Museum VoorLinden in a weird year

In the summer 2020, we took some time off to go visit spaces that resonated our inner landscape. It was a beautiful time for innovation, but mostly there was devastation followed by a constant creeping feeling of calamity. When my friend Marrije suggested that a visit to the Museum Voorlinden is a must. I took her up on her suggestion.

The added cherry on this cake was that Piet Oudolf has designed the landscape around the museum. I am sentimental about Oudolf’s work, his use of grass and wild plants have a sense of desolation, an informed resignation to nature. The exact opposite of what the luxurious colors and opulence of Keukenhof offers. Oudolf is sparse, coarse, structural in his unstructured nonchalance. Still, he manages an evocative flow and richness in his muted hues. The draping of leaves and an attention to the little things make his work Dutch wabi sabi.

The museum has an eclectic collection of artworks. There is a little elevator cabin that comes up to your ankles by Maurizio Cattelan, a skillful play with scale that continues with Sam Samore‘s Tower of Lips, in which different shaped lips “stare” down at the tiny you. I enjoyed the visceral scale of Richard Serra‘s Open Ended. This enormous corten steel sculpture is full of contrasts. On one hand it is heavy and industrial, on the other hand, it is playful and hollow. It dwarves and engulfs you as you get lost in its bends.

The hyperrealism of Ron Mueck‘s Australia Couple under an Umbrella was overwhelming. They are these two massive giants, terribly mundane, if not for their gigantic size, and features so real that it makes the viewer gasp. Another spellbinding piece was the immersive Argentina Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich. While Serra’s sculpture swallowed up the body in metal, Erlich’s pool baptizes the viewer in water.

In the pictures that I have included with this post, you will see some lovely artworks that this gem of a museum offers. The pointy yellow peak sticking its nosiness out of the wall is Anish Kapoor‘s 1000 names. The boat filled with pots is by Subodh Gupta, Jal Mein Kumbh, Kumbh Mein Jai Hai (Water is in the pot, and the pot is in the water). Another vessel reference is the wall of cooking utensils – Maha Malluh‘s Food for Thought or Al-Mu’allaqat.

“I don’t see the point in creating new objects while we have a lot of waste around us.” Saudi Arabian artist Maha Malluh (@mahamalluh) collected 95 used aluminium cooking pots for this version of her work “Food for Thought – Al-Mu’allaqāt” (2014). The pots were used by Bedouins; their lightweight material made them easier to travel with. The largest one could hold the meat of three camels. The pots harbor poetry and life stories. Stories once told while enjoying the food prepared in them.

In paintings, there is Rene Magritte‘s La Malediction, fluffy cotton clouds on a pure blue crystal sky. The painting stands out with its perplexing simplicity in the midst of all the aberrant depictions.

There were so many artworks I could ooh and aah over Shilpa Gupta‘s For, In Your Tongue, I Can Not Fit and Abraham Poinceval‘s Ours that were breathtaking, chilling, and beautiful.

The museum is currently closed till Jan 19 due to the lockdown. However, once life trickles back to a social distanced and masked routine, I would recommend this extraordinary museum. It might helps you make sense of this new normal.

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