceiling to install green, blue, yellow, and pink fluorescent tubes. The colorful intervention brings out the slight curvature of the space and evokes the train tracks of the subway station beneath the Kunstbau. The illumination produces a subtle play of projections of color on the gallery’s floor, walls, and other architectural elements — but also on the visitors’ bodies. Space and light are fused in an experience that shifts as the viewer strolls through the gallery. Without obscuring the architecture, Flavin’s installation engenders new accents and lets us perceive the space in novel ways.