Leiden’s municipal Museum De Lakenhal was reopened this year after a renovation of some years.
A few days ago i visited the museum to see the renovations.
Two new and modern exhibition rooms were added to the stately 17th century building for exhibitions of present day art.
Both deal with architecture, its demolition and its rebuilding.
Both spaces are quite beautiful, with a curved ceiling and a panorama window on one end.
The new wing has its own entrance and is, as such, not really connected to the rest of the museum; which doesn’t mean there is no modern and contemporary art on show in the main building.
The rest of the museum tries to find a link between the history of the city and its art and artists from both Leiden and elsewhere.
Roy Villevoye‘s (1960) Preparations (2009) aptly shares a room with the Lakenhal’s most prestigious treasures: the great works by Cornelis Engebrechtsz (c. 1462-1527) and his famous pupil Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), both from Leiden.
Engebrechtsz, for all his artistic shortcomings, was a great colourist, composition designer and storyteller and his two great triptychs (amongst smaller works) in the Lakenhal are no less than masterpieces.
Their wealth of rhythms, colours and themes may remind you of the polyphonic music of the time.
It was a great joy seeing them again (and indeed to see Villevoyes stunning work again).
The most famous work in the room is of course Lucas’ Last Judgement triptych (1527), which fortunately survived the massive iconoclasm later that century.
Leiden also boasts a small but interesting collection of 17th century art, connected to Leiden, in its wonderful rooms with 19th century skylights.
The so-called Pape Corridor shows works by novelist Jan Wolkers (1925-2007) who also was a prolific visual artist and who was born in Oegstgeest near Leiden and as a youngster he worked and painted there.
His visual works on show are very much historic documents now.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Leiden became rich and important for its cloth industry and sales, for which Lakenhal was originally built (‘Lakenhal’ means Cloth Hall).
Some of that wealth can still be seen in the present museum.
The museum recently presented some new cloth designs, amongst others by The Hague artist Christie van der Haak (1950).
Lakenhal also has an important collection of works from the first half of the 20th century, interspersed with contemporary works like this moving portrait of the hapless Marinus van der Lubbe (1909-1934; also from Leiden) by Gert Germeraad (1959).
Only few artefacts will remind you of Leiden’s academic history, amongst others a phantom cabinet by Mark Dion (1961).
Another point of some local historic chauvinism is Leiden’s heroic role during the Dutch Revolt (1568-1648), which inspired the museum to commission a monumental photo work by Erwin Olaf (1959), which is probably more impressive than all other works in the room.
The museum breaths a sense of history connected to the present day.
Renovated it has become pleasant, clearly structured, light and more diversified.
It doesn’t pretend to be cosmopolitan and it isn’t geared to big blockbusters, which is a relief in between all those art museums in the country which try to be interchangeable international entrepreneurial art depots.
The Lakenhal Museum can be proud of what it has become.
© Villa Next Door 2019
Contents of all photographs courtesy to the artists and to Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden
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