High Society

To celebrate their wedding Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit had their portraits painted by Rembrandt. To celebrate acquiring the pair of paintings the Rijksmuseum has created an exhibition of some of the world’s greatest full size portraits called High Society.

The paintings have been restored and are magnificent in the detail of their opulence, and they once contributed to Rembrandts’ reputation with Amsterdam’s wealthy elite. This is the first time in more than 60 years they’ve been part of a public exhibition. They are jointly owned by the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre and part of that agreement is that the paintings will be kept together and displayed together. I think they’ll be at the Rijksmuseum through next year which is the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death.

The High Society exhibition show cases full length portraits through the centuries from the world’s greatest artists, from Sergent to Munch  and the museum has presented it as if these world famous people turned up to an unlikely party. You can everyone meet the solemn Count and Countess da Porto (by Veronese) who lived 100 years before Rembrandt to the dazzling Marchesa Luisa Casati, who lived 250 years after him.

I met Anna Comptesse de Noailles, the first woman to win the French Legion d’honneur. Apparently when this painting was exhibited it was considered scandalous, partly because of how low her gown sweeps, but also because she is wearing her award around her neck – and apparently that is not done, it should be worn on a sash diagonally across one’s body. Obviously the designers of the award had never thought about how women would wear it.

My favourite painting was this debonair gentleman; he’s Samuel-Jean Pozzi, and he was quite the lady’s man, whose lovers included Sarah Bernhardt. I think I have a crush!

The museum created evening events for this exhibition, and I was lucky enough to go to one. It was fantastic to be in the museum after dark and after the exhibition they turned the lobby into a dance floor and we had champagne and a dance. Just as if we were part of High Society.

High Society is on for about another week – until June 3rd. Tickets to the whole museum are 17.50 and there’s no additional entrance fee for the exhibition. (Free entry with a museum jaarkaart)

 

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Art on Sunday

I went to see the wonderful “Coded Nature” exhibition from StudioDrift at the Stedelijk Museum. The image above is one of their ShyLights. They dance above your head and as they float down they open up like a flower, the movement is gentle and mesmerising. The perfect thing to do on a Sunday afternoon

Here’s what the room full of ShyLights looks like. Everyone stays in this room for ages, watching the lights glow and dance, their faces filled with wonder. Everyone gives into the temptation to lie on the floor and watch the lights from below, and it’s amazing – until the vigilant museum stuff come in and ask you to move. Apparently the light on the floor is part of the exhibition and by lying on the floor we are ruining it for others. IMHO the one ruining it for others was the grumpy museum guy.

The title of the exhibition is Coded Nature and there’s one piece that seems to be a commentary on our destruction of the earth, it’s a long film showing floating concrete blocks drifting through the air forming large structures until nature is obliterated. And in the next room is one of the concrete blocks – a drifter – floating, un-suspended  in a huge room.

I’ve followed Studio Drift’s Instagram account for a long time, and I’ve been fascinated by the “fragile futures” sculptures. So it was really cool to see an installation of fragile futures, be able to walk around it and get up close to the tiny dandelion lights that make up the sculpture.

The exhibition filled me with wonder, it’s that intersection of art and science, it’s beautiful and kinetic and well worth visiting. I might be back next weekend.

The exhibition is on until the 26 August, and it’s free for museum card holders, or €17.50.

Félicité at the World Cinema Festival

Félicité is the story of a singer in Kinshasa whose fragile independence is shattered when her son Samo has an awful motorbike accident. Suddenly she needs 900 dollars, an extreme amount for a woman living in a tough economy, as she fights for her son’s life –  literally. The film is slow, in a way that lets you feel very close to her. There were moments that really hit you, and the director Alain Comis doesn’t let you off the hook, you feel her pain. The third key character is Tabu, a character who drinks and loves hard by night and spends his days as a repair man, it’s his poetry and his humour that provide the gentle breaks in the movie’s tension.

