The first years after gaining autonomy are still largely dominated by the Delta Plan, which is due to be completed in 2000. That makes it difficult for Van Straaten to really make his mark on the museum policy. He develops a new way of regarding the collection, which he himself calls ‘a spider web, with the original Kröller collection at its centre’. He also manages to make one of his most important acquisitions: a sculpture by Constantin Brancusi, and that’s not all.
In the annual report, Van Straaten sets out his entrepreneurial vision for the museum. He regards the collection, building and garden as the success factors, which ‘still determine the unique character of the Kröller-Müller Museum’. There is a new target group of ‘first-time visitors to the museum’. Van Straaten hopes to ‘encourage them to become regular visitors to art museums’ by improving the hosting of the public.
A large number of paintings have since received conservation work or undergone a preservative treatment, including Venus and Amor by Hans Baldung Grien. 1500 works on paper have had acid-containing material removed and been given acid-free passe-partouts. The new acquisitions of works on paper now receive this treatment immediately upon arrival. This year all the bronze and stone pieces in the sculpture garden are cleaned and coated in beeswax.
Station for detaining and blinding radio active horses
The installation Station for detaining and blinding radio active horses by Dennis Oppenheim is in very poor condition. Van Straaten travels to New York with, in his own words, ‘shaking knees and Oxenaar’s blessing’ to discuss this problem with the artist. Oppenheim takes the work back ‘in spirit’ but the material form has to dismantled and destroyed. In exchange, Van Straaten can make a replacement acquisition. That work is Boundary split, a five-part work from 1968.
Station for detaining and blinding radio active horses (1980) by Dennis Oppenheim, 1982 and demontage, 1995
Quite unexpectedly, an inquiry that Van Straaten made a few years previously at an auction house in London bears fruit: Le commencement du monde by Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi will soon be put up for auction. Van Straaten has long coveted a work by this ‘pioneer of modern Western sculpture’. ‘In the KMM, a work by Brancusi […] is in fact essential’. He manages to acquire the sculpture for over 3 million guilders. The purchase is supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Mondriaan Foundation and the Rembrandt Association.
Presentation of Brancusi's Le commencement du monde
The acquisition also receives a lot of negative attention due to the price, with cartoons even appearing in the newspapers. But Van Straaten is proud: ‘The beginning of the world is the first and only sculpture by Brancusi in a Dutch public collection’.
De Telegraaf about purchasing Brancusi, Cartoon about purchasing Brancusi, De Volkskrant
Heart of Darkness
At the invitation of curator Marianne Brouwer, 15 international artists come to the museum to make new work for the exhibition Heart of Darkness. Many of the artists grew up in a non-Western culture and now work ‘in exile’ in European and American cities. Their installations and works are distributed throughout the museum and thus enter into dialogue with the permanent collection. Work is acquired from Cai Guo Qiang, Huang Yong Ping and Chen Zhen, among others.
In the summer, landscape architect Adriaan Geuze holds two brainstorming sessions on the future of the sculpture garden, in which the management, curators and garden department participate. As a result of these discussions, his office West 8 is commissioned to design a masterplan for the garden with ‘appreciation for the existing situation’ as the point of departure.
The ‘Kröller-Müller series’
In 1994, Van Straaten conceives a plan to make neglected but important works from the collection topical and accessible again by publishing documentation and new research in an ongoing series of publications. The first issue in the 'Kröller-Müller series' focuses on the work Strassenbahnhaltestelle by Joseph Beuys, followed by Silhouette of Seurat, written by Hammacher. Van Straaten writes a publication on Theo van Doesburg and Jaap Bremer is the author of Charley Toorop (1891-1995), works in the Kröller-Müller Museum collection, which accompanies the exhibition of the same name.
‘Kröller-Müller series’ Joseph Beuys, Georges Seurat, Theo van Doesburg, Charley Toorop
Loes van der Horst
An installation by Loes van der Horst takes place in the auditorium of the Van de Velde wing, which has been reserved for the presentation of contemporary art since 1991. In addition to constructions of tensioned lines and surfaces, she makes drawings, 15 of which are displayed in the print room. The museum acquires 2 of these and the artist donates another one.
