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Minimal Art at the Haags Gemeentemuseum

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It was in the early Eighties that i learned of the Minimal Art collection and history of the Haags Gemeentemuseum.

Crucial for the collection was the interest of almost all modern art curators in Minimal Art. Starting with Enno Develing who introduced the key artists of the Minimal Art scene for the first time in a large exhibition in 1968. Among them Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and of course Sol LeWitt. Many of them would receive solo prentations in the years to follow, but this first time was a breakthrough for Minimal Art. The catalogue is arare book nowadays and i am lucky to have a copy for sale at www.ftn-books.com

After this first exhibition many exhibitions would follow. Enno Develing, Flip Bool, Rudi Fuchs and Franz Kaiser all took an interest in Minimal Art and because of this interest , exhibitions with LeWitt, Andre and Judd were organized in the decades after this first  1968 Minimal Art exhibition. I doubt that none was as important as this very first one, because after this first one Minimal Art was established as an art form, but another aspect that makes this first ( Develing ) exhibition important is that the relationship between the Gemeentemuseum and these artist was not only an artistic one.  The museum and its curators became friends with practically all Minimal Art artists, resulting in an ever growing collection of Minimal Art.

There is a nice link to a tribute to Sol LeWitt to be found over here:

http://www.gem-online.nl/files/media/gem/2016/sol_lewitt._a_tribute/ebook_sollewitt_web.pdf

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Alice Aycock (1946)

1983, Just 3 years after i started my career at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the museum made an exhibition with Alice Aycock. Within the Schamhart buidling the complete floor was covered with large kinetic sculptures by Aycock and at that time i could not appreciate them at all. Now 35 year later i wished i had the same knowledge at that time that i have know, because recently i leafed through the catalogue and it struck met that these works were not only great in dimensions, but even after 35 years fascinating. Where Tinguely made his kinetic sculptures in the Sixties. Aycock made them in much more modern and industrialized/high tech versions in the Eighties and after. Alice Aycock has received international fame with her sculptures.

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What remains to me is a wonderful catalogue ( available at www.ftn-books.com) and the memory of meeting a great artist and beautiful woman back in 1983.

To give an impression of her more recent works here is a video on her 2010 presentation:

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the Analogy between Jan Saudek and Katharina Behrend

When you literally strip all from your subject and leave her standing in front of a chosen background there is not much difference.

There is 70 years between these 2 photographs but when you tell me it is only 10 years i would believe it too. Katharina Eleonore Behrend made her photographs between 1904 and 1928 and the entire series which was still within her family was left to the Stichting Nederlands Fotoarchief in Leiden. The series shows an artistic point of view on daily life in the beginning of the 20th century and gives a perfect impression of the Netherlands around 1910. The art nude is somehow different….. it is classic in its pose and shows why photography can be great art too. Beautiful light and the perfect intriguing picture.

The Katharina Eleonore Behrend 1904-1928 book is available at www.ftn-books.com

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Paul Schuitema (1897-1973) and dutch design.

Just a screenshot from my computer when i searched for some information on Paul Schuitema and instantly you see the importance of Schuitema for dutch design.

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Here it is the ultimate combination between a spectacular lay out, great typography and photo montage resulting in a highly recognizable style….this is Paul Schuitema. Schuitema a contemporary of Piet Zwart, was not as well known as Piet Zwart , but both did their ground breaking work in the Interbellum and can be considered as extremely important for graphic design. Schuitema differs from Piet Zwart.

Where Piet Zwart excels in Typography and lay-out, the photo montage is the part in which Schuitema excels. Both are important, not only because they are essential in the development of dutch design, but more and more they are recognized as being important for graphic design all over the world in general and their influence can be found everywhere. This imporance is underlined by orderes on these 2 artists from all over the world.

The Gemeentemuseum has both artists in its collection and because of the former curator Flip Bool , these collections are possibly the most important in the world.

