From 14 September 2018 to 6 January 2019, The Mesdag Collection
in The Hague presents The Sensation of the Sea: In honour of Bas Jan Ader. In this new exhibition, guest curator Joanna De Vos invites international artists to engage with The Mesdag Collection. The majesty and tempestuousness of the sea plays the lead role in this dialogue, with the sea providing an inexhaustible source of inspiration to all of the participating contemporary artists. The exhibition features works by numerous international artists, including Bill Viola, Nan Goldin and Jan Dibbets. The artworks represent an enormous range of disciplines, and some works were even created especially for the exhibition. Odes to In Search of the Miraculous, the 1975 performance by Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, are a significant theme running through The Sensation of the Sea.
Mesdag and the sea
Hendrik Willem Mesdag was a pre-eminent seascape painter. The artist moved to The Hague in 1869 and subsequently commissioned a house on the Laan van Meerdervoort. This street was on the outskirts of the city, almost adjacent to the dunes and the sea. Mesdag visited the tideline every day. He often rented a room in Scheveningen in order to be as close to the sea as possible. Mesdag painted the fishermen and their boats, the roaring waves and the dunes.
In honour of Bas Jan Ader
The unrestrained power of the sea that captivated Mesdag also takes centre stage in the exhibition The Sensation of the Sea: In honour of Bas Jan Ader. Various contemporary artists were inspired by the theme in a wide range of different ways, and show how the sea can move us or symbolise an emotional experience.
Jan Dibbets, for example, is fascinated by how the horizon forms a dividing line between heaven and earth that is visible, but which does not actually exist. Bill Viola explores the connection between life and water, where the viewer is swept along with the thoughts of the central figure, who is immersed in a hypnotising sea.
Odes to In Search of the Miraculous, the performance by Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, are also a theme of the exhibition. Ader disappeared in 1975, during an attempt to sail cross the Atlantic Ocean. His empty boat was recovered 10 months later. Ader was never seen again, and his soul appears to have become one with the irrepressible power of the sea. The various homages to Aders artistry in this exhibition illustrate both the appeal and immense mystery of the sea.
Contemporary art in a 19th-century context
The exhibition includes a large selection of works by a range of international artists, including Bill Viola, Nan Goldin and Jan Dibbets. Their artworks encompass a wide variety of disciplines. Alongside video art, photography and light art, the exhibition even features a motorbike with a surfboard attached. Several artworks were also created especially for The Sensation of the Sea. The exhibition concept inspired Hans van Houwelingen, Nelly Agassi and Mikes Poppe to make new work: a neon by Nelly Agassi clearly shows that Bas Jan Aders heartbeat is still amongst us, while Hans van Houwelingen emphasises how vulnerable we are when faced with the sea. With his performance on Scheveningen Beach, Mikes Poppe pays a real life (and lively) homage to Bas Jan Ader. The artworks by Ansuya Blom, Katie OHagan and Ruben Bellinkx are also all going on public display for the first time in this exhibition.
Another unique aspect of the exhibition is that it is on display throughout the museum, and is therefore intermingled with the permanent collection. This is the first time that The Mesdag Collection has integrated works in this way, offering visitors a new, refreshing introduction to the historic artworks. This approach also allows for thematic or stylistic interaction between the 19th-century art and contemporary art: interaction that is ideally suited to the museum. In his day, Mesdag was passionate about contemporary art, acquiring works for his private collection and working hard to promote it. Hendrik Willem Mesdags former residence (and museum) is therefore a fitting location to provide a platform for contemporary art.
The Sensation of the Sea: In honour of Bas Jan Ader is part of Seaside Celebrations: a major event running throughout 2018 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Netherlands first seaside resort in The Hague/Scheveningen.
Works by the following artists are on display in The Sensation of the Sea: Nelly Agassi, Ruben Bellinkx, Julius von Bismarck, Ansuya Blom, Elke Andreas Boon, Dirk Braeckman, Lonnie van Brummelen, Stijn Cole, Thierry De Cordier, Wim Delvoye, Jan Dibbets, Jan Fabre, Nan Goldin, David Horvitz, Hans van Houwelingen, Oda Jaune, Sigalit Landau, Enrique Marty, Fabien Mérelle, Johan Muyle, Katie OHagan, Ahmet Ögüt, Hans Op de Beeck, Mikes Poppe, Enrique Ramirez, Yves Velter, Bill Viola, Jorinde Voigt and Andy Wauman.