life in a glass house
5 Oct 2002 - 16 Feb 2003

This year the 2001-2002 Municipal Art Purchases focus on two-dimensional art, with emphasis on drawing and painting. In most previous purchase exhibitions it was primarily work by the youngest artists that was showcased, but this time the participants are from all age groups.

The exhibitions, which always share the subtitle Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions, are successors to those in the old Fodor Museum. There the purchases that a committee had selected for the collection of the Stedelijk from open submissions were justified in a presentation that was full of contrasts but also somewhat informal. In 1995 the old Municipal Art Purchase Ordinance was changed, because the procedure was felt to be unsatisfactory. The City handed over final responsibility for, and coordination of the process to the Stedelijk Museum. Thus the emphasis also came to lie more on the presentation of the works. Where the old-style Municipal Acquisitions tried to present a representative selection of art production in Amsterdam, the new series of exhibitions tries to offer a perspective on contemporary art production, following up on group exhibitions such as 'Wild Walls' (1995) or 'From the Corner of the Eye' (1998). There was still always a global indication given of the territory covered, such as visual art and photography, applied art and industrial design, or, as in 'Display' early this year, very tightly focused (in that case, on art jewellery). The principle of open submissions however remained the basis for the Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions.

This year the jury consisted of Jaap van den Ende (visual artist, Delft), Marie van Leeuwen (visual artist, Amsterdam), Maxine Kopsa (art historian and critic), Dr. Sven Lütticken (art critic and lecturer in Art History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and the author of this article (chairman). Six hundred artists sent in documentation; after three selection rounds the jury ultimately narrowed this down to 22 artists. It had been explicitly stated beforehand that in this round of purchases the accent would be on painting and drawing. A large percentage of the submissions did indeed involve painting; drawing was hardly present, but on the other hand photography and video art were reasonably well represented. As in previous years the jury made its selections on the basis of quality, not in order to squeeze the art into an exhibition concept.

Paintings and drawings by thirteen artists are included, which in a relative sense is representative of the submissions, because about half of those indeed involved painting and drawing. Although painting has been declared dead many times, the medium apparently still exercises a considerable power of attraction. A number of artists still succeed in taking new, fascinating directions, be it within the tradition of abstraction, or be it reaching back to 'older' traditions in various ways, or seeking a solution between figuration and abstraction. For instance, the paintings of the Russian-born Tatiana Yassievich reach back to impressionism, but her urban scenes are so much of a distinctive, striking variant on it that they have been selected for the purchase round. Sometimes the flat surface is not sufficient and the work expands into being an installation, as in the case in the submission by Lily van der Stokker. Berend Strik exhibits a number of embroidered studies of the interior of a house that he designed together for One Architecture for an pair of American twins who suffer from Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. The embroideries have a soundproofing effect. Further, artists make free use of all the achievements of their predecessors. They are no longer a painter or sculptor in the traditional sense, but call upon all of the means that are at 
their service. Photography has long since become a mature medium alongside painting, and these media have mutually influenced each other. The same is true for video art. In view of their quality, it would therefore seem unavoidable and obvious to include photographic and video works in the exhibition, from Edwin Zwakman (who showed several years ago in Bureau Amsterdam), Gerald van der Kaap (who has already had a retrospective exhibition in the Stedelijk), Marijke van Warmerdam, Fleur Boonman (at the age of 26, among the youngest artists in the exhibition), Roy Villevoye and others. The last of these worked together with Jan Dietvorst on a film project in New Guinea, the results of which are now being shown in the Stedelijk. For the rest, a substantial number of the artists already have one or more works in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. The participants in the exhibition come from all age groups; plotted on a chart their ages would make a nice bell curve. The oldest selected is Loes van der Horst (83). That says something about the submissions, among which as usual were found many epigones of famous artists, but also about the quality of contemporary art. That is not only sustained by the very newest and youngest artists, but also by more mature artists, among whom therefore a considerable number of familiar names are to be found. It promises much for the future of the Municipal Acquisitions if this category continue to make submissions. Because an exhibition of proposals for purchase must be put together from a limited number of artists, a large number of entrants had to be eliminated. The advantage as compared with the old system is therefore that the purchasing can be more focused - purchases are selected by Rudi Fuchs and others on the basis of the exhibition - and the acquisitions therefore have more chance of appearing regularly in collection presentations at the Stedelijk. Ultimately it remains desirable that everyone, whoever they are, continue to make submissions for the purchase rounds so that the possibilities for choice remain wide.

In a copious article in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Sven Lütticken offers a theoretical view on contemporary art, which sheds light on this exhibition from an interesting angle. The catalogue is designed by the new design bureau COUP, consisting of Peter van den Hoogen and Erica Terpstra. The architect Michael van Leeuwen, of the Utrecht architectural offices of Sluijmer & van Leeuwen, did the design for the exhibition in the New Wing. Because the exhibition is taking place in this glass-walled wing (probably the final exhibit before it gives way to Sizá's new building), but also because it focuses on the medium of painting that is somewhat neglected in contemporary art, the exhibition bears the title 'Life in a Glass House'. Time however will prove that the purchases which will come from it are really not hothouse plants.

Jan Hein Sassen is curator of painting and sculpture at the Stedelijk Museum and organiser of the exhibition.

A bilingual (Dutch/English) catalogue will appear to accompany the exhibition, including the jury report by Jan Hein Sassen and an essay by Sven Lütticken. It also contains biographies of all the artists and entries on all the works exhibited. Price: about 22 Euro


Tiong Ang, Fleur Boonman, Hans Broek, Juul Hondius, Loes van der Horst, Twan Janssen, Gerald van der Kaap, Fransje Killaars, Georg Korsmit, Klaas Kloosterboer, Jos van Merendonk, Jan van der Ploeg, Jan Rothuizen, Lily van der Stokker, Berend Strik (in cooperation with One Achitecture), Michael Tedja, Esther Tielemans, Koen Vermeule, Roy Villevoye (in cooperation with Jan Dietvorst), Marijke van Warmerdam, Tanja Yassievich, Edwin Zwakman