I was lucky to be at the opening of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival where this was shown, and the Director spoke on stage at the end of the movie. He explained that the story started in Senegal (his home country) but moved to Congo when he heard the music of the Kasai Allstars, with whom Félicité sings throughout the movie. He was asked how he found the actress to play the title role. He said “she found me!” He’d imagined a different look for Félicité but kept coming back to Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in the audition process. She makes the movie, she has a quiet power even in the harshest scenes.

This isn’t an easy movie, as a viewer you have to do some “work” to grasp the story – it’s not all set out for you. But it’s a film that pulls you in and leaves you somewhat hopeful.

You can see it; Saturday 19th August at the Rialto 6.45pm at the Rialto, or Monday 21st August 7pm at De Balie.

See the website of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival for more movies, the festival is on to 26 August, so be quick!

Amsterdam’s Newest Art Work

I was playing tour guide on Sunday and we wandered up Rokin, the area between Muntplein and the Dam, this area is being redeveloped and is full of restaurants with terraces where people were eating lunch in the sun. At the top of Rokin, just before you get to the Dam is this wonderful sculpture/fountain.

It features two heads facing in opposite directions and water seeps from the top of the heads down their shoulders, across the plinth and spills onto the ground. It was 24 degrees (75F) so it had a pleasant cooling effect, it might be less fun on subzero winter days!

It’s a stunning work of art and the courtyard around it is a peaceful oasis despite being right on a tram route.

The sculpture is by Mark Manders, a Dutch/Belgian sculptor and it was installed on the 31 July 2017.So brand new.

You can see a short movie about the installation from Gemeente Amsterdam (Amsterdam City Council) sorry it’s only in Dutch but the pictures are cool.

Rijksmuseum Summer Garden

Every summer the Rijksmuseum garden turns into a sculpture exhibit. This year the works are by Jean Dubuffet and from the Stedelijk Museum’s collection. The sculptures are bold, colourful, playful perfect for summer. Here are my two favourites from the gardens this year.


Arbre Biplan (version III)

“Tree Biplane”, this is the first large scale sculpture he made and he was still experimenting with the epoxy materials to find ways to make large scale sculpture. I walked around this several times, because there’s no symmetry the view changes, I love the contrast of the random shape of the sculpture against the formal architecture of the museum.

Le Deviseur I (The Chatterer)

He looks like he’s ready to chat, but there’s also something throne like about his chair. This is a sculpture I would love to have – in the fantasy garden of my fantasy mansion.

The exhibition is in the gardens until the 1 October 2017. There are also daily workshops for kids in a marquee in the garden (probably in Dutch, but hey it’s a craft project kids can figure out instructions). If you want to see more Dubuffet Stedelijk Museum is also exhibiting paintings from its collection (until 24 Sept).

 

Lights!

The Amsterdam lights festival starts tomorrow and some of the exhibits are already set up, I spotted two on my cycle ride along Herengracht today.

Amsterdam Lights festival When I saw this in the distance I thought it was swim lanes which changed colour, even though it’s a little chilly for swimming. The colours change every few seconds and go through the colours of the rainbow. When I got closer I could see that it was rows of floating water lilies.

lights-1In fact it’s called Flower Strip, and on a calm night the reflections will be fabulous.

lights-1-1

This is Bridge of the Rainbow, I guess there’ll be a full rainbow by tomorrow night, but once again the reflections on this are great.

The location of all the artworks is listed on the Amsterdam Light Festival website, they’re all outside so you can wander (or cycle) the route for free. Alternatively there are boat cruises which are worth doing, as a lot of the artworks are oriented for viewing from a boat. There’s also a free walking route in the Hortus Botanicus area and guided tours. It’s one of the cool things in the city – I like finding the sculptures “accidentally”. It’s the perfect way to take advantage of the long winter nights.

Banksy is in Town

There are currently two exhibitions of Banksy’s work in Amsterdam. I went to the one at Beurs van Berlage, which has just been extended to the 7 January. It was great to see some of his most famous works collected together. His works always contain a juxtaposition that is thought provoking; there were one or two I could live with.

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The second exhibition is on at the Moco Museum on Museumplein and is on until the end of the year.