In the final years of his directorship, Oxenaar seems to have the wind in his sails. Certainly when he manages to convince the ministry to increase the acquisition budget on a structural basis. The annual reports, his arena for change, receive less and less attention. That is reserved for the art, for making exhibitions and another extension of the sculpture garden: the ‘sculpture forest’.
This summer, the British sculptor David Nash works at the museum for a month. The Hoge Veluwe National Park makes two beech trees available, which Nash transforms into ‘a series of sculptures and arrangements’ under the title Wood quarry Otterlo, 30 days 2 beech trees. After the exhibition, he donates Running table to the museum.
Oxenaar is always looking for a premiere and with the exhibition of Leon Spilliaert in April, he presents a broad retrospective of ‘this remarkable Belgian artist’ for the first time in the Netherlands. The British sculptor Tony Cragg also exhibits his most recent work later in the year. Around the turn of the year, Hanne Darboven presents her project Turning point >80< in the sculpture hall, ‘a musical score’ of 415 sheets […] consisting of musical notations, tree studies and combinations of text and photograph’. A part of the score is recorded by German composer Johannes Fritsch and played on LPs during the exhibition. But the major De Stijl exhibition makes 1982 the second best year ever in terms of visitor figures.
At the start of the year, under the title Green forests, the museum presents recent work by three Dutch sculptors: Niek Kemps, Arno van der Mark and Robert O’Brien. Oxenaar acquires The birth of Venus, Where did she get that hat and Cimeterio di Storia respectively from these artists.
Niek Kemps, The birth of Venus (1983), Arno van der Mark, The birth of Venus (1983), Robert O'Brien, Cimeterio di Storia (1982)
After the opening of the Quist wing, Oxenaar continues lobbying the ministry for opportunities to allow the staff and collection to grow. This leads to a structural increase of the acquisition budget. Furthermore, the museum receives a subsidy for ‘the acquisition of work by Dutch visual artists’. Oxenaar immediately takes advantage of this ‘unusually large extra credit’ and introduces the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto to the collection with three large sculptures.
Michelangelo Pistoletto; Figure looking at itself (1983), Mortal danger (1974), Venus of the rags (1967-1982)
278 x Van Gogh
It is busy at the museum during the summer, thanks to the exhibition 278 x Van Gogh. ‘For the first time in the history of the museum, the totality of works by Vincent van Gogh in the museum’s collection are exhibited.’ All 92 paintings, 183 drawings and 3 prints by Van Gogh are shown in the new building, for which Wim Quist designs a special system of partition walls. The interest from the public is so unexpectedly great that the exhibition is prolonged to the end of the year and breaks all records in terms of visitor figures.
Meanwhile, Oxenaar continues to invest in the relationship with the Vissers. According to him, there is ‘a complex of reasons’ why their collection fits well with that of the museum. ‘It concerns mainly the mutual recognition of common preferences, of a certain climate, of fairly strict boundaries.’ There are also some differences between the collections. The Vissers have a preference for German expressionists, which according to Oxenaar ‘do not fit our policy’. ‘I do have the feeling that I am slowly coming round. In this respect too, I value Martin’s consistent choice’.
The exhibition Little Arena presents drawings and sculptures from the Visser collection and gives them ‘an opportunity after years of collection’ to see their collection in its entirety.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Hoge Veluwe National Park, the ‘Steyn-park’, designed by Henry van de Velde, is restored, ‘both in terms of the afforestation and foliage and the paving’. Furthermore, the artists David Nash and Sjoerd Buisman are invited to realize two projects each in the grounds of the Hoge Veluwe. These Growing sculptures are subsequently acquired by Oxenaar.
On 26 November 1985, the deed of gift of Piet and Ida Sanders is signed. Over a period of five years, they will donate their ‘extensive collection of modern small sculptures and non-European pieces from Africa, Oceania and South America, among other places’ to the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller. The first instalment of the donation contains 19 sculptures, including work by Ad Dekkers, Shinkichi Tajiri, sculptures from Africa and, remarkably, also Head by Karel Appel. Oxenaar immediately exhibits this ‘first portion’ as he calls it. ‘We are extremely grateful to Mr and Mrs Sanders for this extraordinary donation, whereby the museum was able, at a stroke, to procure a rich, multifaceted and overall fitting collection is a special collection area.’
