Today was a monkey’s wedding and I set off to visit Museum Beelden aan Zee (Museum of Images at the Sea), a contemporary art museum in Scheveningen, Den Haag. I liked the fact that a large portion of the sculptures featured in the museum are actually outdoors, with a backdrop of the North Sea and dunes all around.
At the entrance I met this little guy who pointed me in the right direction. Someone even put a tiny green jersey on him as temperatures certainly are dropping in Den Haag of late.
The facade of the museum building looks like a mansion of sorts overlooking the promenade. It was designed by Dutch architect Wim Quist.
The outside sculptures are quite intriguing and definitely very unusual. Take for instance this guy with a rock on his head who doesn’t look too pleased. Must be that ominous sky in the background or the fact that he is literally crumbling!
What I really liked about the outside area of Beelden aan Zee is that you get to see a bit of Scheveningen itself. Here you can see some taller apartment blocks from the 70s – mostly quite awful in my opinion and so the museum (with its Greek-inspired architecture and columns) is really a gem in the area and is also quite hidden away from the busyness of Scheveningen, especially during summer months.
One of my favourite outdoor sculptures at the Beelden aan Zee Museum is this little girl staring towards the museum building, away from the North Sea. It’s as though she is soaking up the sun here, eyes closed and really taking in the beauty of the museum. There is something so graceful and soothing about it.
In contrast you will also see this sad guy (along with some other buddies) just outside the museum on the promenade side. In fact, this is a museum all about contrasts!
And the sculptures within the museum are equally as fascinating as they are without. My favourite story is about ‘De Dromer’ or ‘the Dreamer’ by Dutch artist Adri van Rooijen. ‘De Dromer’ is a sculture of a young boy and is said to have Biblical symbolism. His outfit is beautifully detailed with reliefs of Biblical scenes. Unfortunately ‘De Dromer’ isn’t housed in the museum but there is a plaster model which demonstrates how the sculpture was created. Below is part of a plaster cast featuring the young man’s hands and lower torso. Just look at how detailed it is…
And here’s a photograph of what the real ‘De Dromer’ sculpture looks like.
Other noteworthy sculptures include those created by Eveline van Duyl (see below). The eyes of the figure on the right seem to follow you around. His head and upper torso are made from a myriad of fabrics woven together. This is an extremely detailed and intricate piece and there is something very lifelike about it.
I also came across this sculpture of a naked lady, almost mermaid-looking, and what was so amazing is that as soon as I looked up through the glass windows behind her I could see the rough sea, the dunes and some people walking outside.
This is what makes the museum so special – the fact that it’s really so close to nature. Just a couple of metres away is the sea and it’s as though the museum is tucked away in the dunes, almost protected by nature and other buildings to the left and right of it.
Another amazing discovery I made at Beelden aan Zee was the room below called the ‘Gipsotheek aan Zee’. The room is a repository for plaster sculptures modelling ancient Greek and Roman figures mostly. These plaster casts were used for academic study purposes in the 18th century and were made by Dutch artists:
The room is filled with heads, torsos and various figurines of people. You’re also given a little booklet [in Dutch only i’m afraid] informing you about the date of each object and who created it.
At present, Beelden aan Zee also has an exhibition on called ‘Transformation: Romanian Sculpture 25 Years After the Revolution’. This is a really fascinating exhibition as it was mostly created by artists born in the 80s in Romania, who have little personal experience of the totalitarian regime of the past and who know the communist stories only from their parents, grandparents and other family members.
These artists aim to draw on the past and compare that to the country’s current situation, especially since Romania is now part of the EU. However, the artists stress that the old ideas of the past still have an impact on today’s Romania and they want to emphasize the therapeutic function of their art by means of this exhibition – it’s a way to deal with the past and its perpetual affect on society.
Vlad Olariu’s ‘Giant and Wind’ is one of the striking sculptures part of this exhibition whereby a tiny fan blows a black flag held by a stark stone man. The remnants of the past, in the form of an ancient building, are tangible below his stance.
Alexandru Poteca’s ‘Golden Flat’ is another striking display whereby the furniture of an apartment is coated in gold. There is a kind of luxurious, almost regal nostalgia depicted here. But one you also don’t want to touch, metaphorically speaking.
Lastly, another interesting work I came across is this bench by Dutch artist Caspar Berger, ‘Don’t be afraid of becoming a bench / self portrait 28’. And yes, those are in fact bones painted on the top of the bench. I like the idea of a bench as a reflective object, where one can sit and merely observe and reflect on the past. This makes you think of the importance of peace, quiet and reflection, especially in our technological world of today.
Take a look at the website of Beelden aan Zee for more information on opening times and location.