German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse

Merit Award

German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse was an exhibition of more than 250 prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures, illustrated books, and periodicals drawn from MoMA’s collection of 3,000 pieces from this period. The vast amount of work inspired the idea of transforming the galleries into a time capsule of sorts—prompting visitors to feel as if they were walking into a cumulative presentation of this unique movement of art’s many works.

The title wall was clearly legible as visitors exited the elevators to enter the 6th floor Special Exhibition Gallery, but as they approached the entrance, they discovered the shift between the walls, which cut the title in two. This cut, emphasized by the red wall color, also symbolized World War I, a pivotal point for the German Expressionist movement and artists. Inside the exhibition, visitors could see this motif repeated in the layout and color of the gallery walls. The in-house design team used letters from an old wood type alphabet, which at huge scale emphasized the imperfection of prints, yet still felt bold and contemporary. A closer look revealed how the black letters were painted with the texture of an enlarged woodcut, alluding to the texture of many of the prints in the exhibition.

The challenge of utilizing a large gallery space for the title of an exhibition is choosing the appropriate proportion and scale, and the team was able to capitalize on the exhibition’s long title to create an atmosphere that might not have been possible under other circumstances.

Jury Comments: 

“The title wall is a brilliantly clear statement, setting the stage for the exhibition experience and setting the mood for an exploration of German Expressionism. The careful yet intuitive treatment of the title text gives the exhibition a presence that is at once historical and authentic.”

“A simple idea, thoroughly thought through and beautifully executed. An interactive experience with the exhibition entrance establishing the atmosphere of the show.”

"It's a wall for Christ’s sake, with a notch and boldness. 'Yah,' the German said. Now stand in Awe and Respect, Verstehen?' And we do."

Design Firm: 

MoMA Department of Advertising and Graphic Design



Location City: 

New York

Project Area: 

676 sq ft

Open Date: 

March 2011

Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Martin Seck, © The Museum of Modern Art, 2012

Design Team: 

Julia Hoffmann (creative director), Brigitta Bungard (art director), Jesse Reed (designer), Claire Corey (production manager)




Paulette Giguere (silkscreening)

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