When you come to the Netherland check the exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, maybe you are lucky and there is a special exhibition on one of them. If not know that www.ftn-books.com has some nice books available on both these graphic designers.

 

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Piet Zwart (1885-1977)…dutch design

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There is so much to be told about Piet Zwart, but a short blog on him can only indicate his importance to the world of design and typography. If ever there was a designer who’s influence is of worldwide importance, it is Piet Zwart. I wish my friend David took care of this blog, because he is far more knowledgable on Zwart than any other person i know of. About 40 years ago, shortly after Piet Zwart died, he received some major exhibitions in the Netherlands. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Boijmans van Beuningen museum all had their Piet Zwart retrospectives  of which the one curated by Flip Bool for the Gemeentemuseum was probably the most important one. There was a long relationship between the Gemeentemuseum and Piet Zwart, which resulted in an extensive gift from the Zwart family and several exhibitions on Piet Zwart and his designs in the Gemeentemuseum of which some publications are still available at www.ftn-books.com. For all collectors of Zwart… i want to inform you that there are some very nice catalogues of Piet Zwart items still available at Bubb Kuyper in Haarlem. Bubb Kuyper held special Piet Zwart auctions during the last 3 years in which they auctioned many rare Piet Zwart items.

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One more things on Piet Zwart that you possibly did not know of. Because of the relationship with Piet Zwart , the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag placed a bench in its garden. design?….yes, Piet Zwart and to memorate his 80th Birthday , Willem Sandberg designed a special publication which is also available at ftn-books.

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PS.

I almost forgot. The street lightning in some of the older parts of Den Haag…yes , also Piet Zwart’s design.

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Matt Mullican ( 1951) ….a universal sign and color artist

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Mullican is possibly more known and appreciated in Europe than in the US. Born in Santa Monica / California in 1951 he had part of his artistic education in the Netherlands and it was here and in Belgium that he received his first exhibitions. Flip Bool, curator at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in the mid eighties acquired a large Matt Mullican for the collection of the Gemeentemuseum and this, together with a beautiful and impressive Donald Judd garden sculpture were 2 of the acquisitions i admired very much at that time and over the years both have proven to be important and valuable additions to the collections of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.

 

His work is concerned with systems of knowledge, meaning, language, and signification. Mullican also works with the relationship between perception and reality, between the ability to see something and the ability to represent it.

Mullican work is still very appealing to me. But unfortunately executed on a scale that is hard for a private collector to add this to their collections. It is executed at a scale that needs space, museum space or a large office hall space and therefore for me only to be admired at a distance. Only one publication on Mullican is available at www.ftn-books.com. But it is an important one in a limited edition by Imschoot.

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Gerd Arntz (1900-1988)

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Otto Neurath was the first, but together with Neurath, Arntz is considered to be one of the founders of Isotype. A simple word for ISOTYPE is pictogram and he made over 4000 of them. Gerd Arnyz is even in our days considered to be one of the great inventors of the pictogram. The strength is that one can immediately see the meaning of the picture/pictogram and in relation to numbers and other pictograms.

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Picture from www.gerdarntz.org

Because he opposed to the Nazi party in Germany and made some political drawings and statements against them, he fled to Den Haag in 1934, where he joined Neurath and Reidemeister. The three of them became extremely productive and it is in the Netherlands that most of his books, pictorial statistics and pictograms were published. Living and working in Den Haag, Arntz was familiar with its museum and for this reason the Haags Gemeentemuseum could acquire a large collection of his works and still on the book markets, when looking thoroughly, you can even find some nice publications, but this is getting harder and harder each year. www.ftn-books.com has some nice publications and the book ZEVEN HOOFDZONDEN in which an original woodcut by Arntz is published together with 6 other originals.

It was about 10 years ago that STROOM had a nice exhibition on Arntz and Neurath and they made a spectacular poster for the exhibition which is also available at www.ftn-books.com