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Aziz Bekkaoui (1969)

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One of the dutch fashion designers i truly enjoyed working with was AZIZ (Bekkaoui). I met a few of the great fashion designers in my time at the Gemeentemuseum. Frank Govers i found authentic but not that sympathetic, the same with Frans Molenaar …at a distance a likable personality, but as soon as you had met he was not the friendliest one. Max Heymans….. a rude person that thought of himself to be the king among dutch fashion designers, but for me he never reinvented himself, but his importance was based on a very loyal clientele who thought his designs were ina class of their own. Mart Visser a found sympathetic and one of the last i worked with was AZIZ Bekkaoui. A Moroccan born fashion designer of who i personally think is one of the most original ones to have appeared on the dutch fashion scene in the last few decades.  No gimmicks like Viktor & Rolf, but true and original fashion His fashion designs are inventive and highly original and…..he is certainly one of the friendliest designers i have met.

At the time of his Gemeentemuseum show he was hardly known, but the catalogue we made for the show was one of the most original ones at the time i was working at the Gemeentemuseum. Designed by Gracia Lebbink, we chose for a felt like white cover and the best printing possible…the result a highly collectable fashion exhibition catalogue which is still available at www.ftn-books.com

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Barrie Cooke (1931-2014)

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For me Barrie Cooke stands for the excellent taste Rudi Fuchs has in art and the beautiful designed catalogue Gracia Lebbink made for the Cooke exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in 1992. I can not remember if Cooke was present at the opening, but i still remember the first impression his paintings made on me when i first saw them in the exhibition rooms in the Gemeentemuseun. These paintings were personal and overwhelming and reminded me of the ones Francis Bacon made.

left Cooke and right Bacon

At that time Fuchs had become very interested in Irish art and presented Cooke shortly after he had had an exhibition with works by Jack B. Yeats

An artists’ artist, he won enormous respect from his peers over several generations for his utter commitment and the integrity of his vision. He was a passionate fisherman and the natural world was always at the heart of his work. His figure paintings and portraits are also exceptional.

His paintings are cherished for their dynamic, immediate, visceral connection with their subject matter. Early training at Skowhegan in the US and at Oskar Kokoschka’s School of Vision in Salzburg helped to shape the urgent vitality of his pictorial approach – a vitality reflected in the artist’s personality.

Having grown up in Bermuda and studied in the US, he went to England in 1954 to revisit his roots but found little to engage him. So he took a ferry to Ireland and, he said, felt at home even as he walked down the gangplank.

Irish life
He settled in rural Co Clare where he and his first wife, Harriet Cooke, lived in some poverty. Later he moved to Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, with ceramic artist Sonja Landweer, who introduced him to Rudolf Steiner’s ideas on natural processes. His next move was to a remote house overlooking Lough Arrow in Co Sligo.

The Barrie Cooke Gemeentemuseum catalogue designed by Gracia Lebbink is available at www.ftn-books.com

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Centraal Museum Utrecht and book design

Every decade in Dutch design and typography has its own specialties. In the Interbellum there was the photomontage, Isotype and typography by Zwart, Schuitema and Arntz. After WWII , the Stedelijk MUseum was a source of inspiration for its director Willem Sandberg who made beautiful catalogues for his exhibitions in the Stedelijk. In the late fifties and early sixties Benno Wissing and Wim Crouwel lead the way in design, followed by the Total Design agency who had a leading role in dutch design in the seventies and eighties, which brings us to the Nineties. Here it becomes interesting. The large museums in the Netherlands practically all had their contracts with dutch “house” designers. Walter Nikkels for the van Abbemuseum, Swip Stolk for the Groninger Museum and Gracia Lebbink for the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag were such designers. And then there is the Centraal Museum. They had a very consistent publication program in which design , specially sized/formatted books and bindings were very important. www.ftn-books.com has some excellent examples of these publications for sale . I knew of course of these publications, but when i rearranged some of my inventory, it struck me that these publications are and will become more important in the world of book design every year from now. These publications are still available at reasonable prices , but it will not be long before others will recognize the importance of these books too.

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Floor van Keulen (1951)

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For me Floor van Keulen is similar with wall drawing. The projects i remember and encountered all were wall drawings by this artist. He mostly uses black . paint on a white back ground, but the drawing i witnessed come to life personally was the one he made in the projectenzaal of the Gemeentemuseum.

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It was an extremely large one and had some bright colors in it. Franz Kaiser was the responsible curator and Gracia Lebbink designed a beautiful small publication for the project which is available at ww.ftn-books.com. It does not take long for van Keulen to execute such a large wall painting. Within the week it was there. But a projectroom functions only if the project is temporary, which means the painting was overpainted after the show was over. Still the book keeps the painting alive.

