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Toys in the Kunstmuseum Kassel: How Old Masters should come to life through Playmobil | hessenschau.de

Old paintings have a difficult time with many young people, while the toy manufacturer Playmobil is struggling with a corporate crisis. Can two fellow sufferers get each other talking again with a performance in Kassel?

By Leander Löwe

Audio contribution

Audio

03:08 mins

Playmobil meets picture gallery


The exhibition "Playmobil meets picture gallery" recreates the paintings of the Old Masters

End of audio contribution

A gray miniature rock currently stands in the “Gallery of Old Masters” at Wilhelmshöhe Palace. The “virtues of humanity” are enthroned on top of it, and in front of it lie their “vices”. This classic motif, the Cebestafel, is depicted on a small stage with lovingly arranged plastic figures.

The centuries-old original, a canvas with oil paint, hangs on the wall behind it. “This is a very complicated painting,” says artist Oliver Schaffer, who built the Playmobil diorama. He calmly places figurines next to figurines. “Friends of collectors said I was crazy to recreate it.”


Playmobil figures in ancient clothing stand on a plastic rock in front of a painting

Old paintings re-staged with toys

He put together 15 motifs from his 1,500 boxes with a total of 400,000 Playmobil figures and brought them to Kassel. The 45-year-old is not only the company’s brand ambassador, but also a so-called Playmobil Diorama Artist. The former musical actor made his breakthrough in the art world 20 years ago with a Playmobil circus, which he even exhibited in the Louvre in Paris in 2009.

Three and a half million people have already visited his 68 exhibitions to date, he says proudly. At Wilhelmshöhe Castle in Kassel, for the first time, he recreated works from an art collection true to the original using Playmobil material.


In the foreground is Playmobil, in the background Oliver Schaffer stands and looks at the recreated painting
Further information

Playmobil meets picture gallery

The special exhibition at Wilhelmshöhe Castle in Kassel can be seen in the permanent exhibition of the Old Masters until September 15th, so no extra ticket needs to be purchased. The museum also offers free workshops (upon reservation) in which stop-motion films are created using the characters.

End of further information

Positive perception despite corporate crisis

However, the artist has to forego some historical motifs. Schaffer believes that sex and violence are incompatible with the small plastic figures.

Despite this, art with plastic figures is booming. At the same time, Playmobil has been in a deep crisis for years. Last year the toy manufacturer made losses for the first time fired around 700 Employees17 percent of the workforce.


The exhibition "Playmobil meets picture gallery" recreates the paintings of the Old Masters

But Schaffer isn’t worried about his exhibitions. Even during construction, he noticed how positively the visitors to the museum still reacted to Playmobil.

Art should convey attention

Both Hessen Kassel Heritage and the artist would like to use such visitor reactions for art education. The dioramas draw attention to the details of the recreated works of art and stimulate a thought process.

“When people say: ‘Ah, I’ve never seen that yellow dog in the picture before!’, then they suddenly notice it through the Playmobil and look at the painting completely differently,” explains Schaffer.


The exhibition "Playmobil meets picture gallery" recreates the paintings of the Old Masters

Museum spokeswoman Lena Pralle also hopes that, in addition to families and children, adults who previously had elements from the works at home can also identify with the exhibition. Those involved are aware that appearing in a renowned art collection also represents free advertising for the Playmobil company.

Deeper engagement with the content of the paintings

As long as people get closer to the often fantastic stories of the works of art, this is justifiable, says Pralle: “During the construction, we actually had children and families here in the exhibition from time to time who were very curious about what was behind it hidden in the covered display cases and were very happy when they were allowed to take a look.”


The exhibition "Playmobil meets picture gallery" recreates the paintings of the Old Masters

Oliver Schaffer has had Playmobil works in the past in the Ebersbach Monastery and exhibited in Hanau. This involved a “journey through history” and the Paulskirchen anniversary in the foreground.

“The exhibition in the other locations was very well received and attracted a lot of visitors,” says museum spokeswoman Pralle. The Hanau show welcomed almost 30,000 visitors.

The museum wants to reach school classes in particular with the exhibition in the coming months – and thus get them excited about ancient art.

Further information

Broadcast: hr-iNFO, May 3rd, 2024, 6:30 a.m

End of further information

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