I first visited the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam early in 1989. The occasion was a cultural visit to the Netherlands with a group of college friends from Wimbledon School of Art where I was studying at the time. We couldn’t afford to join the official college trip to Madrid and Barcelona, so we put together a cut price excursion of our own, visiting the nearer to home delights that the Dutch museums had to offer.
Over the years I have returned to the Boijmans on countless occasions to visit the permanent collection and a variety of temporary shows. But today’s visit on 2nd May 2019 is going to be the last for quite some time. The museum is about to undergo a major renovation and refit that is scheduled to take seven years. Such projects though do have a tendency to run out; just how long was the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam closed for for its rebuild?
It is a slightly odd feeling that a museum that I know so well is simply going to be unaccessible for so long. But if I’m honest, maybe it really is time to bring the museum up to date. Museums have moved on a lot in the last twenty years. How they look and what they offer as an experience has changed and the Boijmans has perhaps got a little left behind.
The museum has a large and diverse permanent collection. It perhaps deserves an updated space to be displayed in. One of my own personal favourites certainly could do with a new home. I remember the two interior curved and slightly rusting steel arcs by Richard Serra from my early visits to Rotterdam. They slice through the space of a street level gallery. Nowadays these industrial scale interventions feel more like part of the interior design of the café with which they have to share the location.
So as the museum draws towards its temporary closure it ends with an exhibition about the Bauhaus. A celebration of the 100 years since the influential German school was set up and the ways it connected with the Dutch art and design world of the time. Presumably the museum won’t be reopening with a show celebrating 107 years of the Bauhaus or worse still 110 years. But that does some how put into perspective, just how long the museum is closing for.
Fashion design is not my specific area of specialization. I was trained as a painter and that remains my man focus of interest. Having said that, one of the great luxuries of my education job here in the Netherlands is that I get to teach the subject known as Culturele en kunstzinnige vorming (CKV), which roughly translates as artistic and cultural education. It is a fantastic subject that takes me and the fifteen and sixteen year olds that I teach into the broadest range of cultural disciplines such as film, theatre, dance, music, photography, architecture, applied art, design and visual arts. Over the fourteen years that I have now taught CKV it has lead me to widen my own cultural knowledge base into many new areas.
It is with this process of continual self-education I travelled to The Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam to see The Future of Fashion is Now exhibition. As I wrote earlier fashion design isn’t specifically my thing, although I have to admit to a growing interest and have just completed writing a module of lesson material for my CKV lessons that I’ll be working with after the Christmas break. The exhibition today was an opportunity to top up on ideas that I might be able to make use of in my lessons.
A particular challenge in this area is to break through the inherent conservatism in the pupils’ view of the world. So many of them in their approaches are anything but radical. They like what they know any they know what they like! Forcing them to consider things outside of their normal range of experience is the challenge here. I want them to think creatively and experimentally, the idea will ultimately to produce a design idea, although I should add, not and actual item of clothing.
Partly inspired by another recent exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague entitled Romantic Fashions my idea is set the challenge of producing a hybrid item of clothing that combines the clothes of today with elements of fashion from the nineteenth century. There are examples of designers who have done just that already, people such a, Vivian Westwood and Jan Taminiau. But in taking these frames of fashion reference I am attempting to reduce the over whelming range of references that are potentially on offer to the pupils. They will learn a little about the cultural world of 150 years ago and they will relate it to the world that they know today.
It is at this point that the exhibition in Rotterdam today will be useful. Pupils know what to expect in the high street in 2014 generally, they might even know a little about what appears on the catwalks of Paris and Milan, but much of what was visible today was altogether more experimental and will challenge them to think further and hopefully creatively when combining the designs of the past with the sensibilities and materials on offer today.
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- Tagged assignment, boijmans van beuningen, ckv, costume, design, fashion, gemeentemuseum, Rotterdam, school, taminiau, the hague, vivian westwood