Rather abstract – Eindhoven jan 2012

Went to the opening of van Abbe’s Spirits of Internationalism’ yesterday. It is a joint venture with M HKA in Antwerp, and covers the bipolar period of the Cold War, where us Benelux people looked up to the United States and our counterparts across the Iron Curtain were forced to do the same towards the Soviet Union. The exhibition shows mainstream art from the ‘West’  between 1956 and 1986 and under-the-soviet-radar art from the ‘ East’, and stresses the fact that art did cross the divide.

It came home to me that  under-the-soviet-radar artists were very much confined to the  intimate gesture – at home, in parks, at the beach. Had the giggles in front of ‘Activities with Dobromierz’ , a series of colour slides where baby  Dobromierz is surrounded by and put into all kinds of different home utensils by  his – doting? – parents Sofia Kulik and Przemyslaw Kwiek.

Some interesting experiments with lines done by the OHO group, who developed neo-avant-garde in Slovenia. The booklet that accompanies the exhibition states that they did  research about ‘the thing’ as distinguished from ‘the (consumer) object’. Wonder what they mean by this?

I talked with Charles Esche  for a while at the drinks party after the opening. He’s in the un-enviable position of having to secure funds for the museum from local government while having an  (inter)national orientation. Spending money on art is an ‘out’ thing to do in the political culture of the Netherlands these days. Spending money on art that the locals don’t fancy – no lines in front of the van Abbe yet – is even less popular. The van Abbe is a museum’s museum: they ask questions about the role of the museum in modern times, and do so really well. But as a result, they tend to be rather abstract. Their rabbit warren of rooms and corridors not easy to navigate, either.




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