Europe 2018

Our European adventures of 2018 were not designed for their artistic opportunities, but during our three-month long journey in The Netherlands, France, Croatia, and Belgium, we found an interesting variety of Art, nonetheless. Because, however, it was such a long trip, I will try to be brief and keep this mainly about the Art we saw. Here is my best attempt to present it to you.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to DEN HAAG - The Hague, in The Netherlands. Car-free for a week, we were able to see much of the Art the city had to offer. Let's start with sculpture: The Sculpture Gallery is a display of sculptures, placed on pedestals, placed every twenty-five meters in the pedestrian area of the Grote Markstraat, Kalvermarkt and Spui. Forty Dutch sculptors have been or will be invited to produce a sculpture for this area. The pedestal creates a bond, both literally and figuratively, between the urban environment and sculpture. As each artist is required to conform to the same dimensions, visual coherence is maintained within the diversity of solutions on an urban scale. In 2011 artist Andre Kruysen took over as curator of the sculpture gallery. Here are a few of them:

Morgan-Wandeling (frog with umbrella) by Karel Appel, 2001
A Last Farewell by Anno Dijkstra, 2010
Binnen-Stadgoden by Ingrid Mol, 2010
Vriendinnen by Tony van de Vorst, 2010

And here are a few more (CLICK HERE).

The timing of our visit was dictated by the World Championship Sand Sculpting competition which was held in Den Haag for the first time. We got to the site on Lange Voorhout just as the forms were being removed from the giant piles of damp river-sand, and the nine artists began their sculptures.

 Then we visited just about every day after to check up on their progress:

Max Gazendam,The Netherlands
Thomas Koet, U.S.A.
Katsu Chaen, Japan
Baldrick Buckle, U.K.
Benjamin Probanza, Mexico
Ilya Filimonstsev, Russia
JOOng Tan, Singapore
Fergus Mulvany, Ireland
Radovan Zivny, Czech Republic.

The Gemeentemuseum is a modern palace of Art. The Art Deco building opened on 29 May 1935. During the war, the Germans used it for a warehouse, returning to its original purpose in 1946.

With 160,000 works of art, the Gemeentemuseum is one of Europe’s biggest art museums. In addition to collections of international modern and contemporary art, with more than 300 works by Piet Mondrian, this is the only museum where Mondrian’s life and progress towards abstract art unfold before your eyes. Here are a few:

Poppyfield by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
Self portrait with hat and veil by Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1906-07
Twee Aronskelken by Piet Mondriaan, 1918
Oannes by Odilon Redon, c 1905
Czardas Dancers by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1908-20
Child IV by Karel Appel, 1951

And here are the rest (CLICK HERE).

And while there are many other museums of Art in Den Haag from the Mauritschuis Royal Picture Gallery to the Escher Museum, we chose to find the more obscure. Such as this jewel near the sea, just outside the city limits, in WASSENAAR. We took a bus to the end of the line, then followed someone who knew where he was going, as we crossed the divided roadway, entering a coastal park of sand dunes and scrub pines. Eventually we found ourselves lost until a woman on a bicycle stopped to help. But she didn't know the directions, so we continued walking through the wild park. Soon, however, the woman, now with her partner, found us, insisted that I ride her bike with Marie on the back, while she jumped on her friend's bike and he led the way to the museum. She even left her purse in the basket of the bike she lent me.

We found Museum Voorlinden not out among the dunes, but in an elegant, pastoral setting. (After sharing a Coke, Monique and Peer returned to their bikes and went on their way, having been to the museum not so long ago.)  Founded by collector Joop van Caldenborgh on a forty-acre estate, the museum was opened in 2016 by King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands. The collections are contemporary, but likeable.

Mass by  Antony Gormley, 1950
Jonge Vrouw met Sigaret by Jan Sluijters, 1929.
Patrons enjoying Dawn by John DeAndrea, 1985
Coca Cola Vase by Ai Wei Wei, 2015

Open Ended by Richard Serra, 2007-8


The grounds were gorgeous and natural.

 Also in Wassenaar is Renbaan Duindigt where we caught a few races.  Flats and harness.

