It was the last great era of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, and now it looks like it may be coming back — at least to visit.
Rudi Fuchs, the Dutch curator and former Stedelijk director, will return to the Stedelijk to produce an exhibition for the first time since his departure from the museum in 2003 – a departure that came under pressure and disillusionment with a system and a public that failed to recognize the importance of his work.
And it was important. Where other directors since Fuchs and before him focused on either local artists of little significance or trendy artists who brought crowds but little quality to the museum, Fuchs adorned the hallowed halls of the Stedelijk with carefully curated and installed exhibitions that matched contemporary with modern, that delighted the eye with continual visual threads: the yellows of a Chagall, say, might carry to the facing wall of the next gallery in the sunlit hues of a Robert Rauschenberg; or the steely grays and silvers of a Mario Merz igloo find their reflection inhe icy whites of a Robert Ryman painting. People called his curating “poetic,” and it was. Even more, it offered a way of looking at art that informed and excited, that stimulated discussion and deepened understanding, and it was, in a word, beautiful.
That Beatrix Ruf, the new director of the museum has invited Fuchs to return, signals an appreciation on her part of what matters in art, and a future program that will – maybe – restore the Amsterdam Stedelijk to its former glory as one of the finest modern and contemporary art museums in the world.
(Full disclosure: I co-authored a book with Rudi Fuchs, Vervulde Verlangens, published by Meulenhoff, Amsterdam in 1997.)
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