1.5 Nijntjes



While visiting the Centraal Museum the other week, I came across two more of the Nijntje/Miffy statues as interpreted by various artists. The first one, appropriately, now stands outside the Nijntje Museum, which is across the street from the Centraal Museum. (One ticket gets you into both museums.)

The second Nijntje is a bit harder to see (thus the 1/2), as I took a photo of it through a window in the museum. It stands in the newly renovated courtyard. This one is particularly interesting, as it’s about four Nijntjes creating one. Unfortunately, I don’t have any artist information for these, but it’s nice to see a few Nijntjes still hanging around her home city.


We visited the Centraal Museum last weekend to see all of the renovations finally complete. It’s still a stunning and highly creative museum. Even the shadows are works of art.

This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge, whose theme this week is abstract.

In Search of Art

Portrait of Amalia van Solms
The Centraal Museum has undergone some renovations and expansions recently and they’ll be officially unveiling them this coming Friday and over the weekend, as part of the National Museum Weekend. To raise awareness about the museum and it’s collection of Utrecht artists, they have put up murals of some of the museum’s collection on walls around the city. Today, I went in search of one.

Charlie and I headed out for a nice walk in sunny weather with deep blue skies overhead. I took a slightly different route than I usually do to end up at the Van Asch van Wijckskade. When I got to where I thought it was supposed to be, I was clearly in the wrong spot. There was a building with a painting on it, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Slightly confused, I decided to keep walking. Turns out I had stopped a block too soon.
Portrait of Amalia van SolmsBut there she was, the Portrait of Amalia van Solms (1602-1675) by Gerard van Honthorst. With the trees starting to bloom and the glorious blue sky, she was in the perfect setting. Nor was I the only one admiring her. Another girl had approached just as we did and she walked up close to pause for a moment and admire Amalia.

There are two other murals to see, but they’ll have to wait for another outing. I do have two tickets for the museum’s grand opening on Friday. I would take Charlie, as he seemed quite interested, but I suspect he may not be so welcome. I guess I’ll just have to take G instead. Charlie is disappointed.
Portrait of Amalia van Solms

Tank Man

During the summer of 2013, the Call of the Mall art event took place in the Hoog Catharijne shopping center here in Utrecht. A variety of art works in multiple mediums were placed throughout the mall. The Celestial Tea Pot, which still stands on the roof of part of the mall, was and is a popular piece, but there was one piece that really created a lot of interest, at times blocking much of the walkway in which it was placed.

Tank Man, a lifelike sculpture by Fernando Sánchez Castillo, refers to the unknown man who stood down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 after the Chinese military had come in to shut down protests. Although a few names were bandied about at the time, it seems that there is no reliable information about the man’s identity and fate.
Tank ManAlthough we don’t know what became of the man dubbed Tank Man, we do know what happened to the statue. It was purchased by the Centraal Museum, where it now has a home. I never got to see it while it was on display in the mall, but I did finally get to see it on my most recent visit to the museum. It’s a powerful piece when you stop and think about what this man did, especially at that particularly violent and repressive moment in time.

The video footage and photos that made it out of China are hard to forget. The close-up photos like the one by photographer Jeff Widener are staggering, but it was one I saw a few days ago that really made me think more deeply about it all than I have in many years. The wider angle shows the scope of what this man was up against. To see the tiny figure of the the man standing against at least 20 tanks just on the road, not to mention the numerous other grouped tanks in the background is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. It’s hard not to put yourself in his shoes and wonder if you would have been able to take such a stand. I think being able to come face to “face” with the Tank Man via the statue is what helps to make it such a powerful piece, because you do suddenly find yourself face to face with your thoughts about what you’d be willing to stand up for and against.
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Pretty Vacant

Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
You’ve got to love an art installation that calls to mind both the Sex Pistols and medieval architecture. The installation titled Pretty Vacant, by Amsterdam-based Rietveld Landscape, was in one of the chapels at the Centraal Museum. However, because I am woefully behind on this blog post, the exhibit is no longer there. I won’t tell you how far behind I am on it. I am the queen of procrastination.

