Highlights and twilights: popular and neglected areas of Dutch and Flemish art in museums
Although Dutch and Flemish art are among the most studied branches of art history, there are still several areas within the field that receive relatively little attention. Artists from the late 17th and 18th centuries, for example, are frequently overlooked. Moreover, museums seem increasingly intent on exhibiting the highlights of their collections, rather than taking a more encyclopedic approach. Presentations of Dutch art in many museums focus on the most renowned artists of the Golden Age, and with respect to Flemish art on the Flemish primitives, and Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens. Consequently, minor masters and art from lesser-known periods are gradually disappearing from sight. This appears to be an international phenomenon, which raises interesting questions such as: What is the interaction between museum policy and the formation of the art-historical canon? What is the role of the public in determining the choice of subjects? Are curators responsible for creating a one-sided image of Dutch and Flemish art by focusing too much on the highlights? Should they not give more exposure to lesser-known areas in order to heighten public awareness of them?
These important questions warrant devoting the CODART VEERTIEN congress to the issue of how to deal with the underexposed and under-appreciated areas in the history of Dutch and Flemish art.