287 Volume I

The Rijksmuseum has published the first volume in a series of scholarly catalogues of its collection of Dutch paintings of the 17th century. The two books, one of text and comparative illustrations, the other of color plates, are not only a model of collection catalogues, they are also an unguarded kaleidoscopic self-portrait of Dutch society in the early years of the Republic. Schwartz is lyrical.


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284 Being where?

The exhibitions that take place in Kassel every five years (initially four) since 1955 under the name documenta have a powerful founding myth. They were initiated in response to two forms of totalitarianism: they rehabilitated German artists who had been banned by the Nazis as “degenerate” and they showed up the repressive cultural policies of Communism by flaunting daring Free World art. A powerful myth indeed, but is it true? The yeses and the nos.


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276 Non-Jewish museums

The historical museums of Europe ignore minorities and therefore lend implicit support to xenophobic national self-images. The rise of high-quality Jewish museums serves as an excuse for historical museums to eliminate the Jewish dimension of European history from their displays. A campaign to redress the balance is called for. Continue reading “276 Non-Jewish museums”

233 The cost of art theft to the thief

The Dutch courts are overly lenient in punishing thefts from public museums in the Netherlands, which are on the rise. An anecdotal comparison between thefts from the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam yields a ratio of ten to one between American versus Dutch sentencing. Because the prospect of a heavy sentence may induce a thief to help the police recover the loot, longer terms are called for. Continue reading “233 The cost of art theft to the thief”

227 Senseless sensibility

Two exhibitions of Dutch genre paintings take competing approaches to the interpretation of these irresistible depictions of everyday life. One show, in Haarlem and Hamburg, interprets them as moral warnings to the viewer; another, in Rotterdam and Frankfurt, sees them as nothing more than fun subjects. Schwartz introduces into the discussion the ideas of the literary historian René van Stipriaan, whose theories about farces for the stage open new possibilities for interpreting paintings as well.

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216 The Olympics of 1777

Fleeing the offensive hypocrisy of the Olympics, Schwartz and Loekie travel to Wörlitz in Saxony-Anhalt, to the miraculous 18th-century Garden Kingdom of Prince Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817). There they discover that Wörlitz is touted as the place where the Olympic Games were first revived, in the 1770s. They keep their cool, and are rewarded, when they find the mysterious site, with an unforgettable experience.


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215 A Yugoslav Goudstikker in The Hague

The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague is showing a first-rate selection of modern French and Serbian art from the National Museum in Belgrade. Schwartz notes that more two-thirds of the displays come from the collection of the Jewish art dealer Erich Chlomovitch, who was killed by the Nazis. His heirs have never been recompensed for the 429 valuable items that have been in the museum for over 50 years. Schwartz is reminded of the case of the Dutch Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. Continue reading “215 A Yugoslav Goudstikker in The Hague”

214 Five cities and five pillars

At an exhibition in Amsterdam titled Urban Islam, the life styles and attitudes toward religion of young Muslims from around the world are presented with short films and attributes from daily life. Their real choices have less to do with faith than with how to dress. They seem more secular than young Americans. Can this be right? Continue reading “214 Five cities and five pillars”

212 The international identity of the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum is consulting an array of outsiders in formulating its program for the New Rijksmuseum, which is to open in 2008. As a participant in the round-table discussion on “The Rijksmuseum and Dutch national identity,” Schwartz advised the museum to focus instead on Dutch international identity. He attached to it a very concrete proposal for the presentation of Dutch and foreign art in the rebuilt museum art and an interpretation of the philosophy behind the Old Rijksmuseum. Continue reading “212 The international identity of the Netherlands”