The blue foam is actually the remnants from another work that the group did for the 2010 Venice architecture bienale. That was an exploration of the amount of available space within the Netherlands. With the Pretty Vacant installation, the way it is placed within the chapel, it becomes self-referential to the medieval windows within the chapel, with the shapes calling to mind stained glass patterns.The city shapes combine to both obscure the view, as well as create a new, alternative view of the Dutch landscape.

The structure makes use of both positive and negative space to block light and filter it, creating an atmospheric setting within the former chapel. The chapel itself is divided into two levels. The installation begins on the second level and rises to the top, however it can also be viewed towering over anyone standing below on the lower level.
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
I saw it from different levels on different visits. The first visit was when I saw it from the ground level. Around a year later, I saw it again from the upper level. The ground level is almost overwhelming with the height and solidity of the wall of blue. On the upper level, I found it more peaceful and contemplative, particularly with the light coming through the chapel’s side windows. The upper level was vacant except for the blue foam, allowing visitors to sit or stand and contemplate the piece with out any other real distractions. I’m glad I managed to stumble across that level and experience the work for myself.
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
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18 Things to See, Do, Taste, and Experience in Utrecht

klmmapI’m always singing the praises of Utrecht and encouraging people to visit this beautiful, historic, and vibrant city, so it only seems right that I make a handy map of some of the places and things visitors should see. So here’s a map of 18 places in Utrecht that you should see, including museums, sculptures, parks, restaurants (which, of course, includes Vino Veritas), and historic points of interest. It is, by no means, a complete listing and hopefully I’ll be able to add on to it as the spirit moves me. Did I leave out one of your favorite must-see spots in Utrecht? Tell me what you think is a must-see.

Thanks to KLM for doing the technical creation of this map for me, while letting me use my own words and photos. They were kind enough to let me focus on Utrecht, instead of Amsterdam, after I pointed out how quick and easy it is to get to Utrecht from Amsterdam. Fly into Schipol Airport with KLM and hop on one of the many trains to Utrecht. You’ll be here in just half an hour!

It’s a Surreal World and We Just Live in It

surreal worldSome art is beautiful, some is disturbing, some makes you think. Surrealism seems to cover all of the bases. I love it! During my studies, I focused more on Italian Renaissance (architecture), but I always found Surrealism, Dadaism,and similar styles to be incredibly fascinating. So when the Centraal Museum in Utrecht opened their Surreal Worlds exhibit recently, I knew I had to see it.

Surrealism developed initially in France around 1920 and took about 10 years to make its way to the Netherlands. Interestingly, it was here in Utrecht where it really took root in the country. Much of Surrealism dealt with getting rid of the moralism, sexual inhibition, and stifling rules of Catholicism and the average bourgeois culture. Utrecht, which had so long been a seat of power for the Catholic church, may have been rife with artists ready to open their minds to this new way of expressing themselves. Surrealism moved beyond the rational world, turning to the dream world and free association.Surreal WorldMost of the extensive exhibit focuses on the Dutch artists, from the 1930s until present times, who were drawn to Surrealism. One of the most prominent of the early Dutch Surrealism artists was J.H. Moesman, whose work is on display, capturing the essence of so much of the style.

However, the exhibit does include a few small pieces by some of the biggest international names of the movement, including Man Ray, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. It was fun to see some of the pieces in person and to recognize the styles of these individual artists.man ray ironduchampjoan mirómax ernst(Apologies for the less than stellar photos. Low museum lighting and an ancient camera phone aren’t the best combination.)

The exhibit is incredibly well done, covering a variety of artists through the last 80 years or so. They also chose a fascinating way of displaying many of the works, dividing them into groups based on various body parts, even the “naughty bits”. Interested in seeing a large net bag filled with glass breasts and penii? They’ve got it. From head to toe, there are some fascinating works that range from creepy to stunning.

