From the exhibition "Margaret and Christine Wertheim: Value and Transformation of Corals"

January – June 2022
Museum Frieder Burda
very large sculpture of crochet coral island

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – French Island. Images on this webpage are installation views at Museum Frieder Burda, 2022.

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov

In 2021–2022, Margaret and Christine Wertheim collaborated with Museum Frieder Burda in Baden Baden, Germany, to create a Satellite Reef on an unprecedented scale as the community component of the museum-wide retrospective exhibition Value and Transformation of Corals.

The resulting Baden Baden Satellite Reef comprises over 40,000 coral pieces by 4,000+ contributors across the German speaking world and beyond. At once a monumental work of feminine fiber art and a mathematically generated synthetic ecology, this is by far the largest community reef to date.

For the exhibition Margaret and Christine worked with a dedicated team of local crafters to curate this massive wooly outpouring into a collection of three-dimensional, topographical coral islands, and a series of vast wall-mounted ‘coral paintings’ installed within the gallery and inside the museum’s elevators, turning the latter into an immersive moving aquarium.

Generated by thousands of hands and as many imaginations, these works challenge normative ideas about the artist as singular ‘genius’ and add a new dimension to the field of collaborative fiber-craft in the tradition of community-centered creations such as the Gees Bend’s quilts.

As with the entire Crochet Coral Reef project, these sculptures are works of embodied mathematics manifesting the hyperbolic geometry witnessed in living reef organisms. Taken as a whole, the Crochet Coral Reef is both a global experiment in algorithmic making and an open-ended exercise in applied evolutionary theory. The Baden Baden Satellite Reef constitutes a unique new ecological niche in the ever-evolving landscape of crochet coral ‘biology.’

The Baden-Baden Satellite Reef local curatorial team consists of Kathrin Dorfner, Martina Schulz, Christina Humpert, Charlotte Reiter, Susan Reiss and Silke Habich, with assistance from the entire team of Museum Frieder Burda’s art workshop and installation crew led by master carpenter Arnd Merkle, plus twenty local seamstresses. See PDF of all 4000 BBSR contributors.

very large sculpture of a crochet coral island

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Variegated Island, with names of 4000 contributors on gallery wall.

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov
sculpture of crochet coral reef

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Neon Island, detail

Photo by Richard Neilsen
sculpture of crochet coral reef

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Purple Island, detail

Photo by Richard Neilsen
gallery with sculptures of crocheted coral reefs

Baden Baden Satellite Reef.

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov
giant coral wall painting

Five Fathoms Deep ‘coral painting’ (20ft x 11ft) constructed from 5000 coral pieces by the Baden Baden Satellite Reefers. Curated by BBSR curatorial team and Christine Wertheim.

Photo by Richard Nielsen.
very long frieze of crocheted corals in gallery

Coral Frieze (40ft x 30 inches) constructed from 5000 coral pieces by the Baden Baden Satellite Reefers. Curated by BBSR curatorial team and Christine Wertheim.

Photo by Richard Nielsen
frieze of crochet corals at Museum frieder burda

Coral Frieze with Coral Forest sculpture.

Photo © Institute For Figuring, by Margaret Wertheim
sculpture of crochet coral reef

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Neon Island.

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov
large island of crochet corals in reds and purples

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Spotted Island

Photo © Institute For Figuring by Margaret Wertheim
large-scale sculptures of crochet coral reefs

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Purple Island

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov
sculpture of crochet coral reef
sculpture of crochet coral reef

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – taxonomic details from this unique crochet-reef ecosystem.

sculpture of crochet coral reef
sculpture of crochet coral reef
large island of crochet corals with wall of names in background

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Toxic Island.

Photo © Institute For Figuring, by Margaret Wertheim
Detail of crochet coral installation
crochet corals - detail of museum installation
detail of spotted crochet corals

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – taxonomic details

6 women standing in front of a wall of crochet corals at museum

Baden Baden Satellite Reef curatorial team Kathrin Dorfner, Martina Schulz, Christina Humpert, Charlotte Reiter, Susan Reiss and Silke Habich, with the Five Fathoms Deep ‘coral painting’.

Photo © Institute For Figuring, by Margaret Wertheim

Baden Baden Satellite Reef – Toxic Reef, with wall of 4000 names.

Photo courtesy Museum Frieder Burda, by Nickolay Kazakov

Coral ‘paintings’ in Museum Frieder Burda lift shaft. Another set is installed inside the lift, turning it into an immersive moving aquarium.

Photo by Richard Nielsen