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Glass Art in Museum JAN Amstelveen
Marieke UILDRIKS, Director of Museum JAN
Located at one of the most beautiful spots in Amstelveen, Museum JAN (Former name: Museum Jan van der Togt) is a museum of visual arts with a special focus on glass art. The museum was founded 29 years ago by industrialist and art collector Jan VAN DER TOGT. He was the founder and director of the successful Tomado factory, which produced all kinds of household appliances. Jan VAN DER TOGT always had a keen eye for design and art. After selling his Tomado factories in 1971, Jan VAN DER TOGT started to focus his attention intensively on contemporary art. He collected not only sculptures but also paintings and contemporary glass art. Jan VERSCHOOR, one of the sculptors whose work he collected, became his advisor. Together, they brought together an impressive museum collection. Gradually the idea arose to make the collection accessible to the public and to put it in a museum. Thanks to the joint efforts of Jan VAN DER TOGT and Jan VERSCHOOR, Museum Jan Van der Togt opened its doors in Amstelveen in 1991. Jan VERSCHOOR became its director and – even after the death of Jan VAN DER TOGT in 1995 – remained the entrepreneurial figurehead of the museum.
Besides glass, VAN DER TOGT also collected paintings and bronzes. The glass collection, however, is so unique that it has always been the centre of attention in the museum. In addition to managing and showing the unique glass collection, the museum has from the outset organized exhibitions covering a broad range of disciplines, ranging from painting to sculpture and glass art.
The glass collection of Museum JAN has two focal points: optical and monumental glass from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and contemporary Dutch glass.
In the seventies, VAN DER TOGT became acquainted not only with the work of Václav CÍGLER, the foremost exponent of innovative glass art in Slovakia, but also with Stanislav LIBENSKÝ, the leading representative of Czech glass art. While CÍGLER ran the art academy in Bratislava, LIBENSKÝ headed the glass department of Prague’s art academy. Their students and other like-minded artists also came to the attention of VAN DER TOGT. From that moment on, he quickly built a representative collection of glass from former Czechoslovakia, which currently forms the core of Museum JAN’s collection.
One fine example of an object by Václav CÍGLER in our collection, is a glass sculpture which consists of discs of optical glass glued together. It requires boundless patience and precisely the right equipment to perfect this technique. It takes months to cut this hard material in such a way that the pieces fit together perfectly. Any flaw can be seen immediately. The great perfection that is so typical of Cigler’s work can be attributed to his use of the best glassmakers.
A work by the couple Stanislav LIBENSKÝ and Jaroslava BRYCHTOVÁ, another highlight in our collection, features an interplay of light and colour. Only one pigment was used, but varying the thickness also varies the amount of light that passes through, changing the colour from a yellow-orange at the edges to almost black. The combination of rough and polished textures is typical of the style of LIBENSKÝ and BRYCHTOVÁ.
As noted earlier, VAN DER TOGT also bought work by Dutch glass artists. One of the focuses of the contemporary Dutch glass collection is the work of COPIER and of Willem and Bernard HEESEN, artists who to a great extent are the face of Dutch glass art. The collection built around this focal point, featuring some of the finest work by other Dutch artists, showcases the versatility of modern Dutch glass.
Special attention is given to the remarkable development of studio glass, an international movement in which glass artists were no longer dependent on glass factories. The use of their own ovens gave them the freedom to create autonomous work. In the Netherlands this has resulted in the establishment of the glass department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (now The Large Glass Department) and studios like Oude Horn in Aquoy. Many of the Dutch glass objects from the collection were created here, such as the works of Sybren VALKEMA, Andries COPIER, Richard MEITNER, Mieke GROOT, Bert FRIJNS, Willem and Bernard HEESEN.
The undisputed highlight of the collection is the versatile work of COPIER, the doyen of twentieth-century Dutch glass art. He collaborated with internationally renowned glass artists, making the most exquisite glass objects. From 1977 onwards he would for example visit Willem HEESEN’s De Oude Horn glass workshop in Acquoy on a regular basis. In 1990, when COPIER was 89, he designed the orange-red bowl with decorative strands of glass applied to its surface, and the light-blue bowl with dark blue accents, both of which were blown by HEESEN. In the same year, COPIER, HEESEN’s son Bernard and world-famous Italian glass artist Lino TAGLIAPIETRA created a number of pieces in the filigree glass technique for which TAGLIAPIETRA is known, again at De Oude Horn.
One artist whose work is well represented at Museum JAN is Bernard HEESEN. His baroque glass objects make him a remarkable figure in the world of contemporary Dutch glass art. A beautiful vase in our collection is an ‘encyclopedia product’ , based on a nineteenth-century engraving.
Nowadays our glass collection is still expanding with acquisitions and thanks to donations. In addition to the permanent collection, we regularly pay attention to glass in our exhibition program. The museum organizes several exhibitions a year focusing on painting, sculpture, and design. At least once a year we program a glass exhibition. An exhibition with works from established artists as well as young talents, either from the Netherlands or abroad. In 2019, for instance, we organized an exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Large Glass Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, one of the oldest academic institutes for glass art in the world. A retrospective of works of art by various glass artists presented a wonderful overview of the innovative designs produced by alumni and former heads of the Large Glass Department.
In 2021, the year in which we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of our museum, glass will be back in the spotlight in a number of beautiful exhibitions. Early January 2021, an exhibition will be organized with the work of Rive ROSHAN. A young Dutch design duo that works in a contemporary way, including with glass.
In the summer of 2021, Dutch glass artist Barbara NANNING will show her works of art in an exhibition. The dish, in our collection, is part of a series, the Verres églomisés. The title is a French term for gilding glass using gold leaf.
For 2022 and the years thereafter, exhibition concepts are being developed focusing on glass. Museum JAN is and will always be THE place in the Netherlands where glass gets the attention it deserves.