Invitation to a press conference on ‘Library of Exile – Edmund de Waal, Zuzanna Janin, Mark Justiniani and the Damascus Room’

15 November 2019

Library 1

Edmund de Waal, Zuzanna Janin, Mark Justiniani and the Damascus Room

From 30 November 2019 to 16 February 2020, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) invite you to rediscover the Japanisches Palais and its rooms. The exhibition is named after the library of exile installation by artist and author Edmund de Waal (*1964 in Nottingham), that will now be on display in Dresden following its first stop in Venice.

  • DATES 30/11/2019—16/02/2020

library 2

library of exile

In library of exile, Edmund de Waal acknowledges the work of writers who have been forced to migrate between cultures and languages. Its library comprises more than 2,000 works by exiled authors, translated into a wide range of languages. The library’s outer walls are covered in porcelain applied in liquid form, onto which a list of libraries lost since ancient times is written. As previously in Venice, visitors in Dresden are also invited to sit and read the books or leave a record of their personal exile and migration stories in a book of exile.


Meissen plates from the von Klemperer Collection

The 18 plates from a Meissener table service dating back the period around 1760 are haunting testimonies of displacement and loss, as well as restitution and reconciliation. They are part of the estate of the Jewish von Klemperer family, who fled from Dresden in 1938 and whose collection was confiscated and handed over to the Dresdner Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection). The plates suffered extensive damage during the bombing in 1945, and were only returned to the family as shards almost ten years ago. Edmund de Waal bought them at auction, and asked Japanese artist Maiko Tsutsumi to reassemble them with gold lacquer using the traditional Kintsugi method.


Corner I and II

Born in Warsaw, the works of artist Zuzanna Janin (*1961) focus on identity and home, drawing inspiration from her personal experiences. Her family home in Warsaw was ravaged during the Second World War. Since the 1990s, Janin has frequently used light silken materials for her artworks, which are inserted into the exhibition space like an architectural structure. Visitors can walk through the silken spatial sculptures and feel how changeable and unstable the places we call home can be.


The Well

Born in 1966, Filipino artist Mark Justiniani’s work The Well suggests a space extrapolated to infinity by reflections, in which illusion and reality blend into one. At this year’s Venice Biennale, Justiniani was the featured exhibitor at the Philippines pavilion with an extensive installation, also dedicated to infinite reflections of humanity and our environment. In the work produced exclusively for the Japanisches Palais, a stack of books – symbolising knowledge – represents the spine of the human life cycle. The work was already exhibited during the first Children’s Biennale at the Japanisches Palais in 2018.


The Damascus Room

The Damascus Room in the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden is a unique example of Syrian ornamental art. It comprises richly ornamented wooden panelling (dated 1810-11), that once decorated the ceiling and walls of a reception room for guests in a Damascene home. It was sold to Germany, and donated to the SKD’s Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden in 1930.

The context of the Syrian war, which destroyed cultural heritage from more than six millennia, makes the lengthy Damascus Room research and restoration project even more important. Today, the room itself is a collective space, where an entirely new cultural context is being recreated, building bridges to Syrian communities in Dresden, among others, in the diaspora.

The presentation on the first floor of the Japanisches Palais gives visitors a look behind the scenes of the Damascus Room restoration process, before the complex project is completed next year.

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