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Jean-Charles Blais (1956)

 

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There was a time that the Escher Museum at the Lange Voorhout functioned as a modern art dependance of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Rudi Fuchs initiated this by convincing the municipality of the Hague, that the town was in need of an extra Modern Art museum. A little like the Castello di Rivoli near Torino, where he curated the first exhibitions. Decorated with an original Donald Judd floor, the setting was perfect for modern art. Responsible for the project was John Sillevis who invited some friend artists to exhibit in the palace. One of them Jean-Charles Blais. Together with this exhibition a catalogue was published , which was designed by one of the very best at that time….Gracia Lebbink. Beautiful cahier stiching, printed by Lecturis this is a true gem of a catalogue. Since many exhibitions have been held in the palace but few were as impressive as the Blais exhibition.

Jean-Charles Blais was born in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) on October 22, 1956. At the tender age of eighteen he enroled at the “École des Beaux-Arts” in Rennes, where he studied for a total of five years. Since the early 1980s Jean-Charles Blais studied the work of the Nouveaux Réalistes, Pop-Art and Arte Povera of Mario Merz, especially the works of the so-called “affiches arrachées”, which had a fundamental influence on Blais’ work.
This work, which is determined by the choice of material used to carry the picture, marked his departure to a new kind of painting. On the basis of torn-off advertising posters which are then stuck on top of each other in multiple layers, Jean-Charles Blais developed a pictorial language, that was less interested in the suface of the two-dimensionally formulated message and more concerned with the space articulated “behind” the surface. The multilayered nature of the material and the view to the incidental edges and creases create associative structures.
On their basis Jean-Charles Blais created representational motifs, figurative elements, houses and animals, plants and tools on the back. Thanks to numerous solo exhibitions in France and later also in Germany and the USA, Jean-Charles Blais’ works became known to a larger audience during the eighties.
His first large-scale work in a public space attracted a great deal of attention in 1990: Jean-Charles Blais was commissioned to design the Paris Metro station “Assemblé Nationale”. In 1996 the “Telephone Booths” project for the “Thinking Print” exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art in New York followed.
Digital technologies and new materials have been in the centre of Blais’ creative work since the turn of the millennium. 

The publications below are available at www.ftn-books.com

 

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Jannis Kounellis..the stolen rain coat

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It must have been 1988 and there was within one of the very first exhibitions Rudi Fuchs curated for the Gemeentemuseum in one of the small cabinets, a work by Jannis Kounellis.

Kounellis has always been a favorite artist of Fuchs, who organized in the van Abbemuseum and the Stedelijk Museum exhibitions with him.

The work…It consisted of a coat rack with a raincoat and looked in nothing like a piece of art. It was also my first encounter with a work by Kounellis who later was asked for a special exhibition with drawings and a specialpublication which was the very  first publication to be designed by Gracia Lebbink. LA STANZA VEDE, was a real tribute to the drawings because it was published in a classic drawings portfolio and a very limited edition.

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Back to the Coat rack. It was only a few days that the work was shown after the raincoat was stolen from the coat rack. A police investigation was done, but with no result. The fact that the raincoat was stolen makes me remember the work by Kounellis, but for me Kounellis is more the artist with the extreme wall pieces with coal elements, which are very impressive…..and of course the stolen raincoat 😉

Books available at www.ftn-books.com

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Hamish Fulton – the man with one of the most beautiful signatures in Modern Art

The year is 1991. The occasion is the opening of the exhibition on Hamish Fulton. Curated by Rudi Fuchs and Franz Kaiser. The Haags Gemeentemuseum organized this excellent exhibition which was accompanied by a publication ONE HUNDRED WALKS ,which still is one of my personal favorites and certainly is one of the most beautiful books in my collection. The book was designed by Hamish Fulton himself and Gracia Lebbink was asked to do the graphic layout and production. The result….. an artist book which is one of the best ever published.

The book was delivered ( as almost always) just a few hours before the opening of the exhibition and sold during this opening. The next day i encountered Fulton in the corridor of the museum and complimented him on the book and asked if he could sign my personal copy.  No problem….. the book was signed and i had another souvenir for my collection, but then it occurred to me that the idea of signing some of these could be profitable for the museum and i asked him if he could sign and number a series of 20 copies to be sold in our museum bookstore.

The friendly and sympathetic person he is , he did not even think about it and asked for the 20 copies to sign them. Later that afternoon he came to the library , set himself at a desk and signed the 20 copies , which were numbered  1 to 20. The signature he placed in the books is still one of my most admired signatures in Modern Art. The way it is placed on the page and dated, plus the story behind it makes this still very special to me. The books ( signed and unsigned version) are still available at :

www.ftn-books.com

and

https://ftn-books.com/products/hamish-fulton-one-hundred-walks-1991-signed-numbered-mint

both highly collectable items and real artist books.

 

wilfried