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Kunstmuseum Den Haag acquires early work by Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart
Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, Konstruktion No. 5, 1924, oil on canvas and wood, 89 x 85 cm, Kunstmuseum Den Haag © Vordemberge-Gildewart Foundation, Rapperswil / Schweiz.

THE HAGUE.- In 1925 German artist Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart (1899 - 1962) gave two of his paintings to Theo van Doesburg in exchange for his Counter-Composition VI. One of these paintings, Konstruktion No. 5, was recently added to Kunstmuseum Den Haag’s collection. The purchase was assisted by the Mondrian Fund and the Rembrandt Association, courtesy of its E.A. and C.M. Alkema-Hilbrands Fund and its Modern Art Fund. The painting will be on display in the museum’s Mondrian & De Stijl wing from 29 February, as part of the exhibition Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart - Between Constructivism and De Stijl. At the same time, the neighbouring GEM museum of contemporary art will be showcasing work by the artists nominated for the Vordemberge Gildewart Award 2020, a European prize for artists under the age of 35.

Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart did not paint his canvases, he constructed them, using pencil sketches and paper cut-outs to decide on the colours and shapes, and their position in the image. It was by this method that he made Konstruktion No. 5 in 1924, a work in which a wooden half-sphere protrudes from the flat surface. It was made at his studio in Hannover, which a year earlier was still being used by Russian artist El Lissitzky. He and Vordemberge-Gildewart shared a great interest in graphic design and spatial structures.

The painting came into Theo van Doesburg’s possession in 1925 through an exchange that probably took place in connection with the L’art d’aujourd’hui exhibition in Paris. The exhibition was the young Vordemberge-Gildewart’s first public exposure in an international context. During this period, he developed close ties with Van Doesburg and other artists of De Stijl who, like him, were fervent advocates of abstract art. Vordemberge-Gildewart did not however stick only to the primary colour scheme of red, blue and yellow, and he also used diagonals and three-dimensionality in his work. Van Doesburg regarded him as an ideal ally in his clashes with Mondrian, who emphatically opted for neoplasticism and straight lines.

Dutch period, international context
In 1938 Vordemberge-Gildewart fled Nazi Germany – as did many other avant-garde artists – and ended up in Amsterdam. Willem Sandberg invited him to take part in a major international exhibition of abstract art at the Stedelijk Museum (Abstracte Kunst, 1938). During his time in the Netherlands, which lasted until 1954, Vordemberge-Gildewart got to know other influential artists and art lovers. He collaborated with architect Mart Stam, for example, and became friends with Max Beckmann, another German painter who had fled to Amsterdam.

The acquisition of Konstruktion No. 5 will allow Kunstmuseum Den Haag to reveal links within and beyond its own De Stijl collection, in line with our ambition to highlight the international context of this art movement. ‘In an art historical sense, Vordemberge-Gildewart links up the European network of innovative artists which flourished in the early to mid-twentieth century’, explains museum director Benno Tempel. “He moved in the same artistic circles as Van Doesburg, Kurt Schwitters and El Lissitzky, and was one of the first artists of the twentieth to create an entirely abstract body of work. Konstruktion No. 5 will improve our ability to tell this story of artistic and cultural interaction. It is also a welcome addition to the Netherlands’ national collection, which does not include any other examples of Vordemberge-Gildewart’s earliest work.”

Vordemberge-Gildewart in the spotlight
Konstruktion No. 5 will be on display in Kunstmuseum Den Haag’s Mondrian & De Stijl wing from 29 February to 21 June 2020, as part of an exhibition highlighting Vordemberge-Gildewart’s early period and his time in the Netherlands. It will include his designs for luxury department store De Bijenkorf, design sketches for a PTT head office in The Hague (which was never built) and some magnificent works on loan from Museum Wiesbaden, the custodian of a rich and varied collection of work by Vordemberge-Gildewart, as well as his personal archive.

At the same time the neighbouring GEM museum of contemporary art will host an exhibition of work by nominees for a prize named after the artist: the Vordemberge Gildewart Award (23 February to 5 April 2020). Since 1983 this prize has been awarded every year to an artist under the age of 35 from a different European country. The ten nominees for this year’s award all trained in the Netherlands or Belgium. The winner will be announced on Saturday 22 February.

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