Amsterdam Trip – Day Three

Another double helping of breakfast, cases packed then the tram to the Stedelijk Museum. In spite of reading on websites that the queues would be long we walked straight up to the ticket counter, €15.00 admission. The cloakroom facilities were excellent and the bags deposited, again without a wait.

Bad Thoughts  is contemporary art collected by Martijn and Jeannette Sanders. There is no deliberate flow to the rooms where the works by the following artist can be seen.

Mac Adams Jean le Gac Juan Munoz John Ahearn Giulio Galan Gabriel Orozco Armando Gilbert & George Marc Quinn David Askevold Johan Grimonprez Gregory Crewdson Georg Baselitz Douglas Gordon Walter Robinson Bill Beckley Keith Haring Allen Ruppersberg Rita McBride Anton Henning A.R. Penck Frank Van den Broeck Teresa Hubbard SALVO Sandro Chia Alexander Birchler Thomas Schütte David Claerbout Douglas Huebler Andres Serrano Francesco Clemente Peter Hutchinson Cindy Sherman George Condo Anselm Kiefer Hito Steyerl Enzo Cucchi Martin Kippenberger Peter Struycken Robert Cumming Jan Knap William Wegman Thomas Demand Guillermo Kuitca Maja Weyermann Jiři Georg Dokupil Alexandra Leykauf Christopher Wool Ger van Elk Robert Longo   Ed van der Elsken Gordon Matta-Clark

There are too many to show examples of the work and I realise I have come away with little recall of what I saw. The Sanders hadn’t seen much of their collection either for years as most of the pieces are too large to be displayed in their house. I’m unsure if this containment of the art has removed some element from it.

Here’s my selection of art works from the permanent collection of the museum.

Claes Oldeburg offers a wry commentary on capitalistic consumption by basing his sculptures on everyday objects. His recreations of these objects are usually farcically oversized and made with a touch of the absurd. In Soft ladder, Hammer, saw and Bucket household objects appear to have had the life sucked out of them; they have been stripped of their function, their industrial energy drained. Oldenburg has reduced them to flaccid fabric shapes and the once solid tools are now slouching, limp and deflated. In the hands of the artist, the factory sheen of mass production is replaced with a melancholic vulnerability. Oldenburg made this sculpture at a time when the polished surfaces and clean lines of Minimalist dominated art practice. His soft sculpture takes on human characteristics. They bend and lean, sigh and collapse, as they are barely able to survive on their own.

Claes Oldenburg Soft Ladder, Hammer, Saw and Bucket  1969. Wood, canvas and paint.

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These were costumes designed by  Eiko Ishioka for the production by the Dutch national Opera of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

P1020876 P1020878 P1020879The graphics on this poster caught my eye.

Mousse Bissiere Moonlight 1946 appliqué of assembled textiles

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Ria Van Eyk Monochrome Blue 1980 woven wool

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Jean Tinguely Element Detache III 1954 Iron wire, copper wire, painted aluminium, electric motor

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With Charlene one of Robert Rauschenberg’s best known ‘combine paintings’, the artist has painted and inserted mundane objects into an otherwise abstract composition: a parasol, a light fixture, a mirror, and newspaper clippings are all incorporated, jutting out from the surface of the canvas, A letter from the artist’s mother has also been included, thus creating a link between Rauschenberg’s art and his personal life. The expressive, gestural painting methods shows a commonality with action  painters such as Willem de Kooning, but through the introduction of recognisable objects, Rauschenberg makes an important and highly influential link between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.



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Robert Rauschenberg Charlene 1954 Assembled on soft board

 The work of Lee Bontecou merges the disciplines of sculpture and painting, making use of a variety of media and techniques. The welded frame of this relief is covered with materials collected by the artist; scraps of leather and canvas bags were collected  from the Laundromat below her studio. Some of these items the artist has painted while others were blackened using a welding torch. Bontecou’s work has been interpreted in diverse ways. This piece, for example has been accused of having sexual undertones, while others have suggested it alludes to wartime. Bontecou has refrained from making explicit comments about her work, simply noting that her pieces contain ’as much as possible of life…without obstacles, without boundaries – total freedom in every sense’


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Lee Bontecou Untitled 1961. Steel, canvas, velour, leather, copper, wire, soot, paint.




Antoine Pevsner  Fresque en Ovale 1945 Brass and copper with oil and lacquer finish, paint

There were several points in the trip when things came together over the days; the etchings by Rembrandt echoed in the work by Salvatore Arancio; the video made by Tacita Dean of Claes Oldenburg then I saw his work; the cabinets of curiosities at the Appel Centre reflected in the cabinet of curiosities at the Stedelijk Museum (but where dust was sucked in rather than kept out).

We collected our bags from the cloakroom, made our way to the bus stop to catch the bus to the airport. Back home by 10.30 pm. A memorable trip!


Amsterdam Trip – Afternoon of Day Two

A short tram journey, as it was no pleasure walking in the rain, took us to the Museum of Bags and Purses, entrance €8.00 for students. I thought this visit would be a ‘filler’  as I’m not one for buying handbags but soon my interest was aroused.

