Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Dorothy Akpene Amenuke, How Far How Near, 2012. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.

October 14, 2014

HOW FAR HOW NEAR—The World in the Stedelijk
September 19, 2014–February 1, 2015 

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Museumplein 10
The Netherlands

The exhibition HOW FAR HOW NEAR—The World in the Stedelijk features a broad selection of works from the historic and contemporary collections from the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It includes a range of recent acquisitions and gifts and is contextualized by a body of historic photos and posters. Prompted by a number of recent acquisitions of work by African artists, including Dorothy Amenuke, Meschac Gaba, Abdoulaye Konaté, and Billie Zangewa, the exhibition centers around the key question of how museum policies have been limited and challenged in relation to geographical emphasis. New works were created especially for the occasion by Godfried Donkor and Lidwien van de Ven.

The inspiration for the exhibition is the blockbuster presentation Modern Art—New and Old which took place in 1955 in the Stedelijk Museum. Work by modern artists like Klee, Picasso, Lipchitz, and Mondrian were shown alongside African masks, Polynesian bark paintings, and decorated shields from Papua New Guinea. The idea was to emphasize that abstraction and expressionism, thus modern art, was not tied to a particular time or place but was universal. The exhibition anticipated groundbreaking and much-discussed exhibitions such as Primitivism in 20th Century Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1984) and Magiciens de la Terre in Centre Pompidou, Paris (1989). 

Some of the works presented in 1955 are shown again here, but this time to play a role in an argument about the position of “the world,” as seen from the universal aspirations summarized in modernism and the museum of modern art in general. For many years, as evidenced in the contents of the poster and photography collection, this world was imagined largely through a semi-exotic lens and, especially from the 1960s onwards, was visualized mainly in terms of poverty, war, apartheid, and privation. In the late 1980s the Stedelijk tried to place greater emphasis on contemporary art from such areas, but this had scant impact on the museum’s collection strategy. Without taking recourse into classifying art geographically, HOW FAR HOW NEAR is the first attempt of the museum to pose questions concerning its scope.

How can a limited geographic focus be reconciled with the universal values we customarily ascribe to art? And if we wish to broaden our outlook, how do we select? The title HOW FAR HOW NEAR is derived from the recently acquired textile sculpture by Ghanaian artist Dorothy Amenuke. This prominent work tackles the problem of cultural classifications in a world subject to the age-long domination of intercontinental trade, colonization, and migration. The exhibition includes artists like Godfried Donkor, Iris Kensmil, Malick Sidibé, Michael Tedja, and Vincent Vulsma. Two separate photo displays present works by Ad van Denderen, Walid Raad, Koen Wessing, and a recently acquired body of works by Alfredo Jaar, among others.

New commissions
Godfried Donkor’s site-specific contribution deals with both Europe’s colonial past and with the debate around the Black Pete stereotype in the Netherlands. The work of Lidwien van de Ven investigates the social position of asylum seekers in “free Europe” after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

HOW FAR HOW NEAR—The World in the Stedelijk is accompanied by a small publication with an introduction by Jelle Bouwhuis, head curator of Global Collaborations. 

Public program
Throughout the exhibition period, the Stedelijk Museum will present a series of discussions designed to address the issues of art history, canonization, selection processes, and identification of contemporary art.

November 27: De Balie debating center
The World in the “Art World”: A panel discussion in the context of the exhibition and the Amsterdam Art Weekend. 

December 18: stedelijk|forum 
Jonas Staal sheds light on how and why American culture came to dominate Western Europe during the Cold War. Porter McCray (an alias of Goran Djordjevic) reflects on the role of the Museum of Modern Art in disseminating American values through modern art.

February 1: stedelijk|forum 
At the close of the exhibition, former Centre Pompidou director Jean-Hubert Martin discusses his seminal Magiciens de la Terre show of 1989. 

Blikopener Spot
Along with HOW FAR HOW NEAR, the Blikopener Spot features the final presentation from Ghanaian artist-in-residence Bernard Akoi-Jackson. 

About Global Collaborations
The exhibition HOW FAR HOW NEAR is part of the Stedelijk Museum’s three-year project Global Collaborations. It aims to achieve a well-informed and nuanced view of developments in contemporary art from a global perspective. With Global Collaborations, the Stedelijk examines advances in the visual arts throughout the world with a particular emphasis on emerging regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The project is based on collaborative projects and connections with experimental and multifaceted art institutions. It was initiated by Jelle Bouwhuis, head of Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, and project curator Kerstin Winking. Global Collaborations continues until the end of 2015.

Stedelijk Studies No. 1
The first edition of Stedelijk Studies, the scholarly e-magazine of the Stedelijk Museum, appears in November. The inaugural issue contains a varied selection of papers based on the conference Collecting Geographies: Global Programming and Museums of Modern Art, organized by the Stedelijk last March in the context of Global Collaborations. 

Global Collaborations Journal 
The Global Collaborations Journal is the online platform on the Stedelijk website that publishes writings by an (inter)national team of writers on different facets of Global Collaborations. It offers background information on diverse projects, interviews, travelogues, and reviews of the exhibitions. You can find the Journal here on the Stedelijk website.

Global Collaborations is generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund and Stichting Ammodo.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
October 14, 2014

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