Blog : Art

To See: Summer Dreams at Het Nieuwe Instituut

F.A. Warner House by the Sea

Summer Dreams is a trip to the whimsical Dutch summers of the last century. Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam presents paintings, drawings, photographs and other art works from their archive, depicting how the Dutch spends their leisure time in the last century:

From designs for swimming pools, summerhouses and luxury holiday resorts, to travel sketches and drawings of all that grows and blossoms. The exhibition features the Sporthuis Centrum summerhouses by Jaap Bakema, the beach house by F.A. Warners, and a garden design by Romke de Vries, but also a lazy beach scene by Koen Limperg, the frivolous bathing caps by Henry Wijdeveld, and a drawing of the faint light of a summer evening by Michel de Klerk.


‘Summer Dreams’ is the first in series of changing presentations of objects and documents from the archive and library, curated by archivist Alfred Marks. Based on various themes, he selects drawings, photographs, objects and models from the collection in an associative manner, with special attention to more autonomous drawings and the personal documents of architects and urban planners.


From 08/07 until 21/09
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25, Rotterdam


“Meadows near Greifswald” Caspar David Friedrich, 1822

May all your wishes come true in the Year of the Horse!

The sublime

“In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublīmis) is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.”

Arts Holland: Chris Berens’ Amsterdam

December 5th by Chris Berens is probably my favourite Sinterklaas painting of all time. Read my interview with Amsterdam’s most magical painter at the Arts Holland blog, with photos of his works:

You can also scroll down and read the interview here (without photos):


Chris Berens is one of Holland’s most talented contemporary painters. Inspired by Old Masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt, Berens creates surrealistic dream worlds filled with mysterious characters. All of his works are painstakingly hand-painted with drawing inks and perfected with a rigorous technique which results in a unique distortion effect. His latest exhibition “Amsterdam” is a spectacular hommage to his city. The moment I first laid eyes on his works, I was smitten and I knew that I had a new favourite painter. I got in touch with this very talented artist, and asked him about his inner world and inspirations, and their impact on his highly-acclaimed, soul-stirring works.

Your work is so whimsical and other-worldly. The Amsterdam series is filled with fantastical characters: blown-up animals, Sinterklaas and spinsters in a post-apocalyptic setting. The paintings seem like scenes from a saga or a mythology. Is there a bigger story to the paintings? Are they characters and scenes that make up a story? Or are the paintings simply seen as individual works on their own?

Well, that’s just how you would look at them I suppose. I wouldn’t say there’s no story to them, but the thing is that the paintings ARE the stories. They are not illustrations to a piece of text nor do they come with a manual as to how to read them. A story is a series of events, connected and gathered and put in order for them to make sense and have a plot.

Perhaps you should see a painting (or my painting at least) as a walk through the forest of Little red riding Hood, or Hänsel and Gretel, without the story ever being told. So there’s a girl in a red poncho, on the far end there’s a wolf, and there’s a house with an old lady in a bed, there’s distant singing and the flutter of birds. You could put some pieces together and make up Little Red Riding Hood, you could also see different things, focus on other elements and make a whole different story. Same scene, same forest, but different spectator, different perspective, different story. So I’m not the one telling the story, I’m the guy who made the forest, dimmed the lights and threw in a little girl and a bad-ass wolf.

Do you live in Amsterdam? What is the motivation behind making a series about the city?

Yes. Whenever I have a show abroad, the city the show is held is my theme. or rather, my decor, my setting. And Amsterdam brought me so much, my fiancé is from Amsterdam, my daughter was born there, my ‘mother gallery’, as we decided to call it, is there, and my career started there and it just felt time for an homage. The city is so very beautiful, and this is what it looks like in my head. Plus, when I make a whole show, it gives me time and space to expand its original thought, to give it more depth. So the longer a setting or place on my mind and the more I feed it by rendering it all into paintings, the deeper and more evolved that place gets.

