Simon Fujiwara brings lifesize replica of Anne Frank House to Austria

Simon Fujiwara brings lifesize replica of Anne Frank House to Austria

Simon Fujiwara — known for his delving into the pull of human mystery in his art — has built a museum within a museum at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, based on a toy model of the Anne Frank House purchased at the gift shop on a visit last year.

As ‘one of the most authentic architectural experiences on earth,’ Fujiwara explains, the Anne Frank House museum, has been restored to astonishingly accurate historic detail, to represent the original house in which Frank sought refuge from the Nazis as closely as possible for millions of visitors.

Simon Fujiwara replica of Anne Frank house

Hope House, 2018, by Simon Fujiwara, installation view of first floor at Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photography: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of Simon Fujiwara. © Simon Fujiwara, Kunsthaus Bregenz

The wallpaper, for example, has been perfectly matched using found wallpaper manufactured in the GDR. ‘My mind was blown – I was standing there thinking, “the gift to the world that is the Anne Frank House is wrapped in German wallpaper”. For some this would be distasteful but for me it was a beautiful example of truthful humanity.’

On returning to his studio, Fujiwara came up with a meta-museum of his own. ‘If the Anne Frank House is a monument to a moment in history I knew I wanted Hope House to be a shifting, changing place that could act as a conduit of certain ideas of our time.’ He told Wallpaper*, as the exhibition opened to the public last week.

Inside Simon Fujiwara’s lifesize replica of Anne Frank’s house

Installation view of first floor at Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photography: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of Simon Fujiwara. © Simon Fujiwara, Kunsthaus Bregenz

In his architectural reconstruction based on the model Anne Frank House – first displayed at Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv last year – Fujiwara has replaced items with objects that resonate in 2018, products and items he says make him feel uncomfortable, including a Pierre Hermé chocolate mask, based on an indigenous African mask, that the artist bought in Paris, and has kept in his fridge for years ‘because it terrifies and excites me.’

‘At first it disgusted me – how can a former colonising country allow the production of indigenous artefacts from a former colonial country as luxury chocolate? Chocolate and Africa as a visual connection was also dubious to me – it felt like it was confirming prejudices. Then I discovered that part of their marketing line was that the beans of the chocolate mask were also from Ghana – hinting at the idea of local economy being supported by this.’

Inside Simon Fujiwara’s lifesize replica of Anne Frank’s house

Installation view of second floor at Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photography: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of Simon Fujiwara. © Simon Fujiwara, Kunsthaus Bregenz

It’s just one of the objects within Hope House that question the power of product and the complexities and contradictions facing the contemporary consumer. ‘This object like many in the show make you feel things, desire, disgust, sadness, excitement – but for me, I can’t draw a conclusion on their right to exist because there is always a counter argument.’

The model museum he picked up in Amsterdam, itself a consumer object that represents something awful and tragic, now manufactured and sold to visitors as a souvenir – that at the same time, ensures Anne Frank’s story is not forgotten, ‘became for me, the perfect symbol of our times, where everything is connected and merged more and more. Philanthropy, capitalism, hope, terror, fantasy, fact…’ The consumer paradox, Hope House suggests, is perhaps ultimately unresolvable.

Inside Simon Fujiwara’s lifesize replica of Anne Frank’s house

Installation view of first floor at Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photography: Markus Tretter. Courtesy of Simon Fujiwara. © Simon Fujiwara, Kunsthaus Bregenz

Designed meticulously in exhaustive detail, Hope House plays with notions of taste, authenticity, history and the emotional tug of capitalism – but it doesn’t serve up a straightforward critique. ‘Today, when our entire world is more and more based on surface reactions and simple judgements I think it’s more important than ever to present no answers, but well-crafted and generous questioning.’

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