THE HAGUE.- If there is one thing that the 1960s is known for, it is the breaking of boundaries. As unprecedented economic growth in the west brought prosperity to the masses, the dreams of the 1950s could finally become a reality. But this sense of optimism was overshadowed by the threat of the Cold War. People began to realise that there was also a downside to things like industrial growth and the impact of the media. Artists sought to develop a new art that reflected the rapidly changing times. An art that would continually seek, push and break boundaries.
It was an age in which the world was rapidly becoming a smaller place. The unprecedented growth in western economies allowed the dreams of the 1950s to become a reality, bringing prosperity to the masses. At the same time, the downside of progress was becoming apparent, and the gap between rich and poor was growing around the world. Artists sought to develop a new art that reflected these rapidly changing times. An art that continually sought, pushed and broke boundaries. Sometimes literally, sometimes in the imagination. Featuring over a hundred artworks, Breaking Boundaries Art of the 1960s explores this quest for a new art. It includes work by Yayoi Kusama and the artists of the Gutai Group, Jan Schoonhoven, Armando, stanley brouwn, Constant, Jo Baer, Lee Lozano and Niki de Saint Phalle, as well as Francis Bacon, Paul Thek, Stano Filko and Dieter Roth.
From the late 1950s artists started to experiment with a range of materials and new art forms. They began to work in series, and abandoned the artists individual signature style. In his visionary models, Constant pondered a new, imaginary way of organising the society of the future. Artists like Jan Schoonhoven participated in controversial happenings, a phenomenon of the art world that spilled over into protest movements like Provo. On many fronts, the boundaries between art and society were abolished. While one artist collected footprints from passers-by on the street (stanley brouwn), another invited the audience to become an active part of the making process (Nike de Saint Phalle). Materials like electric motors, metal, car paint and plastic increasingly replaced the traditional media of the visual arts.
In the 1960s Kunstmuseum Den Haag organised several influential exhibitions, including zero-0-nul (1964), New Realists (1964) and Minimal Art (1968). Over the years the museum has also built a rich collection of art from this period. In the past decade, it has added to this unique collection work by international artists like Lee Bontecou, Lee Lozano, Paul Thek, Fred Sandback, Stano Filko, Yayoi Kusama and the Japanese artists group Gutai.
Acquisition of 13 works by the Gutai Group
In 2015 Kunstmuseum Den Haag acquired a group of 13 works by Japanese artists group Gutai and two works by Kusama. Following an extensive conservation project, the Gutai works are now on show at the museum for the first time. Gutai is regarded as the Japanese counterpart of the international ZERO movement, which became known as NUL in the Netherlands. The Gutai Group existed from 1954 to 1972. Its heyday was in the 1960s, however, when the Japanese artists showed their work in Europe and America. The artworks on display in the exhibition are all from a private collection that originated from Orez Gallery in The Hague. This is unique, as there is virtually no work by Gutai in the Dutch national collection, even though the group exhibited in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam in the 1960s.
Jan Schoonhoven research and conservation
Kunstmuseum Den Haag has a large Jan Schoonhoven collection, featuring 120 works, including nine reliefs. It has gradually built up this collection since 1949, and the result is a balanced survey of the artists oeuvre. From 2021 to 2023 extensive research was performed, in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency, on the material and technical aspects of Schoonhovens reliefs. The accompanying conservation project is now complete, and the results can be seen in the exhibition.