In the winter of 2012 the museum staged an exhibition and brought out a publication to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Rotterdam gallery Delta. Since Delta opened in 1962, Hans Sonnenberg, the gallery’s founder and owner, and a passionate collector, has played a role in the Rotterdam art world that cannot be exaggerated.
In 2000 Sonnenberg gave the museum carte blanche to choose fifteen works of art from his own collection, which would become part of the museum’s collection as a promised gift. This important gift was at the heart of the exhibition in the museum’s Willem van der Vorm gallery, surrounded by purchases that the museum has made from the gallery over the years and a number of works from Sonnenberg’s private collection. The exhibition focused on works of art from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The museum showed around forty works from in six modern art movements: Cobra, informal art, ZERO, pop art, New Figuration and 1980s Neo-Expressionism.
From Basquiat to Manzoni
In the Willem van der Vorm Gallery there were works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whom Sonnenberg first introduced into the Netherlands in 1982, and by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose ‘mirror room’ had recently gone on permanent display in the museum. The museum also exhibited work by the English Pop Art artist Allen Jones, Cobra artist Karel Appel, ZERO artist Piero Manzoni and others. Sonnenberg was in constant contact with Manzoni in the late 1950s and the museum is showing a number of Manzoni’s works, including Corpo d’aria (1959-60), one of a series of multiples composed of a stand and a large white balloon. The buyers of these works of art had to blow up the balloons themselves – people paid extra per litre of breath in the variations blown up by the artist.
Along with galleries like Espace (Amsterdam) and Nouvelle Images (The Hague), Galerie Delta was par of the foundations of the Dutch gallery system and was the first gallery in Rotterdam to focus exclusively on contemporary art. Sonnenberg was very well informed about new art trends, travelled widely in Europe and the United States and succeeded in bringing international developments to Rotterdam. He was also aware the Rotterdam artists needed a platform. From the outset he showed work by important local artists like Daan van Golden and Woody van Amen, and more recently by Diet Wiegman, Charly van Rest and Paul Cox.
The exhibition Mr Delta, a Gallery-Owner and Collector in the Museum had been made possible in part by support from Ploum Lodder Princen Advocaten & Notarissen and Stichting Harten Fonds.
Mr Delta, 50 Years a Gallery Owner in Rotterdam was published to coincide with the exhibition. It will form part of the Boijmans Studies series. On the basis of previously unresearched source material it examines the history and significance of a unique Rotterdam gallery and the important role of Hans Sonnenberg as a collector and promoter of contemporary art. The fifteen works making up the promised gift are described and illustrated separately in this publication. The publication, which is in Dutch only, is on sale in the museum shop and can be ordered through the webshop.