I had done a little research whilst working on a project at uni – the metamorphosis of loose pockets tied around the waist into bags worn on the outside of garments.

1st bag

This French 16th Century bag was one of the first I saw. An aristocratic man would have worn in on his belt and it contains 18 secret compartments – a status symbol of the time.


There were several knitted beaded bags on show. Before starting work the tiny beads had to be threaded  in pattern order onto yarn. I imagine it would have taken a great deal of time; the design worked out, the beads threaded then the bag knitted. Commercial patterns could be purchased for ladies to work as a pass time.

I saw many beautiful examples of ladies bags throughout the centuries and was taken with the stylish ones of the early 20th century.

A room was dedicated to travel luggage, picnic sets complete with a kettle heated by a spirit burner, men’s toilet sets and luggage for those cruising across the Atlantic


The last room contained designer handbags worn by the rich and famous and we had fun deciding which ones we would choose for our our use.

As in Amsterdam I chose a tulip shaped one for about £150.

classic black red small

Unfortunately the museum was closing so no time to have a cuppa in the beautiful tea rooms.

Tassen Museum cafe

Well worth the visit – out into a deluge of rain so into the first cafe we came across for an early evening meal.

Amsterdam Trip – Morning of Day Two

Sunday morning was slow in starting but no need to rush as the museum didn’t open until 11 o’clock. Once in the city centre the map soon turned to mush in the rain but with only a couple of wrong turns the sign for de Appel Art Centre was soon to be seen. We paid the €7.00 entrance fee into a world of Curiosity which is a touring exhibition from the Hayward Gallery, London.


A view of the first room of the exhibition but as the catalogue is in alphabetical order I’ll work through the list.


The previous day I’d marvelled at the etchings of Rembrandt  and initially thought the etching by Salvatore Arancio where old, just landscapes, but no, they are photo-etchings (a process I’d not come across before but basically a metal plate is made using a black and white image, etched then used for intaglio printing). On closer examination  a surrealist element is seen.



Leopold Blaschka and Rudolph Blaschka were a Dresden father and son who worked in the 1800s making glass models of sea creatures amongst other things. The cabinet displayed about 20 pieces of their intricate work and in the back of my mind I knew I’d seen something similar before. Then I spotted the label ‘On loan from The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff’.


Dark Bathroom (Tub) 2004


Kitchen (Room From Afar) 2004

Corinne May Botz is an American photographer who created Nutshell Studies using models made by a forensic scientist, Frances Glessner Lee, in the 1940s and 50s, . These models depicted unexplained deaths and  were used for police training purposes.

Pablo Bronstein, Museum Section with Artworks, 2013. JPG-1000px


Pablo Bronstein’s ink and watercolour takes up one wall. It’s a cross section of an imaginary museum housing the Curiosity exhibition. The Blaschka’s creatures can be seen suspended from the ceiling and later on I came across the giant flea.


Some work I can leave and The Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement  by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin is a case in point.

Gerard Byrne’s film about the Loch Ness Monster gave me an opportunity to be lulled by his gentle narrative.


The Collection of Roger Caillois’s polished agate stones refers to the tradition of artists wanting to ‘see things’ in stones as written in his book The Writing of Stones.

Exhibition " Curiosity" in De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam, June 2014Nina Canell, The New Mineral 2009 – again a piece that didn’t catch my imagination.

Center for Land Use Interpretation_Los Alamos National Laboratory Rolodexes

The Centre for Land Use Interpretation – Los Alamos National Laboratory Rolodexes 1965-78



Claes Oldenburg is seen dusting his collection of small objects housed in his studio in the 11 minute film by Tacita Dean. I was struck by the size of the artefacts in comparison to Oldenburg’s work.


The exhibition wouldn’t be complete without Albrecht Durer.


I learnt a great deal about jelly fish by watching a film, Pulmo Marina 2010, made by Aurelien Froment.



Galileo Galilei published Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) in 1610 and 23 years later was accused of heresy as his scientific believes conflicted with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.


A series of images collected by  Laurent Grasso show popes and bishops in the Vatican Observatory looking through telescopes. Grasso questions where they are searching for something physical or metaphysical.


This Misfit by Thomas Grunfeld is on the cover of the brochure for the exhibition.

Alfie West


Susan Hiller acquired Alfie West’s collection of split hair works.

Hook's flea

Robert Hooke invented telescopes and microscopes – here is his drawing of a flea.


FerranteThis drawing by Ferrante Imperato taken from Dell’Historia Naturale 1676 reminded me of Rembrandt’s collection of curiosities.


The series Words and Years are silk screen prints of fictitious data presented in a pseudo scientific manner by Toril Johannessen.

IMG_4825-loresAt first glance the series of self portraits by Nina Katchadourian look as if she’s simply mimicking the Flemish  style but the photos were taken in the toilet of an aeroplane using the toilet paper for her head-wear and collar.