What inspires you? (It could be in general and/or in your work as an artist)

The shadow of a tree, a child laughing.. No, kidding. What inspires me to paint, is the world inside my head that keeps getting bigger and more crowded. It’s the opposite of ‘The Nothing’ from Michael Ende’s the Never Ending Story. Things I see and hear and do and feel or have ever seen, felt, heard or experienced in another way, is inside me, and is transformed is one way or another and from that moment on it’s part of my inner world. Not transformed exactly, it’s more like adapted. All evolves so it can survive inside me. Changes are needed for that. Sometimes things transform into something completely different, sometimes multiple things merge into one, sometimes things are trimmed, and sometimes the things I come across are just so perfectly beautiful, they come out just as they came in. So from that perspective, I am the Nothing from Michael Ende’s the Never Ending Story.

But of course not everything I see or hear nests or sticks. If I would have to put a tag on the things that do stick, I guess that would be all the things that could be from my world. So that could be a film, a painting, a book or a piece of music, the imagination of my 2 year old that is triggered by the things she sees instead of held restrained by them, or the way the autumn sun is grazing the yellowing leaves outside my studio right now.

So to sum up, the shadow of a tree, a child laughing…

In your bio, you said that you taught yourself the techniques of the Old Masters. Who are your favourite painters or artists?

In the range of Old Masters, I would have to say Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ruysdael, Pieter Brueghel, Jheronimus Bosch…..

Quoting from a previous interview of you, you said: “I try and find and stay true to my own language in imagery, as in my opinion it all comes from gesture -being the aesthetic of the brushstrokes and their emotional impact- your imagination and trying to stay true to yourself. When images come from deep within, regardless the source of inspiration, they’re sincere and genuine.”

In your artworks and in interviews, you place an emphasis on dreams and imagery and the importance of staying true to the inner self. However, it can sometimes be very difficult for artists and creative people to reconcile their dreams / inner worlds to their work.. It can be that they don’t have the right technique or they do not have the right skill. What advice would you give to them?

Right, it might seem like I say that when you’re being true to yourself the rest will follow. Obviously you’ll have to be able to make a fantasy, an idea, dream or wish into something else. In my case, what I did, was look for artists that come as close to what I want to visualize as possible, and start to X-ray, dissect and analyse what they did. I chose painting as my outlet, as making film would be my other option, but, as I started being freshly graduated and very poor, I had no resources and no one I could work with, as I had to be all by myself and live an almost secluded life to nourish and incubate the germs that were my true, own ideas. Working with someone would have killed all those thoughts. It’s not said that I would have no imagination or creativity left in me if I would have worked with someone, they just wouldn’t have been as original as they are now. I would however like to make the step to film someday. I just have to figure out a way to poor my thoughts into such a complex medium.

So anyway, I locked myself up, tried to put my own imagination to a rest for a while, and just started imitating and studying other artists, sometimes literally painting over prints. Later I would try to paint Vermeer’s paintings from behind, or paint the same scene at night, and so gradually letting my own mind flow  freely. At first wrapped around someone else’s creations and slowly but surely letting them go and try and stand on my own two feet.

As an artist, do you have any tips for first-time visitors to Amsterdam? Are there any special places for you or secret nooks with giant rabbits or sinister spinsters you would like to share with them?

Oh, well there’s a lot of great museums. Stedelijk Museum just re-opened after 9 years of rebuilding. It’s just wonderful. The first room you’ll enter after you’re in is just too much. It’s as big as my living room, but there’s 2 Breitners that just make me want to sit down and cry and opposite is a van Gogh that might be the best one he did and right next to it there’s a Toorop (Jan) that I would love to return to in my dreams and just when you leave the room you get kicked in the stomach by a Courbet that haunts me ever since I saw it and it just leave you gasping for air as you float down the rest of the museum.

Hermitage is very cool. Actually the Van Gogh Museum just closed for renovations, and has for now moved in with the Hermitage.

I always love the Westerkerk my favorite church in the shadow of which my daughter Emma was born. Near that church there’s a small cafe, called Café Chris, it’s been a cafe since 1624 and the builders that built the Westerkerk were paid their wages there. That used to be my hangout when we first moved to Amsterdam. Since we moved about a year ago, it’s Toussaint, a great café just around our corner.

And go see a film in Tuschinski, great building. If you like film, EYE is a film museum just over the water (IJ) north of Central Station, they always show great films and usually have nice exhibitions. I think the Kubrick exhibit is still showing, go see that if it is.

You can see Chris Beren’s works at the Jaski Gallery in Amsterdam.  Currently, a documentary is being made about his work, “Chris Berens. Master of his magical universe.”

