MODERN — Van Gogh, Rietveld, Léger and others sheds new light on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century modern artists and designers who wanted not only to work for the elite, but also to reach as many people as possible. At the time European artists who felt that their gains from individual freedom had been paid for with the loss of direct involvement in society turned to “community art” or art for everyone. Committed designers who were inspired by technological and social modernity were not only concerned with beauty, but also with the “true” and the “good.” Well-designed utensils, for instance, could positively influence people and their environments.
The relationships between European and extra-European visual art and design—from appropriation to interactions— are examined through several exemplary objects. The exhibition includes works by R.W. Winfield, Michael Thonet, William Morris, Vincent van Gogh, Kawanabe Kyōsai, Jozef Israëls, George Hendrik Breitner, Suze Robertson, Suzanne Valadon, Jan Toorop, H.P. Berlage, Gerrit Rietveld, Marcel Breuer, Margaret Bourke-White, Fernand Léger and A.M. Cassandre, among others. These works are accompanied by a selection of objects from New Guinea, Suriname, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, and Japan, made by artists and designers whose names we, unfortunately, do not know.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name. It includes in-depth texts by the exhibition’s curators: curator of industrial design Ingeborg de Roode examines the significance of metal for developments in furniture design; academic researcher Maurice Rummens delves into “community art” and the influence of modern artists in society; Bas Heijne also reviews the role of the modern artist in contemporary society through Jan Toorop’s triptych at Beurs van Berlage; and an interview with Rolando Vázquez Melken views European modernism from a decolonial perspective. The exhibition catalogue is for sale at the museum shop in English and Dutch. We share a couple of these essential conversations exclusively through our research platform.