Jeremy Millar-Mask Self-Portrait ThreeAnother series of self portraits – masks by Jeremy Millar

Wall drawings


Matt Mullican has taken plates from The New Edinburgh Encyclopaedia  and made 449 oil stick on paper rubbings.

darknessAnother piece I was unsure of was Katie Paterson’s History of Darkness which consists of 2200 handwritten slides, giving date and location,  but each one is pure black.


The Skyquakes in Ear Trumpets by Aura Satz was beautiful to look at but I found the sound it produced interfered with my experience looking at the hangings in the rest of the space. I would have preferred it to be in a dedicated space.


This photo of Miroslav Tichy, wasn’t part of the exhibition but  shows him to be an eccentric photographer who used home made cameras. He secretly took photos of women…………………….


I felt the double edge of being the viewer of the voyeur.


Richard Wentworth produced a series of photos showing Making Do and Getting By in 2013, witty examples of materials re-purposed.

A welcome cuppa in the cafe to fortify us for the next part of the day.

Amsterdam Trip – Afternoon of Day One

After a little bit of culture it was time for refreshment and half an hour of people watching; the cafe overlooked the flea market at Waterlooplein so there were many characters to observe.

Unfortunately a very cold wind prevented a gentle wander round so instead it was a quick glance here and there. The atmosphere was very much like a car boot sale without the usual stalls selling old videos or children’s off-casts. Boxes overspilled utensils who’s purpose have long  been forgotten; clothes, which were once the pride and joy of the fashionable, flapped on rails;  souvenirs from warmer Africa were spread out on the ground which was covered with bright fabric. I bought a pair of patterned tights for €12, of course they are much cheaper on e bay but I have the memory of the day to go along with them.

A walk through the busy shopping area led to the Civic Guards Gallery next to the Amsterdam Museum but is free. It’s a covered passageway and the wall are hung with portraits of the big wigs.


Civic Guardsmen from the Company of Captain Adriaen Pieterszn Raep and Lieutenant Pieter Pieterszn Hasselaer, 1623 – Cornelis van der Voort (1576 – 1624)


Cornelis van de Voort 1618

But it’s not all old Dutch paintings, there are also contemporary portraits of footballers and choreographers echoing the style of the old masters.

Barbara Broekman has produced a wonderful 40 metre carpet which depicts the 179 nationalities living in Amsterdam.



Here is Barbara’s statement copied from her website.

In her work Barbara Broekman goes for a direct confrontation with the senses. The large formats, deep colours, the suggestion of movement and touchability of the materials evoke a sensual experience. Stimulate, seduce, challenge people to look: that is what Barbara Broekman’s work aims at. Her work is included in the collection of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, the Tilburg Textile Museum and various corporate collections. Furthermore, she created work commissioned by various ministries, municipalities, companies and private persons.

Since 1982, Barbara Broekman has been creating an oeuvre all on her own. She attended the Amsterdam Rietveld Academy, where she specialized in textiles, and the Master of Arts programme at the California College of the Arts in Berkeley, USA. Her monumental works are executed in various (everyday) materials. In the execution of the works Broekman often collaborates with firms in Spain, India, China and Poland that have specialized in traditional techniques. Besides researching formal principles and technical possibilities in her work, Broekman also addresses subjects we are confronted with in our everyday existence, such as love, death, birth, loss and the relations between the sexes. She mirrors her personal experiences and interests on universal emotions and themes.

This is also expressed in her working method: images from her personal archives are interlaced with existing pictures from the higher arts, science and mass culture. Complex (textile) patterns often underlie the arrangement of the sampled materials. The final image is not immediately readable. The viewer has an active role in the viewing process. This way, images are created that can be experienced at various levels. They appeal both to gut feelings and spiritual awareness. Both her subjects and her use of materials reveal a fascination with the creative powers of man. A manual and craftsman like execution is essential to her work. The time and labour required are palpable in the work and lend it an organic and weathered character. The slowness in the realization of the work is also a stand against instant satisfaction and consumption in our times.

A further wander through a hidden court of an alms house, a welcome sit down in a church then back on the no 2 tram to the hotel.

Amsterdam Trip – Morning of Day One

After a double helping of breakfast I was set up for the day, caught the tram to Dam Square then set out to find Rembrandt House Museum.

In spite of it being a Saturday in August the place wasn’t crowded, unlike the Van Gough Museum where the queue snaked along the street. The audio guide was included in the admission charge of €12.50 and gave me sufficient information about the rooms with the option to learn more about the paintings which were on display. Here are some images taken from the website.

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Rembrandt used his house as a gallery as well so most of the paintings, including ones by other artists, were displayed for the purpose of selling them.

After a tour of the house I viewed his etchings and was amazed how small yet detailed most of them are. His use of light and shade overwhelmed me, even in the darkest areas nothing is lost.



The Presentation; In Rembrandt’s Dark Manner, 1654, 207 x 162 mm.

Although this etching is in the V&A it’s an excellent example of Rembrandt’s skill.