Saturday, February 07, 2009

Boats n Hos (Part 2)

Delfshaven, one of Rotterdam's few original neighborhoods still intact, was eerily quiet when I went, but pretty nonetheless. It's definitely where I'd want to live if were a Rotterdamer. There were artists painting in their ateliers, a woman cleaning her boat and a very sweet cafe called Soif overlooking the Maas River, where I'd totally hang out after I finished painting my boat and collaging in my studio.

Cute, no?

The Boijmans Museum is the largest art museum in Rotterdam, but it's still comparatively tiny, with a wee little collection. It more than makes up for it, though, by being extremely well-curated. Their permanent collection is organized chronologically and also by subject, so for example you'll be in the 16th and 17th century rooms, and each room within that section is subdivided by style: landscape, interiors, genre, etc. This imparts a wonderful sense of context and perspective, and for a gal like I (really a rank amateur) it's very informative.

Highlights included Cornelius Saftlever's Who Sues for a Cow (1629), Hendrik Martensz Gogh's The Grote Market in Rotterdam (1654) (which gives a good idea of what Rotterdam's medieval center might have looked like), Emanuel de Witte Interior with a Woman at the Virginal (1665), with beautifully rendered light and sophisticated deep focus:

There was also a delightful little aside, a room of modern installations stuck right in the middle of their 17th century exhibits, which they call"Interventions." The interventions are designed by various artists to interact with the permanent collection by mixing the old paintings with their new, original installations (the artist when I visited was Victor Man). The idea is to prevent the old masters from becoming too ossified by their own history, making them relevant, playful and new.

The Dutch seem to live with art and design in a way that is very real and immediate -- from the Urban Screens and installations at IFFR to the Interventions at the Boijmans, they seem to interact with art effortlessly, perhaps the result of their great legacy of Renaissance painting? In any case, it's no wonder they're at the forefront of international design since they seem to take it for granted as a vital part of life; what's more, they're not afraid of the new, as Rotterdam's architecture amply illustrates. I have great respect for the way they seem to refuse to compartmentalize, and for all their work ethic and business savvy they embrace art enthusiastically; that is, they don't seem to view these things as mutually exclusive. Americans, who tend to separate art and commerce, could learn.

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