The first years of Evert van Straaten’s directorship are dominated by the museum’s transition to autonomy. Much attention is devoted to the ‘preservation and stewardship’ of the collection and the building. Nevertheless, Van Straaten soon formulates an acquisition policy and is able to purchase a large number of works in accordance with it, including works by Miroslaw Balka, Joost van den Toorn and Matt Mullican.
On the way to autonomy
Like his predecessor Oxenaar, Van Straaten finds the autonomy of the national museums announced in 1988 to be risky. Still, he decides to agree because the museum also gains many new freedoms, including the right of disposal over its own income, such as the income from exhibitions with works on loan. Hammacher had fought for this right in the 1960s, but in vain. The autonomy of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller is planned for 1 January 1994.
The Ministry of WVC introduces the ‘Delta Plan for Cultural Preservation’. A project group is tasked with documenting the shortcomings in the area of collection management and preservation at the national museums, after which each museum can submit its own plan of action. Based on this, the museums receive a financial contribution, so that the directors do not become responsible for the state in which the government transfers the collection after gaining autonomy. Van Straaten decides to begin by tackling the backlogs in the collection registration. The data, which at that time is stored in a card catalogue, will be transferred to a digital database. The restoration and conservation work of the entire collection is not expected to be completed until the year 2000.
Based on the results of the report Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller on the path to autonomy, the recommendation is made to ‘increase the separation between museological and operational tasks and strengthen management’. Museums need a new kind of director: a cultural entrepreneur with knowledge of finance and marketing. For this reason, Rinus Vonhof, who has been head of General Affairs since 1984, is appointed as business director of the Kröller-Müller. He is closely involved with the process towards autonomy.
Reflecting on the new policy
According to Van Straaten, 1991 is ‘in many respects, a year of reflection’. He conducts discussions with the scientific staff and department employees and draws up a policy document on that basis. In it, he devotes attention to the position of the museum in the (international) museum circuit, the collection and presentation policy, and the conservation and management policy. His starting point is ‘assessing the existing values and standards and considering new points of departure’.
In the spring, the Quist Wing is devoted to a retrospective exhibition of Matt Mullican. Van Straaten acquires 5 works by this American-Venezuelan artist. Mullican personally donates The computer project, which becomes the first computer animation in the collection.
Bram Hammacher donates two drawings, Nude study (date unknown) by Oswald Wenckebach and Study (1973) by Frits Wotruba, and a colour etching by Eduard Flor. Rudi Oxenaar donates Ascending wad, Flevoland, a collage by Ger Dekkers.
Oswald Wenckebach, Nude study (date unknown), Fritz Wotruba, Study (1973) en Eduard Flor, Letter to Mrs. Hammacher (mei 1971) donation Hammacher and Ger Dekkers, Ascending wad, Flevoland, (1976) donation Oxenaar
Trial arrangement of permanent collection
At the end of the year, Van Straaten presents a new arrangement of the collection. The painting collection remains in the Van de Velde Wing, but part of the collection of ancient art is moved to the depot. Thus, more emphasis can be placed on the collection’s centre of gravity: the developments in art from around 1850. A number of recent acquisitions are also immediately included in the permanent presentation. For example, an important addition is the acquisition of Study for the card players (1916) by Theo van Doesburg.
Theo van Doesburg, Study for the card players, 1916
The most recent acquisitions are exhibited in the Quist Wing. These mainly comprise pieces that reinforce the existing collection: sculptures by Walter de Maria, Isa Genzken and Bruce Nauman, and small sculptures and reliefs by Jan Schoonhoven and Peter Struycken. Van Straaten also extends the collection of drawings; drawings by sculptors, but also increasingly drawings as autonomous works of art. For example by Ria van Eyk, Vincent Rijnbende, Jan Schoonhoven and Carel Visser.
Walter De Maria, Calendar (1961-1975), Isa Genzken, Window (1990), Bruce Nauman, Raw material with continuous shift - BRRR (1991), Jan Schoonhoven, R 90-6 (1990), Peter Struycken, Small cross section from infinite space tapw 31 03/dec/88 (1988)
Joost van den Toorn
Van Straaten acquires two sculptures by Joost van den Toorn: The nutcracker and The Mighty Waters. This Amsterdam artist takes inspiration from a wide range of artistic expressions, folk cultures and Outsider Art. ‘His role in the collection is therefore multifaceted’, according to Van Straaten, ‘because it is in line with both the work of Lipchitz […] and non-Western cultures in the collection’.
