LONGREAD: A Hidden Gem

Jurriaan van Kranendonk | Annelies van Rosmalen, founder of the collection | arts affairs co-ordinator
A Hidden Gem

Over twenty-five years ago, gallery owner and art advisor Jurriaan van Kranendonk was present at the birth of the art collection of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Now, with Annelies van Rosmalen as Arts Affairs Co-ordinator, the collection, which now includes some two hundred works, is again receiving some well-deserved attention.

Van Kranendonk looks back with enthusiasm to the 1990s when he was asked to think about the art works which the college could exhibit in the new building in the Laakhaven neighbourhood. In 1996, all the courses in The Hague were being brought together under one roof, and it was he who came up with the idea that the new building, should become home to four different forms of art: painting, sculpture, conceptual art and photography.
The Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer was commissioned to capture on film all the locations which the college would be leaving behind. Jannes Linders, from Rotterdam, was asked to photograph the new building. ‘Like this we created in one go, a collection of photographs about the history of the college,’ says Van Kranendonk. ‘Not long after De Keyzer had received the commission he joined the famous Magnum Photos agency. If we had asked him any later it may not have been possible to work with him,’ Van Kranendonk tells us. Linders was already a well known architectural photographer at that time, capturing finished buildings. ‘Following a complete building process from beginning to end was not something he had done before, so it was an interesting commission for him.’

Tallest work ever
That is what it was for Stephan Balkenhol, who at that time was already a celebrated artist in Germany. He was allocated the atrium as a location for a work of art and there he was able to realise his tallest work ever. Van Kranendonk clearly recalls how he went to visit Balkenhol in his studio in the Vosges. American oak trees grew there, from which he made sculptures. ‘The gigantic statue that now stands solitary in the central hall, has been made from a single such tree, and was brought to The Hague in two pieces on a trailer.’

Roland Schimmel had never before painted a mural, and Hope for Happiness, the orange wall with turquoise and bright pink spheres, was his first work in this genre. ‘You should really take your time when looking at this work of art, that’s when something starts to happen,’ Van Kranendonk advises. The North American artist Lawrence Weiner signed up for a conceptual work which is attached to the facade of the building, Just Above the Waterline. For him it was the first time that his work was to been seen in an educational institute. Van Kranendonk finds it ‘strange that in the whole of the Netherlands there are still very few works by Weiner which can be admired in public space.’

Of the current art collection at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, which at present consists of around two hundred works of art, the major part comprises photography. ‘The aim of the collection is to inspire, to show something different from that which the students might experience in their day to day education, like the seemingly inconsequential moments in the works by Elspeth Diederix and Mette Tronvoll,’ says Annelies van Rosmalen, the Arts Affairs Co-ordinator. Van Kranendonk adds, ‘The college’s museological collection is a hidden gem. There has been art present in the building ever since its inauguration, and so it has become something that has become a matter of course. Students come face to face with it in passing.’

The common thread running through the collection is that of people in relation to the built environment and architecture. ‘That’s a way of maintaining some structure in the collection,’ explains Van Kranendonk. ‘You can see that relationship between people and their surroundings in Bertien van Manen’s work. In Odessa she photographed women preparing food on the street, and in China the 24-hour cinema where each person can occupy their own booth. Even in the photographs where people are not present, as in the Mexican interiors by Wijnanda Deroo, this relationship still plays a role – you get a really strong sense of the presence of people.’

The artist Johan Nieuwenhuize, from The Hague, was commissioned in 2018 to produce a new work of art, The Bubble. ‘We wanted an art-form that we did not yet have in the collection,’ says Van Rosmalen. ‘Furthermore, it had to connect to the students’ perceptions of their environment, preferably either visibly being developed within the college or else with the participation of the students.’

New destination for Streuli
For years, 33 portraits of students who were photographed in 2006 by the Swiss artist Beat Streuli, adorned the walls of the canteen on the ground floor. Due to the recent renovation work the photographs had to be removed and, in consultation with the artist, they have found a new location in the space between the Oval and the Strip.

Streuli made a new composition of the existing photographs especially for this spot – since the beginning of the 2020 academic year thirty, still relevant portraits have been hanging on the high wall opposite the orange mural by Roland Schimmel. ‘It was a close call; we almost didn’t have any work of Streuli’s left,’ says Van Kranendonk. ‘We owe it to Annelies’s perseverance that the photographs have been printed again and have been given this new location, in a spot which perhaps does them even more justice.’

The collection is continually changing, although according to Van Rosmalen it has received too little attention in the past decade. In the meantime she has taken an inventory and a website exists where the collection can be viewed: www.artcollection-hhs.nl. Restoration work has also been done, evaluations carried out, and activities surrounding the collection organised, such as guided tours and a treasure hunt. ‘The art commission, whose members include three lecturers, directs its attention toward the utilisation of the art works within education,’ says Van Rosmalen. ‘That is why we want to broaden our outlook, strive for more cultural diversity in the collection so that we continue to connect with that sense of global citizenship and with the experiences of students.’

A large part of the collection has spent some time in storage, however, slowly but surely, various works are getting a place again. A triptych by photographer Hans Aarsman has recently been hung in the corridor of the nursing department. ‘For reasons of content they wanted the work to be hung there,’ Van Rosmalen explains. As a result of an interview with one of the students for this book, the work by Anton Corbijn has been moved from the boardroom to café West 75. During the interview it became apparent that this student missed the work. ‘We cannot always grant this kind of request from students and employees, but they do make a contribution to the way we deal with the collection.’