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Kröller-Müller on tour

On 3 October at six o’clock sharp, more than eight hundred Japanese visitors jostled to catch a glimpse of the Van Goghs, the Seurats and the Mondriaans from the Kröller-Müller Museum. Not in Otterlo itself, but at the National Art Centre in Tokyo, where the exhibition Divisionism. From Van Gogh and Seurat to Mondrian had just opened.
The Japanese culture lovers have a keen interest in Western art. Thus, the eight hundred guests at the opening are just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of visitors that the National Art Centre regularly attracts with this sort of exhibition. The Japanese are more than willing to make a three-hour train journey from their home in order to visit. After Tokyo the exhibition is on display in Hiroshima from January 2014 and in Nagoya from the end of February 2014.
The Kröller-Müller Museum has a long history of loaning works to Japanese museums. This often involves works by Van Gogh, but Divisionism includes a broader selection of works, with seventy-four paintings and drawings, which together comprise a complete exhibition, including a catalogue.
But the Kröller-Müller is not only visiting Japan. Three weeks after Tokyo, the exhibition Verso Monet opened at Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Verona, with a sizeable Van Gogh component from Otterlo. This exhibition travels on to Vicenza in February 2014.
The museum attracts more visitors with these external presentations than it could ever achieve by just exhibiting at home. The 311,000 visitors to Otterlo in 2012 were far exceeded by the approximately 617,000 visitors that the museum attracted elsewhere last year.
In addition to increasing the public outreach and international reputation of the Kröller-Müller, the external exhibitions also provide an indispensible contribution to the operation of the museum.
Of course, all of this is no mean feat. Sending seventy-four works abroad requires an enormous effort by conservators, registrars, security experts, depot and packing staff among others. And given that every borrower preferably wants the best and thus the most requested pieces, we constantly have to consider whether a work can remain travelling. And apart from that, our own presentation of the collection must be kept up to standard. For the 325,000 visitors the museum hopes to attract this year. For the 40,000 students who have their first encounter with art history here. And of course for the many thousands of Japanese who visit not Tokyo, but Otterlo.

Lisette Pelsers
November, 2013

Image: Piet Mondriaan, Composition with red, yellow and blue, 1927