Joost van den Toorn, The nutcracker (1989) en The Mighty Waters (1990)
Experiment in the auditorium
Ever since the opening of the Van der Leeuw room, the auditorium in the Van de Velde Wing has rarely been used. In order to change that, Van Straaten uses this room as an exhibition space for contemporary sculpture.
In early 1992, in consultation with the Minister of WVC, the national museums opt for the ‘foundation’ as their autonomous form. Exemption from corporation tax, probate and inheritance tax are partly responsible for this decision. Upon completion of the Delta Plan, the ‘museum services of the State’ will be converted into independent foundations, each of which will have to appoint a supervisory board. For Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, the change is expected to take effect on 1 January 1994. Every work of art that is purchased, inherited or donated after that date is automatically the property of the foundation.
Delta Plan – New conservation studio
The painting conservators move to a larger conservation studio. This studio, provided with new equipment, is funded with a budget that the museum received as part of the Delta Plan. At the end of the year, works including paintings by Juan Gris, Piet Mondriaan and a screen by Odilon Redon have received conservation treatment. 13 paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Juan Gris are also given anti-reflective protective glass.
Unfortunately, the sculpture collection turns out to be in a much worse state than initially thought. For example, Palisade by Evert Strobos has to be entirely reconstructed under the direction of the artist.
The first catalogue of sculptor’s drawings and other works on paper is published under the title Conceived for space (Voor de ruimte gedacht). This 1000-page publication also contains very recent acquisitions, including 16 drawings by Sol LeWitt and 2 books by Daniel Buren from the Visser Collection.
Walter de Maria, Nonagon, 1974 (Formerly in the Visser collection)
Piet and Ida Sanders donate a lithograph by Eugène Dodeigne and a print by Gottfried Honegger from 1971. Louise Bourgeois donates 5 of her drawings. Geertjan Visser donates the sculpture Nonagon (1974) by Walter de Maria as thanks for the exhibition Una giornata al mare, which presented 77 works from his collection.
The Kröllers and their architects
The exhibition TheKröllers and their architects documents almost forty years of construction activity by the Kröllers. The floor plan of Helene Kröller-Müller’s ‘dream museum’ is laid out life-sized in wood on the intended construction site and a computer animation gives visitors an impression of the interior of this never-realized building. The presentation includes archival items, such as building plans, historical photographs and letters. According to Van Straaten, these ‘make it possible to understand what drove the Kröllers to be so active in the field of architecture too’.
Exhibition 'The Kröllers and their architects', 1992
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name, with texts by Johannes van der Wolk, and designed by Pieter Brattinga.
Exhibitioncatalogue 'The Kröllers and their architects' (1992), Newspaper articles from 'Computable' and 'De architect'
Just one year left
On 24 June 1993, the Law on the autonomy of government museum services is published in the Dutch Official Gazette. This law authorizes the minister to: set up foundations as legal successors of the national museums and museum services, and transfer stewardship of the collections and the funding of museum activities.
'Law on the autonomy of government museum services' published in the Dutch Official Gazette, 24 June 1993
It is time for a ‘general clean-up, redesign and renovation of the sculpture garden’, according to Van Straaten. But first ‘the character of the garden […] must be redefined’. He discusses this with the Rotterdam-based office for landscape architecture West 8, under the direction of artist-architect Adriaan Geuze.
Through the Sonsbeek Foundation, the museum acquires work by Miroslaw Balka and Pawel Althamer and through the Fodor Museum in Amsterdam it purchases crockery by Rob Birza, Rob van Koningsbruggen and Peter Struycken. From the Visser Collection, sculptures by Dan Flavin, Pieter Geraedts, Jenny Holzer, Panamarenko, Ulrich Rückriem, Lawrence Weiner and drawings by Ellsworth Kelly, Rob van Koningsbruggen, Maria Nordman, Panamarenko, Peter Struycken, Mark di Suvero and Lawrence Weiner are acquired. Van Straaten purchases a sculpture, a drawing and two photographic works directly from the artist Luc Deleu.
Rob Birza, Porcelain (1990), Miroslaw Baka, 211x179x125, 190x129x73 (1993), Luc Deleu, Photo of the installation 'Scale & perspective' (Tumbling apartments, Barcelona) (1991), Daan van Golden, Heerenlux I (1993)
Other acquisitions are Heerenlux I by Daan van Golden, 4 drawings by Jo Baer and silkscreens by Mark Dion, Mark Manders and Lawrence Weiner.
Park benches by Althamer
For Sonsbeek ’93, Pawel Althamer designs a number of simple unpainted wooden benches, which he places in front of picturesque, forgotten or uninteresting places in Sonsbeek Park. Shortly after the event, the benches are purchased for the museum and given a function in the sculpture garden. Visitors are free to place the benches where they please.