Upcoming shows:

  • PanAmsterdam, November 18-25, 2012
  • TEFAF Maastricht, March 2013
  • Solo show in Tokyo, October 2013


Arts Holland Magazine Presentation

Arts Holland, a first introduction
from Arts Holland on Vimeo.

I’m currently working with Arts Holland as an editor since May and I’m loving every second of it! We promote Holland internationally as an attractive cultural destination. We have a website, an open data platform and the very first edition of the magazine which was launched yesterday at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam in cooperation with SICA. With a dazzling view of the Ij river, we celebrated with the presence of the press, contributors, our colleagues and our partners.

It’s great meeting the other people who are also part of project: Arts Holland is a collaboration of the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC), the Waag Society and the Nederlands Uitburo (yours truly and my awesome colleagues Kim and Anna who are the center of the editorial and creative team). Ambassadors and diplomats from Dutch embassies all over the world and partners from KLM, Total Active Media and the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht were also there. It’s very heartwarming to see the reactions of the people upon getting their hands on a copy – all smiles and cheerful gushes! I hope people would love and be inspired by our magazine – we definitely enjoyed working on it and put a lot of love in it.

Weren’t there for the launch? You can still read the magazine online:

“Best in Show: Between Space and Structure” highlights the best and the brightest Dutch fashion designers today. I wrote an online piece for the website which talks about selected designers featured in the magazine, and the history of contemporary Dutch fashion:


Best in Show

Holland is home to avant-garde, innovative and inspiring fashion. Art academies in the country are highly regarded in the global fashion industry, with talented graduates such as Viktor & Rolf who believe that “couture should be a field for experimentation.” With absolute dedication and a clear vision, Dutch designers are in the forefront of avant-garde contemporary fashion.

What characterizes Dutch fashion? Radboud University researchers conducted an ambitious study aiming to understand and reinforce the cultural innovation of Dutch fashion in an international context. Dutch Fashion Identity in a Globalised World is based on the assumption that Dutch fashion is capitalized on a unique cultural mix of individualism, innovation and post-modern design. Dutch Modernism in fashion came to its peak in the 90’s, when a group of six recently-graduated Dutch designers calling themselves Le Cri Néerlandais presented their works at the Institute Néerlandais in 1994. These promising designers were Saskia van Drimmelen, Pascale Gatzen, Marcel Verheijen, Lucas Ossendrijver, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren (Viktor & Rolf). The international press showed positive feedback for the group. I-D magazine even hailed them as the successors of the Antwerp Six, and the ones to determine the future of fashion.

The promise of Le Cri Néerlandais are fulfilled today in the works of young Dutch fashion designers. Art academies in Holland train their students in fashion design to focus on individual expression and conceptual thinking. This method brings an emphasis on the freedom to experiment, but at the same time it also encourages a positive attitude towards functionality and rationality. Therefore, resulting pieces are conceptual and introspective, artistic and practical, experimental and wearable. These values translate well in the collections of young, contemporary designers from Holland.

Take a look at some of the best and brightest fashion designers of today’s Dutch fashion scene. These selected designers are featured in the Arts Holland magazine article ‘Best in Show‘. In addition, we have provided addresses of where you can shop and take home these wearable pieces of art.

Mattijs van Bergen
Mattijs van Bergen was educated at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. His most recent collection showed feminine models dressed in hues of black & gold, blue and orange. The pieces incorporated distinct lines with soft flowing skirts: a cross between science fiction and glamour. Structured, surprisingly wearable, and never over the top experimental, Mattijs’ pieces are subtle works of art.

Matthijs van Bergen Matthijs van Bergen Matthijs van Bergen
For point of sale, please visit the website.

Iris van Herpen
One of the most striking designers of this moment, Iris van Herpen, stands for a reciprocity between craftsmanship and 
innovation in technique and materials, inspired on the world to come. Iris van Herpen creates a new direction of couture that combines fine handwork techniques with futuristic digital technology.

