Willem Sandberg: from type to image showcases Sandberg’s entire body of work from the 1930s to the 1980s telling the story of how he transformed text into image to create a unique graphic language, including his use of 'warm printing' experimental typography and the incorporation of simple materials and reuse of existing print matter in his work. Sandberg’s distinctive designs are characterised by asymmetric typography created from fonts, ciphers and the rough contours of shapes torn out of paper.
As World War II began, Sandberg secreted the Stedelijk Museum’s collection in a vault inside dunes located close to the sea. He was actively involved in the Dutch resistance movement, designing forged identity cards and planning an attack with other artists on the Central Civil Registry Office that held records of the city’s Jewish residents. Though the attack was partly successful, almost all of Sandberg’s co-conspirators were betrayed and executed. He escaped and went into hiding where he began the Experimenta Typografica, handmade booklets in which he collected inspirational quotes in diverse typographic styles, which laid the foundation for his future design work.
Sandberg curated landmark exhibitions for the Stedelijk including Abstract Art (1938), Cobra (1949), Bewogen beweging (Art in Motion) (1961) and Dylaby (Dynamic Labyrinth) (1962). Under his reign the Museum purchased important works by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Kokoschka, Picasso, Léger, Mondrian, Malevich, Moore and Calder. The Museum also began collecting photography in 1952, which was very unusual for the time. In other pioneering projects intended to create a more convivial atmosphere in the Museum, Sandberg introduced film screenings, live music and an education programme, and opened a library, reading room and restaurant.
After his retirement from the Stedelijk Museum in 1962, Sandberg worked and lived in Jerusalem from 1964 to 1968, helping to create and launch the Israel Museum. Later he was part of the design committee for the Pompidou Centre in Paris. He continued working as a graphic designer until his death at the age of 86 in 1984.