Exhibition 'Loes van der Horst' 1995
From 29 April to 31 October 1995, a presentation of French art takes place on the initiative of the Association Française d’Action Artistique. Jan-Marc Bustamante’s installation Serena is shown in the Rietveld pavilion: a 115-metre-long, emerald green tube that winds its way through the pavilion in the museum’s sculpture garden. The work is purchased and a publication is made.
Jean-Marc Bustamante, Serena, 1995
After five years as director, Van Straaten reflects on his acquisition policy in the exhibition Raw Material: a selection of his acquisitions thus far. Van Straaten regards the collection as a spider web of substantive, historical and art-historical connections, with the original 'Kröller collection’ at its centre. The works of art in the collection do not have a fixed, hierarchical position, ‘there is one coherent whole’. Most of the intersections in the spider web are comprised of accents that already appear in the collection, but Van Straaten also introduces new intersections ‘that are representative of the developments in contemporary art and consistent with the lines in the collection’.
One of these new intersections is Mobile Home by Joep van Lieshout. This large caravan ‘creates a reclusive space in the sculpture garden’. After acquiring the work, Van Straaten writes to the artist: ‘You are uniquely able to depict one of the essences of today’s fin-de-siècle in your representation of loneliness in the midst of social coercion and social intrusiveness’. Mobile Home is consistent with the utopian dimension that is an important common thread in Van Straaten’s ‘web’. It forms a bridge to the utopian foundation of De Stijl, but can also be linked to many ‘idealistic’ works.
Joep Van Lieshout, Mobile home, 1995 (building, results, interior)
Van Straaten also focuses on supplementing the collection of sculptor’s drawings. This sub-collection can be augmented this year with drawings by Alexander Archipenko, Joseph Csáky, Vladimir Baranoff-Rossiné and a photograph by Brancusi, all originally owned by Theo van Doesburg.
Donations by Oppenheim
Like his predecessors Hammacher and Oxenaar, Van Straaten has only ‘modest financial resources for acquisitions’. Fortunately the museum can ‘occasionally count on contributions from third parties’ and on ‘greatly appreciated donations’. Dennis Oppenheim donates 4 works, including Wishing well (1973) and Theme for a major hit (1974).
Construction of Sol LeWitt, Six-sided tower (1993) and Sol Le Witt visiting the site, 1995
Works can also be acquired from artists that represent key positions in the collection. This often involves works from the Visser collection, a collaboration that, according to Van Straaten is ‘crucial for the museum’. This year the museum receives a major donation from the collection of Geertjan Visser, consisting of works by Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Joseph Kosuth, Piero Manzoni, Bruce Nauman and Lucio Fontana. Van Straaten regards the collaboration as a ‘symbiosis […] that constantly reminds us that the Kröller-Müller Museum was also the product of visionary collecting’.
A ceramic plaque with a portrait of Yvette Guilbert by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is donated from the legacy of cabaret artist and ‘cabaret historian’ Alex de Haas. ‘Sometimes there are offers that just cannot be refused’, writes Van Straaten. It is a ‘highly exceptional acquisition’ because the work of this artist is so scarce in Dutch collections.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Yvette Guilbert, 1895
Sketch design for the sculpture garden
At the end of the year, West 8 presents a sketch design for the sculpture garden. According to Adriaan Geuze, ‘the sculpture garden must be reinvented’. He wants to make optimal use of the diversity of the landscape to create spaces with different characters in the garden, ‘in which you can always do something different with the collection’. On the one hand this requires the restoration of areas of the garden and, on the other, major interventions, such as restructuring the paths and removing plants to create new vistas.
Geuze also proposes to keep the sculpture garden open all year round. At that time the garden is closed in the autumn and winter. Many sculptures have to be wrapped for protection during this period, and that would be unsightly for visitors. Geuze disagrees: ‘A garden, even a sculpture garden, is about the seasons, about life and death […]. If the seasons are excluded, you remove the soul of a garden’. Geuze wants to make the experience of nature a part of the concept of the sculpture garden. In his view, the appreciation of nature is not subordinate to the experience of art. The museum takes his proposal to heart: from now on the sculpture garden is open all year round.