The city of Den Haag also includes the seashore neighborhood of SCHEVENINGEN where, in addition to the Tom Otterness sculptures along the boardwalk:

and the artworks displayed in the dunes:

Light of the Moon by Igor Mitoraj

We find the Museum Beelen aan Zee, the only Dutch museum of contemporary sculpture. Collectors Theo and Lida Scholten opened the museum in 1994 and the collections now contain more than 2,000 works of art.

 Tête de femme by Ossip Zadkine, 1922
Boer met blauwe muts by Karel Appel, 1975
Kopf I by Martin Matschinsky, 1974

While they recently had a show of Anish Kapoor, we saw Johan Creten's Naked Roots display. While there, we ran into Monique and Peer, also enjoying the museum.

The Herring by Johan Creten, 2018
Another interesting museum we found down by the shore was the Panorama Mesdag, not really a museum after all. But a tourist attraction painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag in 1881. It is a 360-degree vista of the sea, the dunes and the fishing village of Scheveningen as it was at the time. Now, it is the oldest panorama still at its original location.

For no extra charge, we got to see the artwork of Mesdag's wife, Sientje Mesdag van Houten.

Sientje Mesdag van Houten
She, like her husband, not only received instruction from Willem Roelofs but also from Hendrik’s cousin the professional artist, Laurens Alma-Tadema.

Chinese Cloisonne Blue Vase by Sientje Mesdag-Van Houten, c 1900
 Pile of Stones by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, 1868
And a show of work by Jan Giesen:

Construction of a Breakwater by Jan Giesen, 1926
We were delighted to find the first-ever DuneArt festival, where else, but in the dunes. There, after our long trek, we found white tents filled with demonstrating artists creating with a variety of natural media and/or subjects. There were watercolorists, sculptors, textile artists, and many others. Here are a few shots:

Annaloes Groot
Jacqueline Louz
Gregory Dubus
Angeline and Rennie have been friends since their teens, though they each went to a different art school. They were doing this project together.

Rennie Buenting & Angeline Donk
There was a special workshop for Seniors held on Friday that we attended and had a good time making decoupage and friends.

We were being serenaded by a trio of jazz musicians who played very well, but we had to stop making art in order to clap. Inside the Water Tower itself, was an exhibit of work by the participating artists, some quite nice and fitting the space well. But the space was cold and I was eager to get out.

Back in the city, another special art event was taking place.  Something called Festival Holaa!  Billed as "an intimate, small-scale art festival" there were maps to help find contemporary art in unexpected places. We did a lot of walking all over Den Haag. Some we were able to locate, others we did not. Some were open, some not. Some were good, some much less.

Among the interesting was one where the door was locked, so Marie rang the bell. Eventually a bare-chested man opened up and explained that they were closed, but he opened up the show for us anyway. Our host, Denis Oudenjijk, is an architect of tiny houses during the day. But here, he explores. Basically, he has this strange long, tall space between two block walls less than three feet wide. He has offered a variety of exhibitions in this space over the years. Now the walls are lined with stick lights around two feet long, red, green, white. Part of the space is inside, some is outside

Since we had transportation passes, we took advantage. We took a bus to KIJKDUIN and found James Turrell's Celestial Vault, which he did in 1996. At thirty by forty meters, is was difficult to photograph, so I used an aerial view I found online:

Took the tram out to the Hoek of Holland, a piece of Rotterdam jutting out into the North Sea. Some vehicles were lining up for the ferry to England, but we opted for a tour around the harbor:

We took a train to DELFT, home of Johannes Vermeer.  There were no museums that appealed to us, so we opted for a walkabout. So many other things to point out, such as these couches, which we found wherever we went in The Netherlands.

