by Francesca Warley
I first caught sight of Museum Voorlinden’s grand pavilion from the road. It stands secluded amongst the grounds of a country house designed by landscape designer Piet Oudolf, which in the current season of Spring is looking particularly picturesque. Situated in surburban outskirts of Wassenaar, Voorlinden was founded in 2016 and is privately owned by Dutch businessman Joop van Caldenborgh. In his own words, he wanted to ensure that his impressive personal art collection would not “go into the vaults [of a public museum or existing institution] and never appear again”. The museum is certainly a testament to van Caldenborgh’s vision and passion, and it is well worth a visit, whether you’re simply looking for somewhere to while away half-a-day or looking to make a foray into the exciting world of modern art.
The current temporary exhibitions at Voorlinden span a diverse range of subject matter and material, making the trip a worthwhile one for all. In Less is More, those interested in modern society’s state of distraction in an era of information overload can confront pressing issues that affect us all, in artworks such as Olivier Mosset’s Patricia’s Pillow (1985), a minimalist yet looming work showing a yellow line separating an otherwise blank white canvas, to Ai Weiwei’s Bowl of Pearls (2006), which asks us to question the price and value placed on certain objects.
People’s over-consumption and global waste and pollution are visualised in many of the artworks; in Retenue d’eau (1998) by Michel François, hundreds of plastic bags that are typically used to transport purchased goldfish home from a pet shop have been hung, full of water, from the ceiling in a formation akin to a wrecking ball. The artist wants to communicate the scarcity and thus preciousness of clean water in today’s world, and it proves an effective impact upon the viewer.
Visitors who prefer perhaps more approachable 2D paintings will find two different exhibitions to their taste. The eponymously titled Armando is a retrospective of the Dutch artist known simply by his last name, who died in September of last year and left behind an accomplished body of work that crosses from sculpture to painting to musical pieces and poetry. Some of his best pieces are his oil-painted landscapes, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s post-impressionist style in their subjectivity and the portrayal of a distinct and particular perception of the world. The collection impresses the sense of the artist’s unceasing output, producing work after diverse work, and tells an admirable story of the man behind them.
A smaller exhibition showcases the work of Spanish artist Pere Llobera. A talented realist painter, Llobera’s brush is able to depict day-to-day realities in uncanny representations, yet nothing is as it seems upon their closer inspection that reveals the paintings as teeming with implicit, connotative meanings and references like in the work of his predecessor Goya. In S/T (superman autolesiu) (2018), Llobera turns fact on its head and mixes fiction amongst it, depicting the archetypal figure of Superman punching himself straight through his own face, in an image that bristles with themes of anxiety and disorder.
A delightful finish to the route through the temporary exhibitions was the chance to glimpse into the world of contemporary Japanese multimedia artist Yayoi Kusama. Famed for her polka dots and yellow pumpkins, one of which currently sits in Voorlinden, Kusama’s life is as colourful and varied as her art and has had an indelible influence on her production. In 1977 she admitted herself into a psychiatric hospital (which remains her home today) after experiencing hallucinations and a loss of her grip on reality.
In Infinity Mirror Room: Gleaming Lights of the Souls (2008) you are given the 45-second window of opportunity to envision infinity, in the form of an entirely mirror covered room where colour changing spheres hang from the ceiling. The experience is mesmerising and forces you to question the subjectivity, and indeed limitedness of your own reality.
The permanent collection of Voorlinden is as excellent as the sum of its temporary shows. From Richard Serra’s Open Ended (2007-8) to Ron Mueck’s Couple under an umbrella (2013) the works in each of their own ways can take visitors out of their busy and demanding existence and allow a moment to pause, think and appreciate the possibilities of critical and creative thought that art can provide. A post-visit lunch and coffee in the main house’s restaurant was an apposite end to a morning well-spent. At Voorlinden, Joop van Caldenborgh offers up a spectacle and I recommend all that can to go and enjoy it.