New opening hours sculpture garden, 1995
1996 is the final year of the first, three-year subsidy period of the autonomous Kröller-Müller. The museum submitted a subsidy application in 1995 for 1997-2000. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has promised basic support and, moreover, a substantial contribution to tackle the backlog in the conservation of the sculpture collection, as part of the Delta Plan.
The establishment of a financial reserve and a fund for acquisitions and substantive activities remain important aspirations for the near future. ‘The lack of such a reserve and the limited possibilities to realize acquisitions, exhibition and scientific documentation and a publication policy of an international standard are of great concern to us.’
Merger with the past
The deed of merger of the new Kröller-Müller Museum Foundation and the original Kröller-Müller Foundation, which is still managed by the trustees, is signed on 14 March 1996. Van Straaten sees the merger of the two foundations as an enrichment of the historical dimension of the museum, because it is now run by the foundation established by the Kröller-Müllers in 1928.
Enlargement of sculpture garden
As part of the redesign, the sculpture garden is enlarged by 5000 m2 in accordance with the West 8 masterplan. The sculpture forest, which until then was just a part of De Hoge Veluwe National Park, is now also included. At the front of the museum, the area between the entrance and the small park around the Steynbank is added. The bicycle parking on this site is also renovated.
The previously acquired work Untitled (Void), 1990 by Anish Kapoor proves not to function properly in the collection and therefore remains in the depot. Kapoor is willing to exchange the work for ‘a recent important piece’, Turning the world inside out, 1995.
During the summer exhibition, the museum focuses on Dennis Oppenheim. The heart of this presentation is a recent donation by the artist of 15 works to the museum. Photographs and video works, models for land art projects and installations from the period 1967-1990 provide a representative overview of his oeuvre.
Exhibition overview 'Dennis Oppenheim', 1996
Collecting on a limited budget
Due to the purchase of Brancusi’s The beginning of the world, the acquisition budget is greatly reduced. Thanks to the support of the Mondriaan Foundation, it is still possible to acquire work by Dutch artists and the collection can be expanded with 106 works this year, including Baucis by Carl Andre, 3 sculptures by Armando, Coconut by Anthony Caro, 3 works by Pieter Geraedts, 2 by Liet Heringa, 2 by Jeff Wall and Holiday by Joost van den Toorn, who in turn donates Little teapot man to the museum.
Carl Andre, Baucis (1981), Anthony Caro, Coconut (1992-1994), Joost van den Toorn, Holiday (1995), Joost van den Toorn, Little Teapot man (1984)
Martin Visser donates the painting Untitled by Konrad Lueg, drawings by Carl Andre, Ad Dekkers, Dan Flavin, Gilbert & George and Carel Visser, 8 ‘photo-souvenirs’ by Daniël Buren, 6 photographs by Jenny Holzer and 2 posters by Ellsworth Kelly.
Satisfied with the progress of the Delta Plan
The first phase of the Delta Plan can be completed largely satisfactorily in 1996. The painting collection and the collection of works on paper are now stored safely and are in considerably better condition than a few years ago. Many works have received new frames and acid-free passe-partouts. A start has also been made on the inventory and location registration in the depots, which are largely organized this year.
Delta Plan: second phase
The Delta Plan enters its second phase in 1997. The intention is to complete the conservation and housing of the sculpture collection and the sub-collections of furniture and carpets by the end of 2000. It is a large collection with a wide range of issues. Major steps are also taken towards the automation of the collection data, the presence checking system and the location registration.
Quist’s museum shop
The renovation of the museum shop, which was largely carried out in 1996, is completed in 1997. Architect Wim Quist is responsible for the interior design of the shop.
(Part of) Museum shop after design by Wim Quist, 1997
Proforma is a major retrospective of the work of Austrian artist Franz West. His oeuvre consists of sculptures, installations and collages. The exhibition is shown in the Quist wing, but a number of works are also displayed in the Van Gogh Gallery.
In his Selbst-biographie Kiefer writes that as an 18-year-old boy he discovered Van Gogh in the Netherlands and that this contributed significantly to his development as a visual artist. The Visser family has established a special bond with the German artist and collected countless works by him. 56 private individuals contribute to the purchase of 3 monumental paintings and 8 large drawings by Kiefer from the Visser collection, including Piet Mondrian – Hermannsschlacht. The State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, Aad Nuis, sees the support of private individuals as a social initiative and promises a substantial extra contribution.
