Sculpting a new era of modern art
TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS © KRÖLLER-MÜLLER MUSEUM
Amidst the soothing nature of the Dutch Veluwe, the Kröller-Müller Museum has found its home. The cultural temple opened 80 years ago, displaying solely modern paintings. Nowadays, however, the museum is even more celebrated for its sculpture garden, which was installed over two decades later. During the exhibition The beginning of a new world, its story and that of its founding father unfold.
It was 1938 when Helene Kröller-Müller opened the doors of her much-anticipated museum for modern art. Surrounded by nature, she created a house where many a modern master adorned the walls, preluding the era of modern art in the Netherlands. Just a year later, Kröller-Müller passed away, leaving strict directions in her will on what would happen with her collection. It could remain exhibited in the museum, yet, no new painting could be added to it, dooming the museum to stagnate. “When, after the Second World War, Bram Hammacher took over the lead of the museum, the tide turned,” explains Lies Boelrijk, communication manager of the Kröller-Müller Museum. “He noticed that, while the will talked very explicitly about purchasing paintings, nothing forbade the addition of a sculpture collection.” In that philosophy, he started collecting modern and contemporary statues. In 1961, part of his collection got a new, permanent home in the museum’s sculpture garden, a three-dimensional trip through recent art history.
Start of a new era
Until the end of September, the Kröller-Müller Museum is looking back on the revolution Hammacher ignited in its house. The exhibition The beginning of a new world explores the evolution of sculpture from the early 19th century until the 1960s. By bringing the nicest pieces from the museum, its warehouse and even the garden together in one hall, a walk amongst the statues really takes you on a journey through the last two centuries. “There are also numerous world-famous masterpieces on display; Little Owl by Picasso, for example, or Rodin’s La Femme Accroupie. Yet, La Commencement du Monde by Brancusi received the honour of lending its name to the exhibition. It portrays mankind – or even life in general – in its most primitive shape: the egg. Although it was added to the collection after Hammacher passed over his duties, it remains one of the museum’s most important purchases to date.”
Mondriaan, Picasso and Van Gogh
Of course, there is plenty more to discover in the Kröller-Müller Museum than just its temporary exhibition. In the Van de Velde Wing, the original museum wing built by Helene Kröller-Müller, the biggest names from the modern and contemporary art scene gather. Dutch legends like Van Doesburg and Mondriaan hang alongside international heroes like Gris, Léger, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Picasso and many others. Central in the museum, you stumble upon its humongous Van Gogh collection. With almost 300 pieces of the Dutch master in their possession, the Kröller-Müller Museum is amongst the biggest collectors of his. Make sure you take your time to gaze at iconic pieces like The Potato Eaters and The Lover. “Yet, what makes the museum most unique is its location amidst the greenery. On your way here, the relaxing nature of the Veluwe sets you in the perfect mood to immerse yourself into art. Once inside the museum, you can walk around freely through the spacious chambers and take your time to enjoy their masterpieces. That is a world away from the crowded museums in the city.”
25 hectares, 160 sculptures
To disconnect even further, the sculpture garden is the place to be. Spread over 25 hectares of nature, 160 modern sculptures found their place under the stars. “Even those who have hardly visited an art museum before will be able to enjoy an amazing time here. Essentially, you just walk between the plants and trees, while bumping into a piece of art every so often. This allows us to bring all demographics in contact with modern and contemporary art. Therefore, Bram Hammacher is actually just as much a founding father of the Kröller-Müller Museum as its mother, Helene Kröller-Müller, herself.”
The beginning of a new world takes over the Kröller-Müller Museum until 29 September. With your ticket, you can also visit the museum’s permanent collection and its sculpture garden. Audio tours and guided tours are both available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Japanese, while guided tours can also be taken in Spanish and audio tours in Mandarin. As the entire collection is exhibited on the ground floor, people with physical disabilities will encounter no problems while perusing the wonderful art collection. For more practical information and tickets, visit: