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Piece of wood with runes from Westeremden, eighth or ninth century, 12 cm long
Piece of wood with runes from Westeremden
Eighth or ninth century, 12 cm long
This simple wooden stick is a highly significant language monument. Rune inscriptions are the oldest written words in a native language in our country and the inscription on this piece of yew wood is the longest that was ever found here. Dutch literature manuals often start with the rune inscriptions and in this context this piece of wood from the Groningen village of Westeremden is invariably mentioned. The rune script had its own alphabet, called Futhark, with angular letters that were usually carved instead of written. This piece of wood was found in 1917 in the mound Westeremden. The inscription was long considered to be an incantation against the sea, but in fact is a blessing: “on this polder good fortune stays and may the yew tree keep it growing. Wemoed owns it.” The piece possibly was buried in the eighth or ninth century as building offering.
Mendini Proust
Poltrona di Proust (1979)
Alessandro Mendini
The Proust armchair is an important statement by Alessandro Mendini. It embodies his principles regarding redesign – reapplying existing shapes – and the importance of ornament. Mendini always conducts elaborate historical research beforehand. For the design of the fabric inspired on Marcel Proust, he looked into which paintings the French writer possessed. Subsequently, he found a detail from a pointillist painting by Paul Signac. He magnified the colourful dots on the wooden frame and the lining of the eighteenth-century kitsch armchair. The shape and function of the chair are covered in the motif. This turns the chair into a three-dimensional painting as well. Mendini raises the question whether it is an artwork merely to look at, or also an item of everyday use.
3 kruizen M
Unholy McTrinity (2003)
Jake & Dinos Chapman
The brothers Jake en Dinos Chapman are fascinated by McDonalds. They hint at the hamburger giant in all sorts of ways in their work, for example in this small group of sculptures entitled Unholy McTrinity, referring to the biblical Golgotha. Instead of Jesus, Ronald McDonald is crucified here, flanked by the personifications of two chief products of the fast-food restaurant, Hamburglar en McCheesus, mainly known for being served regularly as part of the happy meals. The Chapmans like to confuse their audience. Is the sculpture of Ronald McDonald as a crucified Jesus a social analysis, the McDonalds figurines representing the inspiring depiction of what binds together our society today: a continuous growth of production and consumption? Or does it symbolise the collapse of capitalism too, which, despite assuming almost religious forms, ultimately is merely accompanied by spiritual emptiness?
Ettore Jr  Sottsass Memphis Milano Ashoka 1981
Ashoka (1981)
Ettore (Jr.) Sottsass & Memphis Milano
The lamp’s name, Ashoka, was not chosen coincidentally. What does this name mean? In the early sixties the lamp’s maker, Ettore Sottsass, resided in India and worked together with local artisans. It was a time of spiritual experiences, in contrast with the materialistic society in the United States he became acquainted with earlier. Flower power as opposed to aggressive advertising. Both influenced the Memphis style. Ashoka (304-282 BC) is considered one of the greatest Indian emperors. Thanks to him, Buddhism spread across India and later the world. The arms of the lamp spread light to all points of the compass, like a modern, many-armed Buddha.
Hare, Japan
The Groninger Museum’s collection of Asian ceramics is one of the biggest in the Netherlands. Many of these porcelain pieces were imported in the time of the Dutch East India Company (1602-1799). Figurines of people and animals of Japanese porcelain were mainly created to be exported to the West. In the European interior they constituted a much-appreciated exotic curiosity from Japan, a country then considered highly mysterious. Both in Japan and China the hare, or rabbit, is one of the twelve zodiac signs and symbolises immortality, magic, and secrecy. According to some myths he lives on the moon, preparing the elixir of life for the Immortals. He can reach a very old age himself too and is entirely white after five centuries, another allusion to the moon. Such an ancient, white hare is probably depicted here.
Michael Sweerts (Brussel 1618 - 1664 Goa), Boy, ca. 1655-61
Head of a boy, 1655-1661
Michael Sweerts
A boy is looking at a soap bubble floating right past his face. In seventeenth-century painting, the bubble was considered a symbol of transience, yet that meaning does not seem to apply to this charming scene. The sober, intimate painting is made by Michael Sweerts, of whom approximately twelve such stilled paintings of young people have been preserved. Some propose an affinity with Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, but whether the two artists knew each other cannot be established. The Brussels-born Sweerts was a devoted catholic who worked in Rome for a long time, where he had many Dutch clients and received a knighthood from the Pope. He left for Asia to become a missionary in 1662. This, however, turned out to be unsuccessful. He died in India two years later.