Arp: The Poetry of Forms is the first major retrospective of the work of Hans (Jean) Arp (Strasburg 1886-Basel 1966) in the Netherlands since the nineteen sixties. The German-French sculptor, painter and poet Arp is one of the most influential artists of the European avant-garde and plays an important role in the development of modern art. In addition to some eighty of his visual works – drawings, collages, paintings, wood reliefs and sculptures – there are also examples of Arp’s poetry, writings and publications.

In 2017 it will be a hundred years since the founding of De Stijl. The close relationship between Arp and the leading light of De Stijl, Theo van Doesburg, is the occasion for the exhibition, which is showing from 20 May to 17 September 2017.

Word and image

In Arp: The Poetry of Forms, emphasis is placed on the constant interaction between visual art and poetry in Arp’s oeuvre and on the humour and playfulness in his works. Raised in the bilingual Alsace, the ease with which he switches from one language and culture to another and from visual art to poetry and back again, is characteristic for Arp’s entire career. The exhibition shows the powerful bond between word and image in his work.

Art and nature

After the nadir of the First World War, Arp develops a visual idiom with which he aims to create a new order and be able to redesign the relationship between human, object and nature. Crucial is his conception of the relationship between art and nature: art should never imitate the natural world but follow its own nature. Arp seeks to develop new, independent forms out of their own fundamental essence. He calls this ‘concrete art’.

Stabiles – Concrétions – Constellations

The exhibition features work from throughout Arp’s career, but focuses on the years 1920-1935, when he goes from making wood reliefs and so-called ‘stabiles’ (freestanding flat sculptures) to pure abstract sculptures, which he calls ‘concrétions’ (embodiments), because they stand in the space as real objects. In his view, these germinate and grow in the human mind, analogous to the growth processes in nature: ‘L’art est un fruit’ (Art is a fruit).


As a key member of groups and movements such as Dada, surrealism and Abstraction-Création, Arp has a major influence on important artistic developments in the first half of the twentieth century. He regards the collaboration with others, with poets and artists such as Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara and El Lissitsky, as an integral part of his artistic practice. The collaboration with Van Doesburg is also examined in a separate presentation devoted to the interior design of a large amusement centre in Strasbourg, the Aubette.


A publication entitled Arp: The Poetry of Forms, written by Frances Guy and Eric Robertson, accompanies the exhibition. Publisher: Kröller-Müller Museum, ISBN-number: 978-90-73313-43-9, softcover, pg. 144, Dutch/English, € 24,95.

Turner Contemporary

Arp: The Poetry of Forms is organized in collaboration with Turner Contemporary, Margate (UK). The exhibition is showing from 12 October 2017 until 14 January 2018 at Turner Contemporary, Margate.

Guest curators: prof. Eric Robertson (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Frances Guy.


Mondriaan to Dutch Design

2017 is the year in which we celebrate 100 years of designing the future. The immediate cause is the founding of De Stijl in 1917, elements of which can still be seen today in Dutch Design. To celebrate this milestone, NBTC Holland Marketing, together with its partners, has declared 2017 the theme year ‘Mondriaan to Dutch Design’.
The theme year marks the introduction of the storyline from Mondriaan to Dutch Design, which brings visitors to interesting locations throughout the Netherlands that are related to works from the period of De Stijl and contemporary design. Museums, heritage sites and events in the Netherlands focus on the work of top designers, open studios to the public and pay tribute to artists such as Mondriaan, Rietveld, Van der Leck and Van Doesburg.



Image:  Jean Arp, Torse préadamite, 1938 (left) and Étoile, 1939