The collection as time machine
15 MARCH 2017
SummaryFrom 10 June Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s permanent collection will be shown in a totally new series of displays. Carel Blotkamp, artist and emeritus professor of the history of art at the VU University in Amsterdam, has conceived a new display that he hopes will seduce visitors into spending more time with the works of art. ‘I want to encourage slow looking.’
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has a collection of more than 145,000 objects dating from c.1300 to the present day, including numerous works by world-renowned artists. However, only 8 per cent of the collection is on display and the displays have remained the same for the past five years. That is all due to change on 10 June when the museum unveils its new displays selected by guest curator Carel Blotkamp, featuring more than 500 artworks in a new configuration that will excite both regular visitors and tourists alike. The idea behind the new display is to create exciting confrontations between old masters and modern art and between well-known and more obscure artworks.
Blotkamp has chosen to return to a chronological ordering of the works, but ‘with a twist’: ‘I’ve divided the collection into eight time blocks. It’s like travelling back and forth through art history in a time machine. I hope the abrupt transitions between periods will sharpen the eye and stimulate the mind,’ says Blotkamp. Special attention has been paid to the design and use of colours: ‘Each time zone has a different colour, light for modern art and darker for old masters. The specific shades come from the palette that the artist Peter Struycken developed specially for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. We are using violet for the oldest, religious artworks. It will be very beautiful.’
In the new displays the accent is on art after 1945, with plenty of space for the more hidden aspects of the collection such as prints and drawings. The displays include works by world-famous artists such as Paul Cézanne, Mark Rothko, Donald Judd and Anselm Kiefer, but also lesser-known Dutch artists such as Suze Robertson, Pyke Koch and Kees Timmer. Blotkamp’s arrangement places the museum’s top pieces in a new light and brings several treasures out of storage. His hope is that the displays will encourage visitors to spend more time with the works. Blotkamp: ‘I not only want them to look longer but also more intensely. On average museum visitors spend eight seconds with a work. I will have succeeded in my mission if I manage to stretch that to between 10 and 15 seconds.’
Many visitors to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen are surprised by the wealth of the permanent collection. The richness of the museum’s collection is in part thanks to the passion of 1700 private collectors who have gifted an incredible 50,000 artworks during the 170 years of the museum’s existence. In addition to paintings, sculpture, modern, contemporary and applied art, the museum also has collections of pre-industrial household objects and industrial design. The museum’s collections of prints and drawings, early Netherlandish painting, Impressionism and Surrealism are ranked among the best on the world.
Carel Blotkamp (Zeist, 1945) was professor of the history of modern art at the VU University in Amsterdam from 1982 to 2007. He has written extensively on De Stijl and Magic Realism and has authored monographs on Piet Mondrian, Pyke Koch, Ad Dekkers, Carel Visser and Daan van Golden. He has written art criticism for Vrij Nederland, the NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant. He has curated several exhibitions, including special presentations of the collections of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (Leporello, 2005) and the Mauritshuis in The Hague (Dalí meets Vermeer, 2011). Blotkamp has been active as an artist since 1967 and has exhibited extensively.