From May 2nd 2020 onwards i started categorising photo reports about exhibitions in Villa Next Door under the header Art in corona times.
By that time the corona restrictions were already intensely experienced by the arts sector. These days Covid-19 is still there but the heaviest lockdown measures have been lifted, so Art in corona times will be history for the time being. Art in corona times started with a visit to SinArts Gallery . I hadn’t seen Alex Lebbink, SinArts’ gallerist, for quite some time and he had organised time slots for individual visitors. The idea was that the corona measures would be very temporary and that i would use the label Art in corona times for a few postings, just to see how galleries and other art platforms were doing during the crisis and after that it would be more or less business as usual. However, that proved to be quite naive. Corona became a way of life in which the arts were not seen as an essential need in life. At first artists and other professionals were more or less empathetic to that idea, but as the crisis went on and on, the government’s sheer lack of interest for the arts became a thorn in the flesh of many an art professional, especially after the health minister’s remark that if you cannot go to the theatre you might as well stay at home and see a dvd, as if there was no difference between the two. Last week i posted Art in corona times 101 with some extra footage of the interesting exhibition about Aad de Haas at the Chabot Museum in Rotterdam and that was the last one under the corona banner.
For those who want to have an idea of what was on show during the pandemic Art in corona times is easily locatable in Villa Next Door.
Lockdowns etc are over now but that doesn’t mean the worries about this or any other virus are gone.
Covid-19 may return with a more dangerous version, and an altogether new and equally or more dangerous virus may come. The question is not if it will come, but when it will come. The bird flu virus being one of the most obvious contenders in the real viral world. Another worry in the aftermath of corona is the questionable urge of authorities to control everything and everybody, if possible with modern technology. This urge is understandable as authorities of any political colour try to influence social processes for the benefit of society as a whole. However, even before the Corona crisis it has already been proven that this urge to control has turned against citizens, as a holy faith in the objectivity of modern technology, market forces and a reduction of the state to a kind of control device has replaced a democracy in which different opinions in society play a role. Villa Next Door is not the place to make a deep analysis about society, politics, the free market, modern technology, the influence of debilitating conspiracy theories, and a considerable chunk of society that rather believes in so-called alternative facts than in real facts, that prefers evil tales to science. However this is the framework – as i see it – in which art is made, seen and presented today in this country, and i want to be clear about the context in which i give you my reports about exhibitions and art in this blog. After all, you don’t have to agree, but you should know. Another worry is the new situation with the war in Ukraine. One might suggest i should replace Art in corona times with Art in war times. However, the Netherlands are at the moment not at war with any other country. Also, it should be said that another devastating war is going on in Yemen for seven years now. Although this is principally a civil war, it has become internationalised, with other countries in the Middle East intervening. The conflict in Ukraine may have a global significance, or rather, it will have, even if the war itself remains physically limited to Ukraine. That, together with the devils unleashed during the Corona crisis, will bring us interesting but also ominous times. So, in the mean time, i repost some pictures here of some highlights of Art in corona times.
Hope to see you soon in real life or in this blog, stay healthy and sane, and keep your eyes open!
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Though he wasn’t born in The Hague, he lived for a major part of his life in this town and undeniably left his artistic marks here.
There have been retrospectives of his work in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and even twice in Dordrecht, but in spite of that Verdijk has only become a household name to very few artists and art lovers.
The present exhibition – recently reopened when anti-corona measures were alleviated a bit, difficult to find on the museum’s website, and unclear in how long it will be there – may give a clue to that underrating.
Almost each work on show has the magic to suck you into the intimacy of its composition, such that you may even feel a voyeur; that is, if you really surrender to these works.
I have no idea how long these works will be on show, so hurry to see them!
Again, under the tranquillity of the Covid-19 measures at the museum, it was a great joy to see these works in all their preciousness again, without the pressure of any other visitors who may disturb your attention.
After all, art watching is an egotistic activity.
At best it’s you and the work of art, and nobody in between or around.
However, i couldn’t spend much time there as i needed time for the Lucassen show. Reinier Lucassen (1939) has built an impressive oeuvre of paintings.
He started in the 1960s as an artist who combined elements of figurative and abstract art and of high art and consumer culture, like other artists in the Netherlands and Belgium, usually called Nieuwe figuratie (New Figuration).
In the case of Lucassen it has become an art intermingled with the beauty of the banal and the absurd.
Lucassen’s work is also linguistic, as such it may be even more mysterious to a non-Dutch speaker than it is for a Batavophone.
As usual in these big shows at the KM there is an overload of works.
The works are not presented chronologically.
To an extent, that works, as mutual correlations between the paintings of different periods may become clear.
On the other hand, after watching intensely (which is now really possible!) for some time, one gets the idea of getting a bit dizzy of all these different voices that shout, sing and whisper at you.
To be short about visiting the KM at the moment: it is now possible to really look at the works intensely, or even reflect on them while looking, which is great and unique for this period of the crisis.
However, as the exhibitions are quite big – apart from Navid Nuur’s, although his is big in its reflective content – you need to plan ahead what you really want to see.
Otherwise you may not fall victim to the Covid-19 virus but to the Stendhal syndrome.
There are very strict restrictions to enter and to move around in the museum.
Reservations have to be made online for a two hours timeslot, there is an obligatory choice between two routes and only one-way traffic is possible, but generally everything is very well organised and staff seem to be more friendly than usual.
The two routes are the so-called Berlage Route and the Mondrian Route.
Although two hours were obviously not enough for me, i very much enjoyed seeing all these works in real.
Because of the restrictions and the maximum number of visitors (which is indicated for every room) i had a very tranquil afternoon.
No crowds of people who are in your way, just silence and very little noise of another visitor now and then, that’s how i like it! In this report you see some aspects of the first leg of my tour: A.R. Penck (1939-2017) and Navid Nuur (1976).
I am planning a review for Villa la Repubblica (in Dutch) about at least one of the three not-permanent shows, so keep yourself posted!
As for A.R. Penck: I saw his work first in a solo show somewhere in the 1970s in the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam (digitally i can’t find any reference to that exhibition).
That was quite an experience to me as an adolescent (which, i must say, is quite a broad definition in my case).
His works were exhibited on partitions, creating small rooms where you were confronted with his graffiti.
It was both artistically and for its presentation a revelation to me. Now he has become one of the classics of German art.
The present show at the KM is quite a big retrospective.
It has all the pros and cons of such a blockbuster.
It is quite overwhelming, and even some huge paintings were pushed into the very inner of the museum in one way or another.
A few smaller parts of the show are closed because of the corona measures, but, as it’s such a big show, you don’t really miss that.
I felt privileged having all these works practically for my own.
No idea how old Navid Nuur was when i saw my first Penck exhibition, but the times of revelations seem to be far behind us.
After the savagery of Penck’s painting Nuur offers you more introspection in the KM’s so-called project space.
Nuur shows you the almost eternal life of dead matter, its transformation into minerals, into life, into light, into history, into philosophy, permeating and indeed being part of us and the rest of the world.
He has made a fine ensemble out of it.
Another visitor walked around in the room as well, reading her booklet about the show, when at last she asked me if i understood it.
To me that is a question of conscience, for, as an art historian, one knows all too well that one can never fully understand a work of art…..