Explore the groundbreaking De Stijl art movement and its cultural legacy in The Netherlands this year and the next, says Jo Fletcher-Cross
Dutch design is distinctive, founded on the principles of beauty and functionality. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of De Stijl (The Style), the artistic movement founded in 1917 by Theo Van Doesburg, searching for the balance between ‘keeping it simple’ and the reality of living. The original artists in the movement, such as Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld created work and pioneered ideas which still inspire contemporary Dutch designers like Maarten Baas and Piet Hein Eek today. There’ll be exhibitions and events all over the Netherlands focusing on art, design and architecture — Jo Fletcher-Cross picks out some highlights.
Arguably the centre of design in Holland, there are plenty of stylish places to visit in this ultra-modern city. This is the home of Design Academy Eindhoven, where students of art, architecture and design from all over the world come to learn from leading experts — it’s no wonder it’s a thriving hub of fresh ideas. There’s a fantastic collection of art from the last century in Van Abbemuseum, or visit Strijp-S to buy from young designers and makers in the former Philips ceramics factory, where Dutch design superstar Piet Hein Eek has opened his new headquarters. For full-on immersion, visit during Dutch Design Week (22 to 30 October 2016), or go for next year’s event from 21 to 29 October — an ‘international edition’ of the design expo which it’s hoped will become a regular event. There’s also a special 70th anniversary exhibition at the Design Academy; dates to be announced.
The Gemeentemuseum contains the world’s largest collection of Mondrian’s work, including his last, unfinished work, Victory Boogie Woogie. The museum also has seminal works by key figures in the De Stijl movement. During the 100-year celebrations, the Gemeentemuseum is holding three important exhibitions: see Piet Mondrian and Bart van der Leck (11 February to 21 May 2017); then there’s Mondrian: A Grand Retrospective (3 June to 24 September). From September to December, visitors can see the De Stijl architecture and interiors exhibition.
With its rich architectural history and space constrictions, Amsterdam has plenty of imaginative structures from celebrated Dutch architects like Rem Koolhaas, Wiel Arets and Ton Alberts. Home to the renowned Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy, it’s a hotbed of new work from talented artists. Take a visit to the international Stedelijk Museum, dedicated to contemporary art and design. It’s organising an open-air museum in Leiden, south of Amsterdam — where Theo van Doesburgh founded De Stijl —in the summer of 2017. The Museum De Lakenhal is presenting Peggy & Nelly: Women of De Stijl in the Rijksmuseum, which will look at the relationship between Peggy Guggenheim and artist Nelly van Doesburg (Cupera), in autumn 2017.
In Amersfoort, it’s possible to visit Mondriaanhuis, the house in which Piet Mondrian was born, and now a museum of his work. In Utrecht, the Centraal Museum holds the largest Rietveld collection in the world. From 4 March to 11 June 2017, it’s mounting Rietveld’s Masterpiece, an exhibition of his work. Year-round visitors can also see the Rietveld Schroderhuis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designed and furnished in 1924 by the man himself. Back in Amersfoort, Kunsthal KAdE will be showcasing The Colours of De Stijl from 13 May to 27 August 2017. There will also be an exhibition and a series of lectures focusing on the Gerrit Rietveld Pavilion in Amersfoort, one of three exhibition spaces designed by Rietveld.