Het Melkmeisie by Wim T. Schippers
Here are a few more shots from around Den Haag:

Thom Puckey, Thorbecke monument, 2017
bike shop
Toorop Park
untitled by Jan Goeting, 1972
Haagse Harry after strip by Marnix Rueb


And, finally, the finished sand sculptures:

 Love Forever by Benjamin Probanza
New Dimensions in Beauty by Joong Tan
The Road from Scheveningen by Baldrick Buckle
Dream caused by the flight of a bee by Ilya Filimonstsev
Guernica-Picasso Reviewed by Radovan Zivny
Celebrate Dutch Tolerance by Fergus Mulvany
Exploring New Dimensions by Thomas Koet
Past and Future by Max Gazendam
Bijinga...Japonisme by Katsu Chaen
Next, we flew to BORDEAUX for Le Fête du Vin. Where the previous festival we attended here heavily involved the big art museums, this year, there was no such relationship and there was either nothing we wished to see in the museums or had already seen the exhibits. But there is always more to see in Bordeaux. For starters, we found another festival called "Chahut" which was explained to us as an unbirthday party for the city. There were all kinds of "events" around the city, in addition to the winefest.


There was also the Bernard Magrez Cultural Institute. An historic Château converted to house the institute in the spring of 2011 houses the Institute's artists in residence and exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Street Artists were featured throughout the Château and on the grounds:

Tigre et papillons by Mosko, 2017
Haras by Mosko, 2017
 Art is Life by Speedy Graphio, 2013

Oh yes, the wine festival was just fine. Not as nice as the last one, but the wine was delicious.

 and there was a lot to see and hear:

The big attraction, this year, were the Tall Ships:


Here are just a few more pictures from around town:

After the tall ships departed into the mist, down the Garonne to the sea, we drove our rented car across the river to see the cave drawings of Grotte de Pair-non-Pair. Our reservation was not until 3:30, so we spent some time in Bourg and dropped into a gallery.

There were less than a dozen others on our tour, Grotte de Pair-non-Pair which is good, because the entire cave is only about 20-30 feet deep. The front part of the cave filled in eons ago. This cave was discovered in 1881when a cow's foot got lodged in a hole. It is known for remarkable prehistoric engravings - petroglyphs of horses, ibexes, bovines and mammoths). Dating to between 30,000 and 25,000 B.C.E., they "rank among the most ancient examples of art made by prehistoric" humans.

Next stop Croatia. The Island of VIR, to be more precise. Less than thirty km up the coast from the city of Zadar. While Vir was a nice place to stay and perhaps watch a World Cup game with the locals, there wasn't much to do on Vir.

Nearby was NIN, the oldest of Croatian Royal cities, founded in the ninth century B.C.E. It is a round near-island, surrounded by water with a causeway leading to the mainland. There are Roman ruins and old churches. We discovered a statue of Grgur Ninski by the great Yugoslavian sculptor Ivan Meštrović. But that was about it for Art. It was the day of the Summer Solstice, so there was a celebration at the Church of the Holy Cross (9th century C.E.)


We continued on to ZADAR. Overlooking the Adriatic Sea, it is oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. Before crossing over to the old city, we found the KvartArt Festival. We were surprised to see so few people there and the lack of activities. The Art Market was a half-dozen tables with women artists selling their wares. We were delighted, however to meet some of the ladies and bought a few pieces. Silvijana Dražovic sold us three small pieces for 200 kuna ($31). I later learned that Silvijana, besides being a well-known artist, is a language teacher, politician, tour guide, and has appeared on television as an amateur chef.)

Silvijana Dražovic

You cross over on a causeway to reach the gates to the old city:


 Or take a taxi:
The sidewalks, like Dubrovnic, are made of marble worn so smooth that kids are always trying to slide on it. There was a show of Warhol that we did not visit opting instead to walk the streets.


The biggest attraction in ancient Zadar was constructed in 2005. Architect Nikola Bašic's "Sea Organ" uses the action of the waves to trigger tubes installed under the long marble steps to play musical tones. When a boat came near causing bigger waves, the notes and volume increased.

We later purchased a cd from Alen Pračić who explained that it starts with a minute of sea organ, then he plays his guitar along with it adding some klapa voices (traditional Dalmatian singing), then finishing with church bells. A very nice recording.

There were side trips to PAG and SKRADIN, but that's about it for Art in Croatia. Here are a few shots from our stay:

Klapa singing in Vir
Buying cheese in Pag.
Ancient olive trees
Skrabin National Park

 End of Part One


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