This year, small exhibitions by major international artists are organized. The German artist Imi Knoebel presents his ‘large sculptures, smaller composite sculptures, monochrome and multi-coloured wall pieces […] in the form of a spatial installation’. On the occasion of his 60th birthday, André Volten is given a solo exhibition which shows all the maquettes and models of the sculptures that he designed for the public domain.
Exhibitions; Christo; Surrounded Islands and Dan Flavin; Monuments” for V. Tatlin 1964-1982, 1985
Christo’s huge project Surrounded islands in Miami is presented in the form of slides, designs, drawings and objects. The exhibition Dan Flavin, “monuments” for V. Tatlin 1964-1982 opens at the end of the year. This is a complete overview of Flavin’s light sculptures from this period, inspired by the monument for the Third International of the Russian constructivist Vladimir Tatlin.
On the occasion of and concurrent with the international sculpture exhibition Sonsbeek ’86 in Arnhem, the museum organizes a presentation with exclusively Dutch sculptors. On the basis of ‘current developments’ in sculpture, very recent work is shown by 15 artists already represented in the collection: Carel Visser, David Vandekop, Cornelius Rogge, Ger van Elk, Marinus Boezem, Pjotr Müller, Gerrit van Bakel, Henk Visch, Peer Veneman, Steef Roothaan, Niek Kemps, Michiel Schierbeek, Harald Vlugt, Arno van der Mark and Irene Fortuyn/Robert O’Brien.
Acquisitions & donations
The subsidy ‘for the acquisition of work by living Dutch artists’ is also available this year. However, precisely this year, which is all about Dutch sculpture, Oxenaar purchases a striking amount of two-dimensional work. He explains his choice as follows: ‘The dividing line between painting and sculptural art is increasingly difficult to discern. It is important to […] also make this mutual influence visible in the collection. In the last few years, paintings have also been acquired occasionally’.
Shiryu Morita, Yu (the great tree) Ideogram (1968), Jannis Kounellis, Senza titolo (1980), Carel Visser, Dogs (1986), David Vandekop, 18.00 (1985), Pjotr Müller, My paradise (1985)
Oxenaar describes Wessel Couzijn as ‘the first important post-war Dutch sculptor’ because his work has also influenced many young artists. Following his death in 1984, the museum organizes a major retrospective of his sculptures and drawings. The work of the Italian artist Francesco Lo Savio, who died young, is also shown at the museum in the spring. This exhibition is the first retrospective of his work, based on the themes of space and light (spazio-luce).
The whole collection in half the museum
The roof of the new wing and the floor in the Van de Velde building are in need of renovation. The wings will be closed for a few months alternately. In order to nonetheless give visitors an impression of the permanent collection, the paintings in the new wing are presented in order of their acquisition, beginning with the year 1906 and ending in 1950. ‘They hung above each other in three rows: Van Gogh next to Mondriaan; Monet next to Léger and Avercamp next to Picasso. The visitor was thus able to experience how the collection grew from year to year.’ In the sculpture hall, a large selection of works from the collection is also displayed in order of acquisition and a selection from the drawing collection is shown in the print room.
Exhibition 'The whole collection in half the museum', 1987
‘Formerly The collection Visser’
Fifteen years after the start of their collaboration, concrete agreements are made between the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller and the Vissers. They agree on a ‘package deal’, whereby 600 works of art will be transferred in annual instalments between 1987 and 1993, partly as acquisitions and partly as gifts. In many cases the ‘large and representative groups of works’ are accompanied by personal documentation and letters, ‘whereby the formation of the collection is recorded and a time frame emerges in the relationships between collector and artist’.
Hanne Darboven, Letter to Martin and Mia Visser, 2nd of June 1976
‘The collection Visser proved to develop along parallel lines’, writes Oxenaar, ‘it became increasingly obvious that bringing them together would constitute a reinforcement’. At the request of Martin and Geertjan Visser, the works are listed as ‘formerly the collection Visser’. Thanks to the package deal, ‘they are safe and nobody can touch them anymore’.
50 years of the Kröller-Müller
The fiftieth anniversary of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller is celebrated in style, with an extension of the sculpture garden. Oxenaar has been working on this plan for years ‘to be able to meet the needs of the museum’ and ‘to offer contemporary artists a landscape other than the specially designed and laid out grounds of the existing sculpture garden’. Because, as he says, ‘where art remains misunderstood, nature provides a solution’.
