Human figures admitted to hospital

Soon patients of and visitors to the Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC) in Rotterdam will be able to enjoy five masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s sculpture collection. Last week a secret selection of sculptures – all human figures – was transferred to the neighbouring hospital. The exhibition reflects the hospital’s primary focus: the human body. The sculptures will be unveiled during the festive opening on 9 September.

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While Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen undergoes a large-scale renovation and modernisation programme, part of the museum’s collection remains on view in neighbouring museums and institutions under the name ‘Boijmans Next Door’. The exhibition ‘Human Appearances – Strength & Vulnerability’ at the Erasmus MC is the sixth in a series of eleven exhibitions. Four of the five human figures, all from the museum’s collection, will be sited in the hospital’s covered garden. The identity of the four sculptures will remain a secret until the opening. From today, the fifth sculpture, the iconic cast-iron giant ‘Grosse Geister (Figur Nr. 8)’ by artist Thomas Schütte, welcomes visitors at the RG 101H entrance (close to the atrium). In the hospital, where the human body is the primary concern, this exhibition celebrates the body’s strength and vulnerability. The museum’s collection of 151,000 works of art, three thousand of which are sculptures, will be shown in its entirety in 2021 in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility.

Prof. Dr Jan van Saase, internist and member of the hospital’s art committee is delighted to offer a temporary home to these human figure at the Erasmus MC: ‘A good neighbour is better than a distant friend. When the museum sought our cooperation, the committee was immediately enthusiastic, mainly because the exhibition features powerful figures that exude emotions that fit well within the walls of our hospital. You will recognise that immediately when you see the sculptures. We hope our patients and staff appreciate the exhibition and will find comfort or distraction in it.’

Human figures in the collection

Several hundred of the three thousand sculptures in the museum’s collection consist solely of human figures: powerful bodies, broken bodies, hyperrealistic and abstract, heroes and anonymous figures by artists such as Giambologna, Salvador Dalí and Ossip Zadkine. Auguste Rodin is unrivalled in the expression of the human body in his ‘Pierre de Wissant’, a study for one of the standing figures in the ‘Burghers of Calais’, a group that commemorates the end of the siege of Calais. Another famous figure from the collection is ‘Seated Child’ by Duane Hanson: this surly looking boy holding a bar of chocolate is extremely lifelike and has confused many visitors.

Sculptures in Boijmans’ collection

The museum’s sculpture collection is extremely broad, ranging from medieval Christian tableaux such as ‘The Last Supper’ by Adriaen van Wesel to a soft plastic washbasin by Claes Oldenburg. The ‘Bathing Aphrodite’ was the first sculpture to enter the collection in 1848. The oldest sculpture in the collection is ‘Striding Dionysus’, an anonymous terracotta statue from the second century BCE. The largest work is the imposing ‘Waxing Arcs’ from 1980 by Richard Serra, two curved steel sheets measuring 3.6 metres in height and 13.35 metres in length, formerly installed in the street-side gallery named after the artist: the Serra Gallery. The smallest object in the collection is a pair of nineteenth-century, tin-glazed shoes measuring only 3.9 x 3.5 x 9.3 cm each. One of the most eccentric sculptures is the work ‘Monsieur et Madame’ from 1969 by Joan Miró: an abstract sculpture consisting of two stools. It has caused much discussion, after all, which is the man and which is the woman? One of the best-loved and most costly sculptures in the collection is the ‘Little Dancer of Fourteen Years’ by Edgar Degas. The collection contains many fragile sculptures made from materials such as hand-blown glass, porcelain, wax, plaster, polystyrene and even hair and chocolate. One of these fragile sculptures is the well-known ‘Untitled (Manhole)’ by Maurizio Cattelan, a self-portrait in the form of a man peeking out through a hole in the floor made from wax, pigment, human hair, textiles and polyester. The last sculpture added to the collection is a portrait bust of Franz Wilhelm Koenigs by Ludwig Cauer, gifted by the collector’s grandson Floris Koenigs.

Boijmans Next Door

Thanks to the Droom en Daad Foundation, part of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection will remain visible in Rotterdam during the museum’s extensive renovation and modernisation programme. As part of ‘Boijmans Next Door’, some five hundred masterpieces are featured in eleven exhibitions at eight neighbouring venues, where the works from Boijmans’ collection enter into a dialogue with those of the host locations, creating new and unexpected juxtapositions. This is the first time that so many of Rotterdam’s cultural institutions have entered into a long-term partnership to keep Boijmans’ collection visible. New exhibitions are planned at the Wereldmuseum, the Kunsthal, Museum Rotterdam, the Chabot Museum and the Maritime Museum in the second half of 2019 and in 2020.

The exhibition ‘Human Appearances – Strength & Vulnerability’ can be seen at the Erasmus MC from 9 September 2019 to 28 May 2021.

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