Thanks to the new wing, visitor numbers are increasing. Meanwhile, Oxenaar struggles with staff shortages and he still finds the budget for expanding the collection insufficient for his plans. Nevertheless, the museum organizes at least two exhibitions each year and in almost all collaborations with artists or collectors, Oxenaar manages to acquire a work.
A collection must grow
The excitement about the success of the new building is tempered in early 1979 by acute concerns about the limited acquisition budget. ‘A collection must grow, or it will die, and this applies to virtually no collection as much as a collection of modern and contemporary art’, writes Oxenaar in the annual report. The staff shortage is also cause for concern. In the conservation studio, for example, which the museum also shares with the Mauritshuis and Rijksmuseum Twenthe, only two conservators are employed. ‘If work continues in this way, it will take more than 60 years to deal with the “urgent cases”’.
Oxenaar is determined to maintain the high quality of the exhibitions. This year he manages to organize two exhibitions with American artists of international renown: Mouse Museum by Claes Oldenburg, a small museum with a wonderful collection of objects by the artist. And sculptures and drawings by the German-American artist Eva Hesse, known for her pioneering work in materials such as latex, fibreglass and plastic.
In the summer the museum presents the exhibition Pier + Ocean, constructie in de kunst van de zeventiger jaren (Pier + Ocean, construction in the art of the nineteen seventies), with 55 artists from Europe and America. The exhibition is based on Mondriaan’s painting Composition 10 in black and white, also known as ‘Pier and Ocean’ and which marked a new beginning for art in various ways. Oxenaar is no fan of thematic exhibitions, because ‘art should speak for itself’, but Pier + Ocean provides insight into the developments that followed Mondriaan’s work. The guest curator is artist Gerhard von Graevenitz, from whom Oxenaar acquires the work Kinetic object, 3 diametral stripes. Von Graevenitz divides the exhibition into groups, including; ‘spatial concepts’, ‘chance’, ‘system’, ‘infinity’ and ‘gravity’, a structure that Oxenaar can appreciate. ‘If one then realizes the important position that Mondriaan’s Pier + Ocean theme assumes in the collection, it becomes clear how much this exhibition is at home in Otterlo.’
Poster Pier+Ocean, 1980 and Mario Merz during the exhibition Pier+Ocean, 1980
Ellen Joosten organizes an exhibition of the work of Jean Amado in the spring. It had long been her desire to show the work of the French sculptor in Otterlo. The exhibition offers a representative overview of his sculptures and a series of drawings. After the exhibition, the sculpture De la mer, le passage can be added to the collection.
The six donations that the museum receives this year are, according to Oxenaar, complementary to ‘all important aspects’ of the collection. Museum Sztuki in Lodz donates a copy of the sculpture Space composition 4by Katarzyna Kobro. ‘That makes us the only museum outside Poland with work from the nineteen thirties by three great Polish constructivists, Kobro, Strzeminski and Stazewski.’ Piet Sanders donates the iron sculpture Wounded 7 by Francesco Somaini, a new artist in the collection. The Australian sculptor Ken Unsworth donates the work Suspended Stone Piece, which according to Oxenaar is ‘one of his most important sculptures to date’. ‘That makes us one of the very few museums in Europe and certainly the only one in the Netherlands where modern Australian sculpture, which is developing rapidly, is represented with a typical work.’ Geert-Jan Visser donates a series of preliminary studies for his Villa, designed by the architect Aldo van Eyck. Together ‘they provide a fascinating illustration of the development of ideas for this exceptional house’.
‘We are extremely grateful to all donors for their generosity, especially because despite the difficult times, a multifaceted growth and high level of quality can be maintained in the collection.’
Redon, Tajiri and Brattinga
Shortly before Christmas, a gallery in the Van de Velde wing is adorned with works by Redon from the museum’s own collection and from the Bonger collection, which the museum has been entrusted with for some time. Shinkichi Tajiri; ‘Double Exposure’ presents a new series of stereoscopic photographs by the Japanese-American artist in the print room. And Pieter Brattinga; affiches voor het Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller (Pieter Brattinga; posters for the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller) pays tribute to the designer who has been producing posters, catalogues and other publications for the museum for twenty years.
Pieter Brattinga; Posters for Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, 1980
Deputy director Ellen Joosten retires
After working at the museum for 30 years, Ellen Joosten retires on 1 May 1981. Joosten chooses to ‘conclude her work at the museum’ with an exhibition of Bruce Nauman. The opening of the exhibition is also her farewell celebration.
With the Nicholas Pope exhibition, Oxenaar seeks to provide a representative view of the recent development of this young English sculptor. He has already been in contact with Pope for some time regarding the purchase of a work. This work is the 25-piece elm wood sculpture Odd elms, which is shown for the first time in the exhibition. In the exhibition catalogue, Rini Dippel writes that Pope’s sculptures are conceived ‘out of a deep connection with nature and the past’. A letter from Pope to Oxenaar also reveals the kinship he feels with the museum and with artists in the collection. ‘I see what a debt we young English sculptors owe to Epstein, Moore and Hepworth.’
Nicholas Pope puts a final touch to'Odd elms', 1981
Oxenaar also acquires two drawings from Pope, Charcoal lump no. I and Red two holes. From their collection, the Vissers donate 3 drawings by Walter de Maria, 13 drawings by Sol LeWitt and 3 drawings by Richard Long, complete with correspondence between these artists and the couple.
Because Oxenaar’s acquisition budget is tight, he is forced to make choices. Movements such as Cobra, Pop-art, surrealism and abstract expressionism are barely represented, if at all. On the other hand, he increasingly acquires very recent work by Dutch and international artists, of whom he aims to collect a representative overview. In his opinion, the task of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller is not ‘to be complete in an objective sense, but through subjective selection to enlarge, to clarify, to refine and constantly relate a pre-existing structure to the present’.