Contemporary Art in Rotterdam
June 2013

Renilde Hammacher

For sixteen years, from 1962, Renilde Hammacher was the museumís first female chief curator of modern art. Hammacher celebrated her hundredth birthday in March of this year. A wonderful occasion to honour her with an exhibition: Renilde Hammacher - 'A great, stimulating and driving force'.

Mark Rothko, Grey and Orange on Maroon, no. 8, 1960, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Mark Rothko, Grey and Orange on Maroon, no. 8, 1960, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

According to current museum director Sjarel Ex, Hammacher enriched the museum’s collection immeasurably. As chief curator she purchased almost 500 artworks and organised approximately 150 exhibitions, the highlight of which was the Dalí exhibition in 1970 - 1971 attended by the artist.

In an interview with NRC Handelsblad on 2 May 2013, Hammacher explained why she thought it was important to bring Surrealism to the Netherlands: ‘It amazed me that none of the Dutch museums had a special ensemble of Surrealists. Surrealists loved freedom. I thought that the Netherlands could accept that if they saw the works with their own eyes. And I think it succeeded.

‘The Rothko’ back on display

One of the most popular works acquired by Hammacher is Rothko’s ‘Grey and Orange on Maroon’. In the interview she says about this work: ‘That is an important work, but not Surrealist. I never defended the acquisition as Surrealist. I wanted Rothko in the collection because it was harmonious with the others.’ Hammacher explained that Chris Dercon wanted to sell the Rothko painting when he was director of the museum. ‘But the museum’s staff resisted and it is still there’. Today ‘the Rothko’ remains a favourite with visitors. As part of the exhibition about Renilde Hammacher, the work is now on display in gallery 39.

ARTtube video

Click here to watch an ARTtube video in which Renilde Hammacher talks about the Dalí exhibition of 1970-1971.