A portrait painted by Karel Appel of the former museum director Rudi Fuchs joins the collection of the Van Abbemuseum
. Karel Appel (1921-2006) painted the Portrait of Rudi Fuchs in 2005, towards the end of his life, a period in which he experimented with the use of neon tubes. It was Karel Appels last wish that the painting would, in consultation with Rudi Fuchs, go to an appropriate museum. It was decided that this would be the Van Abbemuseum, where Fuchs had been director from 1975 to 1987, and where a reconstruction of his 1983 collection display is on view at this moment. The current director Charles Esche said: We are very happy that we are able to include one of Appels latest paintings in the collection. The work clearly shows how important the relationship between the curator and the artist has become since the 1980s.
Charles Esche and Rudi Fuchs were present at the installation of the portrait of Fuchs in the exhibition Strange and Close, part of Play Van Abbe. The painting, which has not been exhibited before, can be seen there up to 21 March 2010.
Up to the end of his life Appel was always innovative, and in this drive for innovation, he constantly looked for different materials to use in his works. The Portrait of Rudi Fuchs (200x150cm) is part of a series of works dating from 2005, when Appel used neon tubes in his paintings for the first time. In addition to the portrait this series consists of a sculpture and eight other canvases including a series of five erotically charged works entitled (Love no. 1 - Love no. 5). This Love series was shown in an exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in 2005.
Appel painted a number of portraits, particularly during the 1950s and 1980s, including portraits of Willem Sandberg, the former director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan. Appel and Fuchs collaborated widely from the 1980s. Fuchs wrote several texts about Appels work and organised a number of important exhibitions, including Karel Appel, Ik wou dat Ik een Vogel was (Karel Appel, I wish I were a bird), a large retrospective exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in 1990, and Karel Appel, Onderweg. Reis van Rudi Fuchs langs de Kunst der Lage Landen (Karel Appel on the road. Journey of Rudi Fuchs through the Art of the Low Countries) in the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels in 2004-2005. They maintained close contact until Appels death.
The portrait in the Van Abbemuseum
Rudi Fuchs offered the work to the Van Abbemuseum, where he was director from 1975 tot 1987. At the moment a reconstruction of Fuchs 1983 Summer Display can be seen as part of the 18 month Play Van Abbe programme. The portrait is added to the exhibition Strange and Close), organised by the current director Charles Esche. One of his rooms is devoted to portraits by various different artists. The portrait of Fuchs is given a place on the wall of portraits next to works by Sasnal, Toorop and Otto-Knapp, amongst others. The work Untitled (to a man, George McGovern) by Dan Flavin is also exhibited in the same room. This portrait, which consists entirely of round neon tubes, is dedicated to George McGovern, the American presidential candidate who lost the election to Nixon in 1972.
Karel Appel and the Van Abbemuseum
The Van Abbemuseum collected the works of the Cobra artists from the second half of the 1950s. The Cobra group, a group of young, revolutionary Surrealists, of which Karel Appel was one of the founders in 1948, were interested in creating an entirely new art, which would visually express the most vital and existential human drives in a way that was completely free of all the previous classical art movements and traditions. In 1961 the Van Abbemuseum organised solo exhibitions of the work of Appel and Corneille. The museum owns15 other works by Karel Appel, including The condemned. Hommage à Rosenberg dating from 1953, The Horseman dating from 1957 and Sculpture dating from 1961.