Exhibition — Dec 3, 2016 until Nov 27, 2017

What does the work of Isa Genzken have in common with De Stijl? And what connects Bas Jan Ader, or the iconic Lichtenstein in the Stedelijk collection, to De Stijl? In an exhibition that occupies six galleries, the Stedelijk presents the breadth of its collection of De Stijl, and explores relationships between the movement and the work of other artists in the museum’s holdings. Part of the 100 years of De Stijl program.

Theo van Doesburg, Counter-Composition V, 1924, coll. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The presentation examines different facets such as use of colour, the diagonal, purity, architecture and the dissemination of the movement. Works of De Stijl that powerfully convey this ideology are juxtaposed with work by post-war artists. De Stijl was clearly an inexorable certainty for successive generations. Some artists offer an inspired ode; others explore what De Stijl means today. In the 1990s, for instance, General Idea parodied the dominance of De Stijl in their work affected Mondrian.

De Stijl and the Stedelijk

The inaugural issue of the magazine De Stijl in October 1917. The journal provided the artists, designers and architects with a platform for their pioneering ideas: by radically redefining art they hoped to create a world of total harmony, and to unify art and life. De Stijl’s theories of colour and space led to a revolutionary language of pure abstraction intended to express that harmony.

The Stedelijk Museum acquired a large collection of work by De Stijl and, by staging several key exhibitions, including a major survey in 1951 curated by former director Willem Sandberg that travelled to MoMA in New York, was the impetus behind the international recognition of the movement.

Although disbanded in 1931, De Stijl is no less influential today, embraced by artists, designers and architects as an inspiration, or rejected as an inexorable certainty.

2017: 100 years of De Stijl

2017 marks a hundred years since the founding of De Stijl, a legendary group of artists and architects that revolved around Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian and Gerrit Rietveld. Museums throughout the Netherlands will be celebrating this special year. In a series of three presentations throughout 2017, the Stedelijk will focus on unexpected sides of De Stijl, such as an exhibit highlighting the work of De Stijl defector Chris Beekman. The Stedelijk also pays attention to connections with the Russian Revolution, which also occurred in 1917.

The exhibitions marking 100 Years of De Stijl are part of the Stedelijk’s new, longer-term research project. This initiative centres on approaching, interpreting and presenting the museum collection in an experimental way, with no distinction between art and design. The project also examines the rich history of the institute, and the archives.


Nancy Troy wrote an essay for a previous Stedelijk publication, Collection Reflections, titled Making History: De Stijl at the Stedelijk Museum. Read the full text below, in both Dutch and English.


Also accompanying this presentation is Linda Boersma’s essay Suprematism and Neoplasticism: Malevich and De Stijl. To read this essay, click the link below


Isa Genzken, Untitled, 2012, courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin and Hauser & Wirth, Zurich/London. Photo: Delfanne