Tag Archives: Kandinsky

STEDELIJK MUSEUM – fiddler in the bathtub

One of Marc's Chagall's finest. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

One of Marc’s Chagall’s finest. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Marc Chagall’s famous Fiddler on the Roof has been scratching away somewhere else for nearly a decade, while the Stedelijk Museum was closed for refurbishment. Now he’s back home in Amsterdam.

Until today I hadn’t realised what a superb collection of contemporary art Amsterdam has had tucked away.

Now they’ve pulled it out to be proudly displayed alongside the Rembrandts and Van Goghs the tourists come to see. Continue reading

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AMSTERDAM’S GREAT ART – for a limited time only…

It’s a particularly brilliant time for art exhibitions in Dutch galleries at the moment. Mevrouw T and I are fans of art – maybe we don’t know as much about it as we should, but we know what we like, and we very much like what we are seeing right now.

Of course in Amsterdam there are always the Rembrandts and Vermeers in the Rijksmuseum. It is being renovated at the moment, with work set to drag on till at least 2013, but I regard that as a plus. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum is simply too big to take in at a sitting (or rather, a wandering) so for first time visitors a tour of the highlights which are on display may well be a better option.

The Van Gogh Museum is brimming with Van Goghs any time of year, and people queue to get in to see them. The Van Gogh has a new Gaugin exhibition at the moment. http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp

On the Amstel canal in the newly-opened (2009) Hermitage Museum there are some of the best works of Matisse (notably his very famous ‘Dance’) as well as Picasso, Kandinsky, Malevich and others. If the Hermitage can keep presenting work as good as this, it is a worthy rival to the big two above.

It’s only on until May 16, but we highly recommend the exhibition in the Jewish Historic Museum - Gedurfte Verzamelen or “Daring Patronage”.  This was an unexpected treat. The collections of three wonderful Jewish art patrons from the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries are on show. The highlights are three superb Chagalls, including his green-faced violinist, and a selection of Piet Mondriaan’s paintings, proving he could do more than just rule a few black lines and colour in the boxes. http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/daring-patronage

The Rembrandthuis, the house where Rembrandt lived, has an exhibition of early photography: http://www.rembrandthuis.nl/cms_pages/index_sub.php?url=actueel_en.php&path=1,0,0&nav_lang=en

Meanwhile down in Den Haag (the Hague), a 40 minute train ride away, the Gemeentemuseum has a superb Kandinsky retrospective.
http://www.gemeentemuseum.nl/index.php?id=1&langId=en

Tip: For anybody planning to visit four or more museums in Holland, a museumkaart (museum card) is excellent value. It is valid for most museums in the country, good for a year, and can be bought at most major museums. We are wearing out our museum cards by having them swiped so often. Cost: EUR35 plus EUR4.95 ”handling costs”. Why don’t they just say they cost EUR40? Since individual museum entry is EUR7.50 to EUR12.50, that’s still a very good deal.

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GEMEENTEMUSEUM, THE HAGUE, HOLLAND – Berlage’s masterpiece

No, that's not us; other people spotted this cubicle first!

Mevrouw T and I love the “Gemeentemuseum” (Municipal museum) in den Haag not so much for its contents as for its form. It happens to have an outstanding Kandinsky exhibition at the moment, together with a couple of interesting quirky ones on Paris haute couture and, believe it or not, Tupperware. Who would have thought that such humble plastic would one day become valued as art?

But the building itself will pull us back there time after time, regardless of what’s inside it. Probably the most revered Dutch architect ever is Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934). He designed the street plan of old Amsterdam South, and most famously Amsterdam’s ‘Beurs’, the stock exchange building near Dam Square.

Courtyard, Gemeentemuseum, den Haag


Sadly, he died before the work he regarded as his masterpiece, the Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum), was completed in The Hague in 1935. It’s a triumph of simple clean straight lines, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, with intricate patterned brickwork on the exterior, and understated coloured tiling inside. Filtered natural light floods the exhibition areas from above.

There’s a brilliant exhibition in there at the moment, Kandinsky and der Blaue Reiter, a great collection from the Russian artist’s most colourful period, when he and a group of German artists including Franz Marc, worked in Munich just before the outbreak of WWI.

Wassily Kandinsky: Orientals

Okay, I admit it, I took a couple of surreptitious snaps when the attendants weren’t looking. But I didn’t use a flash – Kandinsky will never know I was there, and the bad colour balance should ensure nobody but me will ever want to send this picture around cyberspace.

Trip notes: Den Haag is a forty minute train ride from Amsterdam. Entry to the Kandinsky en der Blaue Reiter exhibition is EUR12.50.

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HERMITAGE AMSTERDAM – from Russia with love

Hermitage and Amstel River

The Dutch and the Russians go way back as allies. In 1813 Peter the Great sent some Cossacks to help the kick the French out of Holland. The royals on both sides got matey and Prince William of Orange married Anna Pavlovna Romanova in 1816. Hitler’s mistake in invading Russia hastened the end of German occupation of the Netherlands. Dutch supercoach Guus Hiddink now trains the Russian World Cup soccer team.

Now there’s an art gallery connection. Last year the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg opened a regional branch in Amsterdarn. The Hermitage has more paintings lying around in the dusty cellars than it has walls to hang them on, so it was a sensible idea to lend some of their surplus pics to their Dutch pals.

Amstel River

Amsterdam had a nice big building on a spectacular site on the Amstel River. For three hundred years it had been a home for old people, but with the rising standards of care demanded in modern Holland, it was no longer considered suitable for housing anybody. So in 2007 the last old person moved out, and the redevelopment team under architect Luuk Kramer moved in.

They did a beautiful job. The fabulous Matisse to Malevich exhibition has just opened and will be in Amsterdam till September. It features some of Matisse’s masterpieces, including the stunning Red Room and his famous Dance II (those girls holding hands and dancing in a circle), as well as some of the best work of his fellow “fauves”, Derain and de Vlaminck. Then there’s a room of full of great Picassos, and another of Kandinsky’s bright-coloured landscape period as he moved towards abstraction.

The view of the Amstel from the gents’ toilet is lovely too.

The displaced old people are not entirely forgotten in this museum. Downstairs in the cellar is a reconstruction of a 1725 kitchen, to show how the old people used to live, on a diet of artificial potatoes, apparently. Upstairs is a super modern Luuk Kramer designed café – so smart that we assumed we couldn’t afford coffee there.

I suspect most visitors go to St Petersburg for one main attraction – the Hermitage. Shame it’s so complicated and so expensive to get there. It’s much cheaper and easier to get to the Amsterdam branch.

TIP: A Dutch ‘museumkaart’ (museum card) gives unlimited access to most museums in the country. It is valid for a year, costs 40 Euros and is good value if you’re planning to visit five museums or more. You can buy a museumkaart at all major museums.

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