They also have some works by Pyke Koch, a Dutch artist who lived for many years here in Utrecht. I first learned of him because of his design of the lamps throughout the city, but his paintings, done in the Magic Realism style, have really grown on me. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see more of his work. This one, in particular, really caught my eye:pyke kochThe exhibit runs through 9 June and I highly recommend it if you have even a passing interest in Surrealism. This weekend is a great time to visit the Centraal Museum, because it’s Museum Weekend. Museums across the city are opening their doors for free or for reduced entrance fees. You can visit the Centraal Museum this weekend for just €1, so there’s no excuse not to go. This piano alone makes it worthwhile!Surreal World

Heads Up with a Side of Escher

FramesThis was going to be a Wordless Wednesday post, but I thought I’d throw in a few words of explanation. This is the view looking up through one of the stairwells at the Centraal Museum. I love the alternating frames that emphasize the artwork of the light at the top. And if you look at it all a bit twisted, there is a sense of Escher to the whole scene. Just more proof that it pays to look up.Frames

Rietveld Chairs on Display at the Centraal Museum

Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenIn December of last year, the Centraal Museum was able to purchase the Prototype Low Chair (center) by Gerrit Rietveld’s at a Sotheby’s auction. The iron chair, which dates to c.1946-1950/52, was an experimentation by Rietveld in working with metal, using some of the techniques he had worked out in his usual use of molded plywood. Although the chairs go for large prices these days, they, like the designs by Ray and Charles Eames, were meant to be affordable through easy construction.

The Low Chair was one of a series of chairs that Rietveld exhibited in Denmark in the early years after World War II, and it was this exhibition that led to the overall design of the chairs being known as Danish chairs. The technical drawings for the Low Chair suggest that it was intended to be massproduced, but in the end, that particular design was not manufactured. However, the Danish chairs (the two flanking chairs in the photo) were produced.Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
The Prototype Low Chair was recently put on display at the Centraal Museum, and having read the news stories about the purchase, it was nice to get to see the chair in person. It’s on display in a small room often dedicated to one or two individual Rietveld pieces.

However, there’s another room in the museum, the Van Baaren Zaal (Van Baaren Gallery), which features additional examples of Rietveld’s furniture designs. Amid the paintings in the room, which were collected by the Van Baaren family, the museum has placed examples of some of Rietveld’s furniture. The simple, modern shapes form an interesting contrast to the often traditional paintings in the collection. Take for instance, two variations of Rietveld’s Zigzag Chair that sit amid portraits and florals.Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenOther pieces currently on display include a sideboard/buffet piece that I am particularly fond of and would love to own a reproduction of someday. There are also additional chairs, and even a child’s wagon on display. Although only a small sampling of Rietveld’s work, it’s a nice selection of pieces.Gerrit Rietveld MeubelenGerrit Rietveld Meubelen
The Prototype Low Chair is on display until 13 April 2014. You can see all of the pieces in situ in this video from the Centraal Museum (in Dutch).

Monsters and Alternate Views

sun rabbitI’m going to be honest with you, this is a tired blogger’s post. It’s been a long week of writing, capped off with a lot of sneezing and stuffy nose issues the past two days. As a result, you’re getting a funky photo of the Thinker on the Rock sculpture over at Neude and a link to another article I wrote for the Arts Holland website.

The Thinker photo was taken from behind, obviously, for the silhouette effect. It adds a certain dramatic element to it, I think. That sort of ties in to my article for Arts Holland about the current ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion exhibit at Centraal Museum. Between now and 19 January, if you’re looking for things to do in Utrecht, I recommend a visit to the exhibit.

I’m not exactly a fashionista, but these avant garde pieces in the exhibit really were interesting to see. Even more interesting is the creepy vibe that goes along with the exhibit, thanks to how it’s displayed. Part of me wanted to stay and look at all the details; another part of me wanted to run out of there as fast as possible! But I mean it in a good way. It’s a brilliantly creative display, and how often can you say you’ve had the hairs on the back of your neck raised visiting a fashion exhibit in an art museum.

Eerie avant garde