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Handmade: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition puts the spotlight on crafts
Anonymous, Copper cauldron, 1575-1675. Hammered brass with cast-iron rim and handle, 14.6 x 38 cm. Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

ROTTERDAM.- Now that the interest in handmade products is greater than ever, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen puts the spotlight on crafts, in a unique exhibition featuring the most exquisite objects made by human hands, from the Middle Ages to the present day. Demonstrations by craftspeople, a film program, markets, and workshops will allow visitors to experience and explore handicrafts.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is displaying more than 500 objects from its own collection and from renowned (inter)national collections. From a medieval copper cauldron, refined Venetian glassware from the 17th century and virtuoso handicrafts from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to an inlaid screen by Studio Job, a sweater made from the fleece of a single sheep by Christien Meindertsma and metal fencing with a bobbin-lace pattern by Demakersvan. Short videos illustrate the process of producing the artefacts on show. The exhibition incorporates two specially equipped workshops where craftspeople will be working continuously, as well as demonstrating various craft techniques.

Historical context and a glimpse into the future
Over the last decade, craft has grown into a popular phenomenon in the art and design world: contemporary designers are drawing inspiration from handmade products and traditional techniques, and there is also a marked increase in the practice of crafts in the private sphere. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen aims to clear away the jumble of romantic clichés about crafts and craftsmanship. Curator Mienke Simon Thomas: “With our rich collection of handcrafted objects and all the knowledge we have amassed about them over the years, we want to raise the discussion about crafts to a new level and enrich people’s image of craftsmanship.” Instead of being arranged chronologically, the hundreds of objects in the exhibition are organised around seven popular clichés about ‘craftsmanship’: the honest, unique, virtuoso, artistic, traditional, professional and amateur. The selected objects show that these clichés often possess a kernel of truth, but that it is also possible to show that the converse holds true: craft is not necessarily ‘honest’ and imperfection has not been a universally valued feature of handmade products throughout history. By taking this investigative approach, the exhibition places the concept of ‘craftsmanship’ in an historical context and at the same time offers a glimpse into the future of creative crafts.

Workshops, films, Hand Made markets and more
In conjunction with the exhibition, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is organising a varied film programme about artistic crafts, which will be screened on continuous rotation. The museum’s educational space will temporarily be transformed into a ‘Crafts Studio’, where specialists will be holding a whole range of workshops, such as weaving, video animation and ceramics. During the Rotterdam Museum Night on 9 March, the museum is hosting a special edition of Rotterdam’s Swan Market in the museum’s courtyard. The museum is also organising its own large-scale Hand Made Market on 12 May, with exclusive handmade art and design objects.

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