‘Boijmans Next Door’ challenges visitors to the Wereldmuseum to look at the collections of both Rotterdam museums in a different way. This special pas de deux with objects from both collections provides insights into the worlds in which they originated and in which they acquired meaning. The exhibition ‘Remix Rotterdam’, the tenth in the collaborative project ‘Boijmans Next Door’, runs from 4 September 2020 until 9 January 2022.
‘Remix Rotterdam’ is an encounter between two museums: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Wereldmuseum: museums that are inextricably linked to the city of Rotterdam and share common donors and visitors. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which opened in 1849, has traditionally focused on collecting Western objects and works of art. The Wereldmuseum, founded in 1885, focuses primarily on cultural artefacts from Asia, Africa and the Americas. The exhibition, featuring 120 objects from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, constitutes an experimental, cosmopolitan museum based on a remix of the Rotterdam collections. It blurs classical collecting categories and reveals trans-historic and transcultural connections.
Four types of encounters
The exhibition has been curated by Alexandra van Dongen, curator at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and Wouter Welling, curator at the National Museum for World Cultures. It brings together works of art and everyday objects from all over the world, creating a dialogue between different cultures. Remix Rotterdam explores four types of encounters: universal and artistic encounters, trade encounters and (post-) colonial encounters. Each encounter brings together objects that together tell a more complex story.
Universal encounters: the fascination with life, birth, interpersonal relations and death
Not all motifs, symbols and gestures in art and culture are found all around the world. However, the fascination with life, birth, interpersonal relations and death are common to all cultures and all periods. The protective mother, seeking contact with others, the inevitability of death and the desire for contact with the deceased are universal subjects that we encunter across the globe.
Artistic encounters: Jean Michel Basquiat and Gordon Bennett
Two famous artists meet in ‘Remix Rotterdam’: Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) and Gordon Bennett (1955-2014), the first collected by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the second by the Wereldmuseum. Both artists were vocal critics of racism and prejudice. Although they make references in their work to their mixed racial origins and hybrid identity, in which the history of colonialism and slavery played a role, neither of them wished to be defined in ethnic terms by the art world. Basquiat once famously said: ‘I am not a black artist, I am an artist.’ Basquiat and Bennett never met in person, but Bennett addressed Basquiat long after his death in his painting Notes to Basquiat: In the Future Everything Will Be as Certain as It Used to Be, in which he connected the socio-political context in Australia to Basquiat's work.
Trade encounters: Syrian pottery in the work of a Flemish master
An excellent example of historical trade encounters is a discovery that curator Alexandra van Dongen made in 2012 about the early-fifteenth-century painting ‘The Three Marys at the Tomb’ by Jan van Eyck. Following extensive research, she concluded that the blue and white apothecary jar depicted in the painting is based on an example from Damascus, where Syrian potters took inspiration for their decorative schemes from imported Chinese porcelain. The presence of this pot in the painting shows the medieval trade routes between Damascus, Venice and Bruges. The Syrian apothecary jar painted by Van Eyck is the earliest known depiction of Arabic earthenware in a European work of art.
'By exhibiting the painting at the Wereldmuseum, we are showing it as a historical document of the cosmopolitan Middle Ages, with international trade routes from Asia, through the Middle East, to Africa and Europe. It can be interpreted as a piece of world heritage that belongs to everyone, including the Syrian community, and that makes me very happy.’
Curator Alexandra van Dongen.
(Post-)colonial encounters: reconciliation, influence, stereotyping and fascination
Although many Western paintings have depicted colonial life, they never show injustice and they exhibit hardly any self-criticism. In fact, they confirm the inequality and contribute to a negative image of the oppressed ethnic groups. Europeans collected items from the new cultures they encountered on a large scale, either to show off or out of a fascination for the unknown. Despite the inequality or oppression, indigenous peoples were also inspired by Western clothing, materials and utensils and adopted them as status symbols. Wester paintings, adverts, products and comic strips did not depict he cruel reality of slavery, but often featured stereotypes of African people serving and dancing.
Intervention by Paul van der Eerden
The Rotterdam-born artist Paul van der Eerden (1954) was asked to connect the collections of both museums in a personal way by staging a number of interventions. For many years, he has curated exhibitions that have brought together the works of renowned and unknown artists and insiders and outsiders in combination with ethnographic artefacts and folk art. In his Remixes, he plays a game of ‘free association’ with objects from both collections. The combinations create a coherent narrative about the human condition, love and hate, power and the fleeting nature of life, the pursuit of knowledge: grandiose and compelling, yet simultaneously inadequate and futile.
Works in the exhibition
Boijmans Next Door
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection is being dispersed across Rotterdam and Schiedam. Some 500 masterpieces are being displayed in eleven special exhibitions at eight neighbouring institutions under the title ‘Boijmans Next Door’. The exhibitions in these guest venues create encounters between Boijmans’ collection and those of its neighbours. From February 2021, the Maritime Museum is showing a selection of seascapes, and the Wereldmuseum will be showing masterpieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Van Eijck. As a result, you don’t have to miss out on seeing the collection during the museum’s renovation. ‘Boijmans Next Door’ has been made possible by Stichting Droom en Daad.More about Boijmans Next Door
Transit Boijmans Van Beuningen
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been closed since 2019 for a large-scale renovation and modernisation project. During this Transit period, the museum is showing its world-class collection in venues throughout Rotterdam and around the world. It has entered into a unique partnership with eight neighbouring venues in the city under the name ‘Boijmans Next Door’. Boijmans is also operating internationally, with travelling exhibitions abroad. At the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, the museum began showing works from the collection in local schools as part of ‘Boijmans in the Classroom’. Since the beginning of 2020, Boijmans, Humanitas and other local partners have been active in a former school in Rotterdam Zuid at Hillevliet 90. With Boijmans Hillevliet, the building regains its function as a place for learning and making. In the meantime, the construction of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is progressing steadily. The world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility will open in early 2021 and will safely house and display 151,000 works of art.More about Boijmans in Transit
Exhibition on location
The exhibition Remix Rotterdam: Boijmans X Wereldmuseum can be seen from 4 September 2020 to 9 January 2022 at the Wereldmuseum, Willemskade 25, 3016 DM Rotterdam. For information about opening hours, admission prices, etc.Visit