The Hoge Veluwe National Park provides the museum with more than ten hectares of extremely varied forest, immediately adjacent to the existing sculpture garden. To celebrate this new ‘sculpture forest’, 32 artists with whom the museum has collaborated for years show their most recent work in the sculpture forest but also in the sculpture garden. Some artists make a work ‘in situ’. Prince Claus opens the new section of the sculpture garden by unveiling a model by the French artist François Morellet, which is realized on a large scale at the entrance to the sculpture forest.
Sculpture forest; Richard Serra, One (1987), Sjoerd Buisman, Phyllotaxis (1987), Giuseppe Penone, Faggio di Otterlo (1987-88), Pjotr Müller, To Noumenon (1987), Francois Morellet, La plate bande (1988), Ulrich Rückriem, Syeniet (1988)
Furthermore, the Hoge Veluwe National Park makes an important contribution to the acquisition of a large sculpture by the German artist Ulrich Rückriem. The work is placed at the exit of the sculpture forest.
25 years as director
In this jubilee year, Oxenaar has also been director of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller for 25 years. In three exhibitions, he emphasizes his course of the past years. He highlights the rich history of the museum by staging a retrospective of the entire oeuvre of Henry van de Velde in the Van de Velde wing. He draws attention to Dutch talent with a solo exhibition of Jan van Munster and shows once again that the museum is also an international player with the exhibition of the American Barry Le Va.
At the request of the staff, Pieter Brattinga designs a poster with the text ‘We value him greatly’. ‘They were fighting over those posters.’
Van Gogh theft
The festive jubilee year ends on a low note. In the night of 12 December 1988, three paintings by Vincent van Gogh are stolen from the museum: The potato eaters, Loom with weaver and Four sunflowers gone to seed.
Vincent van Gogh, Loom with weaver, June - July 1884
Report on the National Museums
The Netherlands Court of Audit publishes a report on the 21 national museums, which outlines an alarming situation of ‘overdue maintenance’ and a ‘serious lack of knowledge and expertise’ in financial and administrative matters. Minister Hedy d’Ancona of Health, Welfare and Culture (WVC) no longer wants to bear this responsibility and decides that it’s time for autonomy. Oxenaar is not in favour of autonomy, he believes that the government should guarantee the continued existence of the museum.
Much to the relief
After several months of tension and uncertainty, ‘much to the relief of the museum’ the works are recovered ‘without serious damage’. As of 14 July 1989, they once again hang in their familiar spot. After the theft, the museum receives an occasional sum from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to improve the museum’s security. A central control room is added, the radio-telephone system is expanded and the object security is improved.
On the occasion of Carel Visser’s 60th birthday, a major retrospective of his sculptures from the period 1948 to 1988 is organized. The exhibition is built around a number of constant themes in his work, according to an idea by guest curator Carel Blotkamp, who also publishes a monograph on the artist. The layout is designed by architect Aldo van Eyck.
Designer Pieter Brattinga has already been designing posters, catalogues, invitations and publications for the museum for 25 years. He also designs the layout of several major exhibitions, such as De Stijl (1982), and Het nieuwe bouwen (1983). This year it is his turn. Oxenaar invites him due to ‘his great achievements as a designer’ for ‘an exhibition with his own graphic work.’
Vincent van Gogh 1990
In 1990, it is 100 years since the death of Vincent van Gogh. Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus open the memorial exhibition. It features 248 drawings arranged according to the city in which Van Gogh made the work, and therein per theme. ‘By selecting the most powerful drawings within the groups, an exhibition was created that showed the draughtsman Van Gogh “at his best.”’ Oxenaar closes the year with a record number of 850,000 visitors.
On Saturday 1 December, after 27 years as director, Oxenaar steps down after reaching retirement age. During the festive farewell gathering, at which Oxenaar is appointed a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, he takes a look into the future: ‘We could reach the top, we are not quite there yet. It can improve, we can get to the top. And it is not so much about money, but about recognition, about political will, about experiencing art as spectacular’. The appreciation for the former director is great. This is expressed not only by the museum’s staff but also by artists.
Farewell celebration Oxenaar, 1st of December 1990
Evert van Straaten
Oxenaar hands over the directorship to Evert van Straaten, until then the conservator of Dutch national collections. Upon taking office, the new director praises the achievements of his predecessor: ‘In the 27 years of his directorship, Mr Oxenaar has made an important contribution to the development of the museum, not only regarding the stewardship and expansion of the various collections and by organizing many outstanding exhibitions, particularly in the field of sculpture, but also by realizing a new wing and extending the sculpture garden in 1966 and 1988’.