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Rijksmuseum Acquires 20th-Century Masterpieces – White Chair by Rietveld and Reliefs by Schoonhoven

“New at the Rijksmuseum: Gerrit T. Rietveld • Jan J. Schoonhoven”, on display in the Acquisitions Hall through 4 October 2010.

The Rijksmuseum has acquired two masterpieces for its collection of 20th-century art and history: the famous chair designed by Gerrit T. Rietveld around 1918 and a relief by Jan J. Schoonhoven from 1963. Both artworks will be added to the permanent collection of the new Rijksmuseum in 2013.

White chair by Rietveld
With its red-and-blue colour scheme designed by Rietveld around 1929, this chair became not only a visual manifestation of the Dutch art movement neoplasticism (De Stijl) that Rietveld (1888-1964) was part of, but an international design icon of the 20th century. Despite its name, the ‘Red and Blue Chair’ could be ordered in various wood types and colours at the time.

This rare white edition is unique and of great cultural and historical significance. Produced in Rietveld’s own furniture-making shop before it was taken over by his assistant Gerard van de Groenekan, this is one of the few early chairs that can be dated precisely. Writer Til Brugman (1888-1958) ordered the chair in spring 1923 for her girlfriend Sienna Masthoff’s music room. She commissioned the Hungarian artist Vilmos Huszár, co-founder of De Stijl, to refurnish the music room in their home at number 20 on Ligusterstraat in The Hague. Rietveld’s chair formed part of the grey, black and white ‘space-colour composition’ Huszár designed for the room.

After Brugman sold the chair shortly before her death, its whereabouts remained unknown until it was auctioned at Christie’s in Amsterdam in 2007. The chair came into the possession of Leigh Keno American Antiques, from which the Rijksmuseum acquired it following mediation by expert Marcel Bouwer, from the recently established auction house Gavelers.

Jan J. Schoonhoven
Jan J. Schoonhoven (1914-1994) was one of the most significant artists of his generation. In the early sixties, he formed the Dutch NUL group (NUL-groep) with Armando, Henk Peeters and Jan Henderikse. Their work highlighted the beauty of everyday phenomena, objects and materials.
Schoonhoven began creating his famous white reliefs of adjoining squares and rectangles in 1960. Only a few of Schoonhoven’s unique reliefs are known. The relief that has just been acquired by the Rijksmuseum was purchased from the artist by the State of the Netherlands in 1964. From 1974 to 2003, the impressive relief hung in the Dutch embassy in Bonn, Germany. It was returned to the Netherlands when the embassy moved to Berlin.

The relief from 1963 was transferred to the Rijksmuseum for its 20th-century art collection by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (Instituut Collectie Nederland, ICN), which manages the Rijksmuseum’s mobile collection. Under the supervision of the ICN, which aims to place masterpieces from its collection in museums, the relief was beautifully restored by Lydia Beerkens.

The acquisition of the Rietveld chair was made possible in part by the BankGiro Loterij lottery.

From 20 October 2010 to 30 January 2011, the Rietveld chair will be on display as part of the ‘Rietveld’s Universe’ exhibition in Centraal Museum in Utrecht.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Postbus 74888
1070 DN Amsterdam
Phone number: +31 (0)20 6747000

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