Thursday, October 2, 2014

Visiting the Kroller-Muller Museum at the Hoge Veluwe National Park

written by Rob Turner - Tour Manager

Although the first gig of the tour was at a place called De Bunker in Gemert, we decided to divert our journey 40 kilometers or so to the Hoge Veluwe National Park.  The park is home to a place called the Kroller-Muller museum (if I knew how to do umlauts, there would be a couple in there).  Amsterdam may have the Van Gogh museum, but this museum also houses close to 90 Van Goghs itself.  It also does not attract nearly as many tourists as the Amsterdam museum.  So, we saw it as an opportunity to get Gogh’y without having to fight crowds.  We were right.

We pulled up to the park and were immediately impressed that we were asked to park our car, grab one of the plethora of bikes available at the park entrance and pedal the 2 or 3 kilometers to the museum.  Never in my life did I think I would be biking to see a ton of Van Goghs.  In the interest of clarity, I’m not in any way trying to pass myself off as Johnny-post-impressionist-expert - but come ON, we are talking the Big VG here.  Even a casual art fan can get excited about seeing a bunch of his work in the same place.  I am pretty sure that I had previously only seen his work many years ago at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

We wound our way around a few bike paths until we got to another sea of parked bicycles, where we left ours (you don’t have to lock up bikes anywhere in this country, SO very refreshing) and high-stepped it to the museum entrance, passing a variety of creative sculptures along the way (one triangulated piece stretched for about 40 feet across and deep into the ground).   We were quick to learn that the museum also housed works by many other great artists, most notably Picasso, Seurat and Monet.  This museum may have seemed humble on the surface, but inside it was most impressive.  There were a few loud tours that we were forced to avoid, and it seemed as though a couple of exhibits were closed and not all of the Van Goghs were on display (a couple of older French women seemed to be giving the security an extremely hard time about this) but we still very much enjoyed strolling through and checking out the paintings and other forms of art.  Many of the Picasso and VG paintings REALLY rendered me in awe.  I also was able to discover other artists like Fantin-Lotour and Balla.  I’m not gonna lie.  I most certainly did NOT “get” a lot of the not-painted art.  One item seemed to be a piece of Tupperware on a chair.  Super.  Others were just large pieces of Styrofoam’ish material in odd shapes.  One just seemed to be a stuff-mashup.  I guess that like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.  

Note to self: when I get back to Georgia I need to grab a bunch of crap out of my storage area, throw it in a hamper, toss it on the ground and create my own, “art.”

It most certainly was a learning experience.  I knew Picasso was huge, but I didn’t know that he pretty much dominated the art world for 70-80 years and worked in a variety of art forms…..was even considered a patriarch a many different art movements.  Van Gogh was a bit of a twisted soul, and in his lifetime was even seen as a failure.  His greatness wasn’t discovered by most until well after he died.  I can relate.  His brother funded him for most of his life.  All of Van Gogh’s works were created in his last ten years on the planet.  This is stunning when you consider that he is responsible for hundreds of paintings.  He never sold a piece for a significant amount of money until the last year of his life.  And when one of the write-ups referred to the, "ear incident," it elicited a bit of a chuckle from me.

There were quite a few paintings with which I was familiar, and I would like to say that it is because I am cultured…..but the reality is that this is probably due to the fact that I used to play an art business-themed game called “Masterpiece” with my sister Cindy when I was young.

As we discussed our day over lunch (I had a brie sandwich on brown bread with local honey – was very tasty) I realized that I wasn’t a big fan of symmetrical art.  Perhaps this is because of the fact that my own life hasn’t had much symmetry.  I also am not very fond of art featuring characters with unclear facial features.  Maybe this is because of trust issues due to past experiences with two-faced people?

We wrapped up the meal, I grabbed a Monet print for that gal of mine back home and moved to the outside area behind the museum.  Here there were multiple courtyards and plenty of trees, some of which had bright green sections on their branches.  This was an idyllic setting for a sculpture garden, and there were about forty installments of varying sizes sprawled across the lawn and woven through the trees.  One giant white piece was vaguely shaped like a giant duck bathtub toy and it floated upon a li’l pond.  Red, white and blue barrels sat atop each other…..and then atop others, (I thought) to poke fun at a certain country’s mindless excessive use of oil.  One installment looked from afar like a modern condo building, but as you walked closer its artistic beauty revealed itself and it also housed other inspiring pieces.  I overheard another museum patron describe one as a busty angel.  Again.  Someone ELSE said this.  Unfortunately, the museum closed before we could get to its biggest piece.  A friendly woman herded us to the exit on her bicycle (they seem to do just about everything on bicycle here).  Although, she did allow me to return to get the name of the creator of one of the pieces we had photographed.  I am gonna have to try to get back there.

We hopped back on our bikes and decided to explore the park a bit before leaving.  We came across a statue of Christiaan de Wet, who was apparently a pivotal General in the Last Great Boar War.   We learned that he was one of Helene Kroller-Muller’s lifetime heroes.  Helene and her husband Anton were the driving force behind the creation of the museum, which first opened about 75 years ago.  What I enjoyed most about the statue was its circular base, which featured 16 soldiers of seemingly different ethnicities peering out of the statue as if it was a fort.  The general stood proudly high atop the statue.

After a little more biking, we returned to our starting spot, left the bikes and climbed back into the car.  I was sweating a bit, but given the fact that I am neither single nor was I planning on performing tonight, it didn't matter.

We got nervous for a second as the highway we were supposed to take was stopped with traffic.  However, the GPS in our rental car automatically found us an alternate route!!  This was Ortiz-clutch.  We ended up winding through a part of The Netherlands unlike that which we had seen last year, with long stretches of wooded areas, quaint little railroad-traversed downtown areas, thatched-roofed domiciles and even a couple of seemingly high-end resort areas.  And we went on to find tonight’s venue (De Bunker in Gemert) and kick off Jon's 2nd-ever European Tour.

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