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Charts and canons

Compiling charts and deciding the order of favourites is an amusing pastime. For me, the cursoriness of the deed and the knowledge that they will change again shortly are all part of the charm. Conversely, I have less regard for the drawing up of canons, as they presume to establish a certain ‘objective truth’ for a longer period. Canons stifle development when they become required material.
In practice, however, a museum is more involved with canons than with charts. The very act of selecting works of art from the vast range on offer and placing them literally or figuratively on a pedestal in an isolated environment is, in itself, setting up a hierarchy. At the Kröller-Müller Museum, we are acutely aware of this function of the museum and thus always attempt to emphasize the relativity of it, but also its importance. That is why we reserve an important role for the marginal as breeding-ground for the centre, the canonical if you will.
We are also aware that in selecting the contemporary art for our museum, we give less consideration to the preferences of the general public than we would like. In that regard, our mission is highly coloured by idealistic points of departure, for instance to focus attention on the new and unknown. I also believe that a museum for modern and contemporary art must do this, because otherwise it is in danger of losing its right to exist.
In the well-over one hundred years of our collecting activities, more than 20.000 art objects have been assembled. Although this is a modest collection for a medium-sized museum, it does still mean that as a visitor, you will only ever be able to view a small part of the collection. Traditionally, the museum staff decides which pieces will be on display. In the past, there have indeed been experiments with guest curators or other individuals and groups, but it is a rare occurrence that the public can directly influence an exhibition with works from the museum’s depot. Via we now offer the opportunity to choose your Top Three out of 100 works on paper (a half a percent of our collection!). On the closing date of 17 January 2010, this will result in a Top 50 compiled from all the participants votes, which will also be shown in an actual exhibition from February 7th. In this way, we hope to react more directly to the wishes of our visitors, but also to allow them to discover and enjoy more of our collection. If successful, we will make use of this possibility more regularly: then there will still be 199 projects to go! Enjoy making your list.

Evert van Straaten
January 2010