 Iris van HerpenIris van HerpenIris van Herpen

  • Margreeth Olsthoorn – Witte de Withstraat 5a, 3012 DK Rotterdam
  • United Nude Flagship Store – Spuistraat 125A, 1012 SM Amsterdam
  • SPRMRKT – Rozengracht 191-193, 1016 LZ Amsterdam

Jan Taminiau
Far, far away from the dogmatic strictures of fashion, Jan Taminiau searches for new forms and new horizons. In the quest for the perfect fit new shapes and unconventional techniques are being pursued. The meticulously constructed creations enable the wearer to experiment endlessly with form.

Jan TaminiauJan TaminiauJan Taminiau

  • Atelier Jan Taminiau – Rijksstraatweg 117D, 1396 JJ Baambrugge

Hyun Yeu
Hyun Yeu’s label ‘Ado Les Scents‘ sets the standard for menswear. The label vision manifests itself in elegant, high-quality menswear with innovative shapes and fabrics. ‘Ado Les Scents’ aims for a young-minded crowd. These men are not afraid to stand out and show their vulnerable side.

Hyun Yeu
For point of sales, please visit the website.

Spijkers & Spijkers
Spijkers & Spijkers
are twin sisters Truus and Riet Spijkers, graduates of ArtEZ Institute of the Arts who have started their own label in 2000. Since then, they have built a distinctive and instantly recognizable style which rewrites the stereotypical ideas of femininity. The duo is inspired by 1920’s modernism, artistically mixing soft materials with hard and sharp lines. The result: bold and functional designs with a wisp of dreaminess, emphasizing the female body in a strong and independent way.

Spijkers & Spijkers

  • Van Ravenstein – Keizersgracht 359, 1016 EJ Amsterdam
  • Margreeth Olsthoorn – Witte de Withstraat 5a, 3012 DK Rotterdam
  • Buise/ Can’t Do Without – Cornelis Schuytstrat 12, 1071 JH Amsterdam
  • Margriet Nannings – Prinsenstraat 8 1015 DC Amsterdam


Mondriaan Dream Sequence

Dream Sequence 1.
Helene and Anton Müller, wild at heart. Someday, we will be patrons of the arts. A very nice architect friend of ours will build our own art nouveau hunting lodge, decorated with paintings of the Munch and van der Lecks of our time (who will also be our friends).

Dream Sequence 2.
Face to face to face with Mondriaan, van der Leck and the new flowers of Van Gogh.

Dream Sequence 3.
Getting lost in the sculpture garden, in pursuit of the elusive coffee tent in the middle of the woods.

Dream Sequence 4.
Biking in the Veluwe and feeling a great big rush of freedom. Everlasting fields, as far as the eye can see. Rugged trees and mighty skies. Remembering Anne Frank’s words written on her bedroom wall: “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle and look at the world, feel young and know that I am free.”

Read more about the dreamy landscape of the Veluwe, the history of the Kröller-Müllers and Arnhem as a creative city (my favorite cafe TAPE was even mentioned!) in “Wild at Heart“, an article from KLM’s inflight magazine Holland Herald.

A “New” Van Gogh

Breaking news in the Netherlands and the art world: there’s a new Van Gogh! I was so happy when I saw the news at De Wereld Draait Door tonight.

Still life with meadow flowers and roses, Van Gogh. Kröller-Müller Museum.


Welcome to the “real” world “Het Bloemstilleven met akkerbloemen en rozen”!

The painting’s authenticity has been in doubt ever since the museum acquired it in 1974. But now, a team of researchers from the TU Delft, the University of Antwerp, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) Hamburg, the Van Gogh Museum and the Kröller-Müller Museum has succeeded in confirming that it is truly a painting by Van Gogh. The leading clue was the underlying painting they discovered through x-ray. Beneath the flowers, they discovered a painting of two wrestling men, and they connected it with a 1886 letter of Van Gogh to his brother Theo. Awesome!

How apt that I’ve been reading Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo for the past few months. I have always admired the brothers’ very close relationship and how they have always been there for each other. The correspondence of the brothers, along with other letters of Van Gogh can all be accessed online, thanks to the Van Gogh Museum and Huygen’s ING. You can even see the original scans and translations in English! I can spend hours just reading his letters!

And how cosmic that the “new” painting is so close to where I live now. I’ve been planning to visit the Veluwe park and forests, where the Kröller-Müller museum is actually located.Now is the perfect time. The time for new flowers!

“Still life with meadow flowers and roses” can be viewed from tomorrow at 12.30pm at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.