The day before yesterday I was watching a dutch cultural program on the television. It was, like almost any program at this time of year, repeating the highs and lows of 2013. I normally don’t like these repeats actually, for most of it really is not very interesting (I really don’t care listening to a remainder of who won the soccer cup and who married or divorced who in the last 365 days). But a list on every highlight about art and culture; I actually do fancy. I got to check whether or not I was getting a hold on every interesting (dutch) happening last year.
Turned out I did, and I didn’t. I didn’t, for I totally missed the fact that Piet Oudolf, a very famous landscape designer from the Netherlands, had won the Prins Berhard Cultuurfonds Price. (a famous award for culture in the Netherlands) I too did not notice the grand feast in favor of the dutch pianist / orchestra conductor Reinbert de Leeuw’s anniversary. And the fact that Hubert-Jan Henket had renovated (no fewer than) 3 museums in the Netherlands, I really, totally missed,…
I did not miss the grand opening of the Rijksmuseum (of the Netherlands) though, like I also did not miss the anniversary of the concerthall in Amsterdam. But the most important thing I did not miss was the highlight of all expositions in the Netherlands of 2013: the exposition of Malevich paintings in het stedelijk in Amsterdam.
We went to see the exposition in October this year, six days after the opening. And we definitely weren’t the only ones with the idea to go see the work of the Russian avant-garde artist. The exposition contained more than 500 works of art, but, I need to be frank, not all of them were of Malevich. Next to the paintings of Malevich, we could admire paintings of other Russian pioneer painters of his age. To name a few: Wassily Kandinsky, Natalia Goncharova, Maria Ender and Vera Pestel. If you read this short list, you might notice it contains quite some women-names. This is representative for the exposition, and I must say it surprised me a bit, especially when I was informed about the Russian ban on the abstract art they created. But it turned out to be that this ban was introduced more than a decade after Malevich and his co-avant-gardists had painted their most abstract paintings. It was still pretty amazing to see how many of the abstract Russian paintings had survived this ban though.
One other thing I really was interested in, was to see Malevich’s painting change throughout the years. He started as an impressionist and painted symbolic paintings. These were pretty good, but I liked his cubist style better though. Especially ‘Englishman in Moscow’ has really bright colors, and over all a composition I really like. After 1915 he started to paint suprematist paintings. The black square is his most famous painting, and of course this one was present at the exposition. It was placed high in the corner of two white walls, as you can see on the picture. The most amazing part of this suprematist paintings, to me, is the avant garde part. It takes a lot of guts to do something entirely different. Something we cannot imagine right now, I guess, for it seems like everything has been painted in every imaginable way. These days it is extremely difficult to shock by creating art. Malevich did, however. And with him a lot more avant garde painters from Russia. And, I think, we owe them.