In February, Meta Knol, the director of Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden, wrote an opinion piece in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad titled ‘Stop our blockbuster addiction’ (English translation here). Having just mounted a successful show devoted to the early work of Rembrandt, she nevertheless lamented the fact that museums ‘bid against each other with large, money-guzzling blockbusters that require more and more visitors every time, and where success is only measured in revenue and visitor numbers’, adding that it was time to re-evaluate what should be considered to be the core task of her museum. It was an audacious move for a museum director, and one that struck a chord. She could not have known that the arrival of a pandemic would soon give a whole new dimension to her piece.
It is perhaps telling that it took such a pandemic for museums worldwide to return their focus so emphatically to the permanent collections in their care; we are now reminded on a daily basis how important those collections are, and that, when we return to some kind of normality, their permanent presence will be there to delight and console us all. But only a few months earlier it would have been considered hardly worth mentioning, the focus being on headline-grabbing temporary exhibitions that create footfall and much-needed revenue.
CODART asked three curators to expand on such observations in light of the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. – Bart Cornelis, editor of CODARTfeatures
Every month this new section of our website will offer one new in-depth article about Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide. It is the successor of the CODART eZine, which launched in 2012 and appeared bi-annually. The format of CODARTfeatures enables a higher frequency of publication and more flexibility in choice of subject matter.
In terms of subject matter the features will continue the course of the eZine and provide information on new curatorial developments, current projects, collections of Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide, as well as insight into the work of the museum curator. To go to the features, click here.