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Ways of Seeing

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.
1994 0020 S
Beetke van Rasquert
Onbekende meester, 1520-1530
Beetke was in 1502 gehuwd met Wigbold van Ewsum uit Middelstum. Ewsum was een van de machtigste en rijkste jonkers in Groningen. Hij had een groot deel van de venen bij Leek gekocht en bouwde de borg Nienoord. Daarnaast bezat hij de havezathe Mensinghe in Roden, terwijl via zijn vrouw de borg van Rasquert tot het bezit hoorde. Ewsum overleed in 1528 jong en liet een weduwe met vijf zonen na. Als een echte familiematrone heerste Beetke over haar familie. Het portret zet haar neer als een getormenteerde vrouw, met verwoeste gebouwen op de achtergrond. Haar familie leed zeer onder de uitgebroken tachtigjarige oorlog.
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.
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.
Jeff Koons (York, PA 1955), Christ and the Lamb, 1988
Christ and the Lamb
Jeff Koons, 1988
Jeff Koons provoked outcry in the eighties with his provocative ‘kitsch’. Whereas some in the art circles considered him a devil, he continued to present himself as a smiling angel imperturbably. The only thing he wanted was, in his own words, “to return to people what they, deep down, find most beautiful”: luxurious, sparkling surfaces, sweet colours, loving and sentimental images. For this mirror he used a fragment of a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci (The Virgin and Child with St. Anne. 1510, at the Louvre). With some effort, the contours of the Holy Child playing with a lamb can be perceived. The gilded wooden frame refers to the late-eighteenth-century, extravagant Rococo. Koons plays a confusing game on the borderlines of high art and kitsch, religion and banality.