Anselm Kiefer, Noch ist Polen nicht verloren IV (1978), Piet Mondrian - Hermannsschlacht (1976), Hoffman von Fallersleben - Helgoland (1978)
A rich year
Franz West, David Nash and Dennis Oppenheim each donate important works to the museum. Art historian Jean Leering gives the museum a reconstruction of the famous Newel post by Robert van ’t Hoff (by Just Quist) from 1917/1918, together with the accompanying drawings by the architect. Mrs Smith-de-Jonge from Doorwerth donates Mondriaan’s painting Old farm. The collection is further enriched with a large collection of small sculptures and drawings from the Sanders Collection. In the annual report, Van Straaten writes that ‘thanks to the efforts of individuals and donors’ the museum can look back on ‘a rich year’.
With the support of the Mondriaan Foundation, works by Dutch artists can be acquired, of which the installation Straggling (1996) by Christiaan Bastiaans is perhaps the most exceptional, according to Van Straaten. In addition, works by Marinus Boezem, Jan Dibbets, Ger van Elk, Niek Kemps and Peter Otto are acquired.
The 100th birthday of Bram Hammacher, on 11 December 1997, is the reason for organizing the exhibition Experiment and space. At the museum’s invitation, Hammacher himself decides the subject and shows the work of four Spanish sculptors, Pablo Picasso, Julio Gonzalez, Joan Miró and Eduardo Chillida. He discusses their contribution to the development of 20th-century European sculpture. 15 works by each sculptor are shown, supplemented with relevant drawings in the print room. The pedestals of the sculptures are designed by the sculptor Carel Visser. Many museums and private individuals from the Netherlands and abroad contribute to this exhibition by lending works. Hammacher himself opens the exhibition in the presence of Prince Claus.
Exhibition 'Experiment and space', 1997
This year there are four exhibitions with works from the museum’s own collection: a presentation of geometric abstract Zero art, the presentation of 11 works by Anselm Kiefer acquired in 1997, a sculpture exhibition in connection with the redesigned sculpture garden, and The root of everything is drawing with all the drawings by Vincent Van Gogh.
A pedestal for Le commencement du monde
Stanley Brouwn is commissioned to design a pedestal for Le commencement du monde by Constantin Brancusi. Brancusi himself was of the opinion that his ‘egg’ would come into its own lying on a cushion or if it is held ‘on one’s lap’. But ‘of course that doesn’t work in a museum’, says Van Straaten.
Stanley Brouwn, Pedestal for 'Le commencement du monde' by Constantin Brancusi (1995)
The work of De Stijl is one of the specializations of the Kröller-Müller Museum, and Van Straaten, who obtained his PhD on the work of Theo van Doesburg, can be considered an expert in this field. In 1999, with the support of the Jeekel Foundation, he acquires 3 sculptures and 2 drawings by the Belgian artist Georges Vantongerloo. A subsequent acquisition, Idea for a multifunctional building (element from the project ‘Utopian Models’) by Alfred Eikelenboom from 1984, can be seen as an extension of this, according to Van Straaten.
Alfred Eikelenboom, Idea for a multifunctional building (element from the project 'Utopian models'), 1984 en Georges Vantongerloo, A ray of light in a magnetic field (1960), An unknown planet in a solar system several billion light years away (1963), Spatial painting (1948)
To augment the collection of Asian art accumulated by Helene, Oxenaar and Hammacher also acquired objects from African, Indian and Oceanic cultures. Van Straaten continues this sub-collection. He does so mainly due to the historical relevance, but also to establish more points of view than just modern Western art in the collection. ‘A museum dedicated to contemporary art cannot look solely through a Western lens.’ The sub-collection of non-Western sculpture is this year supplemented by the wooden sculpture Ancestor figure from Oceania and the bronze Poupée by Picasso, who – certainly for this work – took inspiration from non-Western sculptures.
Indonesia (Flores), Ana Deo, ancestor figures (date unknown), New Guinea, (Abelam) Wosera, ancestor figure (date unknown), Pablo Picasso, Doll (1907 - 1964)
Condition comes up to scratch
At the end of the year, Van Straaten writes that the collection ‘on the whole […] is starting to reach an acceptable level of conservation’. Almost all the sculptures have been registered, the condition of 200 sculptures has been described and checked and research has been conducted into the provenance and titles of about 50 sculptures. All the frost-sensitive outdoor sculptures have been cleaned and provided with an insulating tent during the winter months and a schedule has been drawn up for maintenance work on these sculptures.
