From the museum website, 22 September 2008
From 13 September to 30 November, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam will organize the jubilee exhibition entitled 60 years of CoBrA. The colour of freedom. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the CoBrA movement (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam) by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret, and Asger Jorn in Paris on 8 November 1948. With this, the Experimentele Groep in Holland entered into a co-operative venture with the Danish ‘experimentals’ and the Belgian ‘surrealistic-revolutionary’ groups.
In the framework of this Jubilee, the Museum will present the renowned Schiedam CoBrA collection, which has travelled around Spain for several months along with important loans from private collections. Accordingly, the emphasis is placed upon an aspect of CoBrA that has remained rather underexposed until the present: the contribution that passionate collectors have made to the appreciation of the most significant avant-garde movement in visual art since 1945.
The Schiedam CoBrA collection
The jubilee exhibition entitled 60 years of CoBrA. The colour of freedom focuses on the relationship between collecting in a private or in a museological context. The Schiedam CoBrA collection was largely accumulated in the fifties, when very few museums were engaged in collecting contemporary art. As such, the Schiedam collection, along with that of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, is the earliest authentic CoBrA collection. In the firm conviction that it was amassing a collection that was representative of contemporary art, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam bought work by the ‘experimentals’ from its regular acquisition budget. The focal point of this exhibition is the group of works acquired by curator Daan Schwagermann between 1954 and 1956, in combination with the acquisition history of the various works.
Acquisition of the CoBrA collection
The Schiedam CoBrA collection is closely linked to the phenomenon of private collecting. Down through the years, a large number of works have been obtained from or via private collectors who were linked to the Museum, particularly the printer Goos Verweij (as a member of the board of the Association of Friends of the Museum) and the lawyer Piet Sanders (member of the Museum Committee). They purchased work for their own collections from various experimental artists with whom they maintained a friendly relationship, and also formed the contacts between the Museum and the artists in question, which led to exhibitions and acquisitions.
The Schiedam collector Steef de Vries also greatly contributed to the appreciation of CoBrA and concentrated specifically on work of particularly high quality. Works from his former collection still appear regularly at auctions, attracting great attention due to their general excellence.
In the exhibition, the Museum’s own collection is flanked by a large number of works that have come exclusively from private collections: collections that were compiled as far back as the fifties, such as those of De Vries or industrial designer Benno Premsela, but also collections that were initiated at a much later date. All these works and all these collections have their own history. Jointly they tell the story of how ‘the last avant-garde of Europe’ was initially only appreciated in a small circle, but eventually found such a broad audience that it indeed became the true and vital ‘folk art’ it intended to be.
In doing so, the exhibition 60 years of CoBrA. The colour of freedom visualizes what is normally concealed from view: not only the route an artwork follows before it arrives in a museum collection, but also the fact that artworks are cherished for countless personal reasons and deservedly have pride of place in the private domain.
A new edition of CoBrA. De kleur van vrijheid – a richly illustrated catalogue – is available from the Museum shop. It devotes much attention to the history of the CoBrA collection.
Press release by three museums holding CoBrA exhibitions in 2008, 10 September 2008
60 years of CoBrA celebrated in three museums
This autumn, three museums will devote attention to the memorable fact that the CoBrA movement was founded exactly sixty years ago. In Café Notre Dame in Paris, Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret and Asger Jorn sealed the formation of the new international art movement (CoBrA: Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam) in 1948. In doing so, the Experimentele Groep in Holland entered into a co-operative association with the Danish ‘experimentalists’ and the Belgian ‘surrealist-revolutionary’ groups.
The Koninklijk Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België (The Royal Museums for the Fine Arts in Belgium), the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, and the Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst Amstelveen have now organized prominent CoBrA exhibitions, each with its own angle of approach.
The Stedelijk Museum Schiedam is the first of these museums to present an exhibition. In this case, it is the jubilee exhibition entitled 60 jaar CoBrA: de kleur van vrijheid (60 years of CoBrA. The colour of freedom), which deals with the relationship between private collections and collectors on the one hand, and museum collections and collectors on the other. The museum presents the Schiedam CoBrA collection, along with important loans from private collections. Here, the emphasis lies on works from the fifties by the Dutch participants in the CoBrA movement. (13.09 – 30.11 2008)
The exhibition entitled Knoeiers, Kladders, Verlakkers: Cobra 60 (Scribblers, Daubers, Cheaters. CoBrA 60) in the Cobra Museum for Modern Art in Amstelveen does not restrict itself to the period 1948-1951; the attitude and spirit of the times that led to the foundation and continuation of CoBrA run as a leitmotif through the exhibition. The international participation, the co-operative efforts and the mutual influences between the artists is the focus of attention in this exhibition. (18.10 2008 – 25.01 2009).
The Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten België) will present around 150 works in the exhibition entitled COBRA: bij de 60e verjaardag van de oprichting van CoBrA (COBRA: at the 60th anniversary of the founding of CoBrA). The exhibition will concentrate primarily on the story behind the CoBrA movement, and will place this key episode in its historical and cultural context. (07.11 2008 – 25.02 2009).
As mentioned, the jubilee exhibition 60 jaar CoBrA: de kleur van vrijheid covers the relationship between private collecting and museum collecting. In the fifties, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam purchased work by the ‘experimentalists’ in the sincere conviction that it was thus compiling a collection that was ‘representative of present-day art’, as curator Daan Schwagermann formulated it at the time. The Schiedam CoBrA collection, now comprising more than 250 works, is closely connected with the phenomenon of private collecting. The museum’s own collection is flanked by a large number of works from private collections compiled in the fifties, and also from collections initiated much later. All these works and all these collections have their own histories, which jointly constitute the story of how ‘the last avant-garde in Europe’ was originally only appreciated in very small circles, but eventually received such a sympathetic response that it has genuinely become the ‘art of the people’ that it aimed to be.
The Knoeiers, kladders, verlakkers: CoBrA 60 exhibition contains 70 masterpieces from the forties and fifties, and revives above all the rebellious spirit of the CoBrA movement. The attitude and spirit of the times, which led to the foundation and continuation of CoBrA (even after its dissolution in 1951) run as a leitmotif through the exhibition. The works of display have come from private and museum collections both at home and abroad. The exhibition also includes a selection from the CoBrA collection of the Cobra Museum, particularly from Danish artists who have not been shown previously in the Netherlands. In addition, special attention is paid to the participation of poets in the CoBrA movement, in a present-day variant of the legendary ‘poetry cage’ of 1949. Fascinating documents, newspaper articles and historical photos complete the picture of the CoBrA artists; their unique international combination of creative vigour.
COBRA: bij de 60e verjaardag van de oprichting van CoBrA sketches a historical overview of the CoBrA movement in the period 1948-1951. It depicts the movement in broad contours that outline the situation in which art found itself just after the war, as well as the debates in which a genuine European consciousness began to develop. The exhibition offers an eclectic view of the period in question. CoBrA is regarded as the tail of a surrealistic comet, as a northern manifestation of tachismic or informal art, or as a European form of the abstract Expressionism that began to flourish in the USA at that time. In the years following the Liberation and during the Cold War, CoBrA was eager to explore new paths – nowadays we would refer to these as ‘anarchistic’ and ‘alternative’ routes. In doing do, several members of CoBrA paved the way for Situationism and