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Celebrations, discussions and unveilings: Demodernising the collection at Van Abbemuseum
Installation view of The Making of Modern Art, Van Abbemuseum, 2017. Photo: Peter Cox.


EINDHOVEN.- To officially open its new collection displays and to launch its three-year programme of exploration and transformation, the Van Abbemuseum is holding three days of activities, workshops and celebrations from 21 to 23 September 2017.

Together with L'Internationale, a confederation of six modern and contemporary art institutions, the Van Abbemuseum is working to demodernise the museum, rearrange its permanent collections and alter the course of the museological canon. It announced the launch of its three-year programme of exploration and transformation with the official opening of its new collection display during three days of activities, symposia and celebration.

As one of the first public museums for contemporary art to be established in Europe, the Van Abbemuseum has been looking at how the relationship of the museum with the public can invite different forms of exchange and representation that better reflect current society. How does a contemporary museum respond to globalisation? What role does a museum play within civic society? How can the notion of deviance be incorporated in a radical new approach? Is it possible to undo the modern museums' focus on exclusivity, autonomy and separation?

Central to these questions is how we interpret the Van Abbemuseum collection. For over a decade, the Van Abbemuseum addressed this directly by actively taking part in a conversation about its role in a globalised society and by recalibrating its collection to exhibit within this context. It focused on the role of the public as a responsible constituency as active users and co-authors, and this, combined with revisiting the traditional modern canon and its embeddedness in modernity and coloniality, has resulted in several projects, including Plug In, Play Van Abbe and The Collection Now.

Globalisation has made it apparent that there is not one universal art history, but a pluriverse of different art histories. As part of the process and the next phase in a longer trajectory of coming to terms with our globalised reality, over the next three years, the Van Abbemuseum will explore how it can engage and share its collection through presentations, research and dialogue with different constituency groups in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and internationally.

To launch this programme, the Van Abbemuseum has transformed how its collection is displayed with two new exhibitions. The Making of Modern Art and The Way Beyond Art showcase the collections from completely different perspectives, inviting different forms of exchange and representation that better reflect a society struggling to find balance with the remnants of colonial history and current geopolitical tensions around economy and migration.

“Transforming how we display our collections is just one step in our journey towards rethinking how an art institution like the Van Abbemuseum can engage with its community, its his-tory and its future,” notes Charles Esche, Van Abbemuseum Director. “Despite their different identities, histories and priorities, all European art museums share the responsibility to reposition themselves within the multifaceted world we live in today.”

Concepts such as identity, history, locatedness, politics, inequality, decolonisation, demodernisation and (de)centralisation are explored in the three exhibition spaces at the Van Abbemuseum by curators Christiane Berndes, Charles Esche, Loes Janssen and Steven ten Thije, with exhibition design by Can & Asli Altay (Future Anecdotes Istanbul).

The Making of Modern Art
This exhibition, developed in cooperation with the Museum of American Art, Berlin, combines classic modernist works from the Van Abbe collection (Mondrian, Picasso, Sol LeWitt, Kandinsky, Leger, etc.), with copies, documents and archives that show how the dominant narrative of 20th-century modern art was established. In specially designed “atmosphere rooms,” the exhibition critically reflects on the role of art institutions, presenting the stories of remarkable museums, collectors and exhibitions and their contribution to the formation of the modern canon, a legacy that is forms the basis for the Van Abbemuseum and most other western art collections. The result is an experimental exhibition that explores how modern art has been defined as an intricate part of modern culture, as well as how it has been shaped according to the dominant ideologies of progress, development, western dominance and its aggressive colonialism.

The Way Beyond Art
This exhibition features works by, amongst others, Chto Delat, Corneille, Dan Flavin, Nilbar Güres, Iris Kensmil, Anselm Kiefer, John Körmeling, Taus Makhacheva, Füsun Onür, Dan Peterman, Thomas Schütte and Franz Erhard Walther. Its title draws on museum director Alexander Dorner’s eponymous 1947 book, which outlined his radical vision for the museum as a social power plant. Founded on three fundamental topics: Land, Home and Work, works are grouped and activated in a new sequence of “atmosphere rooms,” rejecting the traditional model of the white cube to extend the possibilities for experiencing art in space and in relation to body and mind. The exhibition will constantly evolve as the museum incorporates feedback and suggestions from local constituencies.

Werksalon
The Werksalon is an experimental mediation floor dedicated to an in-depth exchange with constituencies from the Eindhoven region. Through dialogues with different groups in the city concerned with social issues such as migration, ecology, social cohesion or gender issues, the museum aspires to expand and transform its social mission. The aim is to repurpose the museum and its collections to adapt to different needs and expectations, encouraging new relations between people and artworks to emerge over time. These interrelations will be made public through commentaries, inclusions and changes made to the exhibition, The Way Beyond Art, in the coming months and years. 





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