Park benches by Althamer in the sculpture garden
Donated by Bremmerians
The museum receives a donation through the legacy of one of the ‘Bremmerians’, with whom the museum maintained contact. It concerns a drawing by Suze Robertson, Head of Piet Donk by John Rädecker, Two dancing women by Milleret, Beach with three or four piers at Domburg (1909) by Piet Mondriaan, Horses (1925) by Giorgio de Chirico and Pierrot by Gino Severini. ‘Works that fit seamlessly with the collection’, according to Van Straaten.
Gino Severini, Pierrot (1923), Piet Mondriaan, Beach with three or four piers at Domburg (1909), Giorgio de Chirico, Horses (1925), Bernard Milleret, wo dancing women (date unknown), John Rädecker, Head of Piet Donk (1942-43)
Mrs J.G. van Renesse from The Hague donates 3 paintings by Charley Toorop to the museum.
Charley Toorop, Roses in a glass (1946), Apples with landscape (1946), Roses in a glass (1953)
In the annual report, Van Straaten calls 1993 ‘an intensive and satisfying year’. The museum received a record number of 515,879 visitors. This is mainly due to the Juan Gris exhibition. The museum owns 14 paintings and 8 drawings by the cubist painter and thus boasts the largest Gris collection in the Netherlands.
Exhibition 'Juan Gris', 1994
Although the museum is in the starting blocks at the end of 1993, the date for autonomy has to be postponed, mainly due to a delay in the realization of the collective labour agreement. Not all the parties are on board with the terms drawn up by the Minister of WVC. The condition they set is that the current staff must not be negatively affected.
Depot on display
As part of the Delta Plan, the large depot has to be radically renovated and arranged more efficiently, for example with new, shock-proof sliding racks for the paintings and drawings. For this, the depot has to be emptied. Almost the entire collection of paintings is therefore exhibited in the museum, in rows above one another and in alphabetical order. Thus, the exhibition literally functions as a temporary depot.
On 1 July 1994, the day has arrived. The first group of national museums gains autonomy, including the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, which from then on is known as the Kröller-Müller Museum. There remains uncertainty until the very end. Deliberations are still under way two or three days before the signing. The government subsidy will be paid another two times every four years, until 1998. After that, the museum must be able to support itself.
Minister of WVC Hedy d 'Ancona and Evert van Straaten sign for the autonomy of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller
The goal of the Kröller-Müller Museum Foundation is to furnish, operate and maintain the Kröller-Müller Museum. The management of the foundation is comprised of the director, who is assisted by a Supervisory Board whose members include His Royal Highness Prince Claus and the artist Peter Struycken. The Assistance Committee is dissolved with the formation of this new administrative body. Van Straaten expresses his relief in the annual report: ‘We were delighted to be able to confirm that the protracted process of gaining autonomy has been completed successfully’.
Through the Sonsbeek Foundation, the museum acquires 8 scale models, 62 drawings and 35 other works on paper from 26 of the 48 participants in Sonsbeek ’93. These include works by Lawrence Weiner, Christina Assman, Irene & Christine Hohenbüchler, Liz Larner & Susan Narduli, and Jan van de Pavert.
Van Straaten also purchases sculptures by Gerrit van Bakel, Pepe Espaliú and Joost van den Toorn, the large drawing The Ambulantory Building: Part 1 by Joep van Lieshout and 4 carpets based on a 1918-design by Bart van der Leck.
Gerrit van Bakel, Model Tarim machine (1982-94), Joep van Lieshout, The ambulantory building: part 1 (1993), Carpet (karpet VDL 1b), design 1918, execution 1994
Balka, Gelbert, Raetz and Mondriaan
From the Polish artist Miroslaw Balka, the museum receives 4 of his Sketches for a sculpture for the sculpture garden, from Martin Visser a painting by Stephen Gilbert and a collotype by Marcus Raetz, and from Paul Diamant the painting Farm near Duivendrecht, in the evening (ca 1916) by Piet Mondriaan. 27 letters from Piet Mondriaan to his friend Aletta de Iongh are also donated to the museum.
Piet Mondriaan, Farm near Duivendrecht, in the evening (ca 1916), Letter Piet Mondriaan to Aletta de Iongh (1942)
Care for the frames
All the paintings by Vincent van Gogh are provided with anti-reflective protective glass, ‘so that now the entire collection of works by Van Gogh are protected against the risk of contact or damage’, according to Van Straaten. A large number of frames around Piet Mondriaan’s paintings are replaced by reconstructions.