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Sjarel Ex (1957) studied art history in Utrecht (1976-1983, cum laude). He specialises in the early Dutch avant-garde and the artists and architects around the magazine De Stijl. From 1984 until 1987 he was affiliated to the ZWO/Vrije Universiteit undertaking research into the modernist artists Vilmos Huszár, Piet Zwart and Theo van Doesburg. He has written about Vilmos Huszár and about the influence of Theo van Doesburg and De Stijl on the Bauhaus. His most recent publication have dealt with the Hungarian/Dutch artists Lajos d'Ébneth and Andor Weininger, and Kurt Schwitters’ relationships with the Dutch avant-garde. Since 1980 he has published articles, columns and speeches.
Working freelance between 1982 and 1987, he initiated and organised exhibitions of modern and contemporary art including Century ’87 (with Els Hoek and Nicolette Gast), in Amsterdam’s city centre as part of Amsterdam Cultural Capital. In 1988 he was appointed director (artistic and financial) of the Centraal Museum Utrecht, the Rietveld Schröder House and Landhuis Oud-Amelisweerd. In this capacity he had ultimate responsibility for more than 300 exhibitions, including 125 devoted to modern and contemporary art. He oversaw the acquisition of approximately 2,500 works of art, initiated an educational programme that served tens of thousands of schoolchildren and students and was responsible for the museum’s self-financed renovation and extension to the value of 45 million guilders. During this period he conceived and organised the exhibitions Nightlines (1991) and Panorama 2000 (1999), both of which were held in various locations in Utrecht’s city centre.
In June 2004 Ex was appointed director of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and since then has taken ultimate responsibility for the museum’s artistic and financial policies. On average Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen organises 25 exhibitions per year, often as part of international partnerships, varying from old masters to contemporary art. The museum also exhibits its collections in as series of regularly changing displays. Ex has revived the museum’s partnerships with private collectors and patrons and has given a new direction to its educational programme, with positive results. The museum has become financially independent under his directorship.
Since 1984 he has been a committee member or advisor for institutions including the Holland Festival, the artists’ initiative W139, the Mondriaan Foundation, Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB), Amsterdamse Kunstraad, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Rijksakademie, City of Leuven, Sikkens Foundation, Theater Instituut Nederland, SKOR, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ardam initiative and CIMAM, part of the International Council of Museums.