The paper collection has also been taken care of, in particular letters, exceptional documents and sculptor’s drawings from after 1960 ‘that required urgent treatment’. All the drawings by Vincent Van Gogh have been checked for their condition and provided with new frames with safety glass.
Finally, the pieces of furniture by H.P. Berlage have received conservation treatment and an accurate description has been made of the condition of all carpets in the collection and in St. Hubertus hunting lodge, accompanied by a conservation proposal.
A few large-scale projects are still planned this year. The roofs of the Quist wing are leaking and need to be renewed. As a result, a number of rooms are closed throughout the year. In view of the transition to 2000 and the anticipated technical ‘millennium bugs’, the security programs and telephone system are replaced.
New entrance to sculpture garden
The masterplan by West 8 is further implemented. Part of this is a new entrance to the sculpture garden, which is designed by Wim Quist in the lobby of the museum. This not only improves the flow of visitors, but also allows the climate to be better controlled, as a revolving door has been chosen.
The provision of information is also addressed. Welcome leaflets, information sheets and catalogues are made for exhibitions. And visitors are greeted at the entrance with an animated film about the museum.
Old situation (left) next to the new entrance to the sculpture garden (right) designed by Wim Quist, 1999
The extensive work carried out on the collection and the building have an influence on the exhibitions programme. To spare the staff, only the museum’s own collection is exhibited. That does not prevent the museum from ‘offering high-quality projects that the public appreciate greatly’, according to Van Straaten. The exhibition Isaac Israels, chronicler of a flowing life, with more than 300 works from our own collection, is very popular and is extended until 2000.
On 26 October, with the support of the Dutch Sponsor Lottery, the museum is able to acquire the painting The fencing lesson, a very early work by Israëls. The painting can also be seen in the exhibition from 22 November.
Although Van Straaten receives support for major acquisitions from various funds, in anticipation of the expiry of the government subsidy, the museum attempts to build up ‘a much-needed financial reserve’. With a partner in Japan, and in keeping with the tradition of his predecessors, Van Straaten organizes a large-scale tour of works on loan from the Van Gogh collection.
A second Brancusi
Thanks to the proceeds from the loan exhibitions and a new collaboration with the Dutch Sponsor Lottery, it is possible to acquire a second Brancusi. Tête d’enfant endormi from 1908 is one of the first sculptures by Brancusi with the theme of a ‘recumbent head’. Van Straaten exhibits the small bronze sculpture together with Le commencement du monde, so that ‘the pubic can follow and understand the course of Brancusi’s development.
The largest acquisitions this year, with the exception of Israëls and Brancusi, are almost exclusively from contemporary artists. Van Straaten explains: ‘For me, like my predecessors, it was of great importance that the line chosen by Helene Kröller should remain in the collection, not as a dogma, but above all in spirit and from the relativizing understanding that we are now (almost) a century further’.
Tom Claassen, Untitled (Brigid), 1998, Tom Claassen, Untitled (Truck), 1997, Thierry de Cordier, Landscape-with-the-fat-belly, 1992-1997, A.R. Penck, Castle, 1990 (from the Visser collection), Joost van den Toorn, Gung-Ho, 1999, Carel Visser, Boat with treasure, 1998
Since 1999, the collection of Asian art has been supplemented with Chinese philosophers’ stones from the 18th and 19th centuries. According to Van Straaten, ‘nature is the artist in these works’. In the collection, the principles of abstract art reverberate in the stones. They question what role aspects such as chance and time still have in contemporary and modern works. Their function in the spider web is therefore multifaceted.
China, philosophers’ stone, ca 18th century
Optimistic after evaluation
The past five years have been evaluated extensively ‘in order to implement improvements in the organization and anticipate new developments’. For example, The Museum System is chosen as the new collection management system, for which an intranet would also be developed. Van Straaten writes optimistically that ‘the Kröller-Müller Museum is brimming with energy and enthusiasm to meet the challenges of the coming period’.