I shouldn’t have been surprised, the Voorlinden Museum came highly recommended by several people. Even then, I can’t remember the last time I had even close to this much fun in a museum. It turns out that you can be an adult in a museum and end up feeling like a child in a candy store. The museum is owned by a wealthy Dutch industrialist and many of the works on display are from his private collection. That seemed a bit 19th century, and I was prepared to resent paying the entrance fee.
Instead, it’s probably the best €15 that I’ll spend all year. The museum is less than a year old and has already established itself in the art world of the Netherlands – not a country lacking in great art collections. There has clearly been a significant investment in the museum. The story goes that owner, Joop Van Caldenborgh, couldn’t find a suitable gallery for his collection in Rotterdam or The Hague so decided to create his own.
In a nod to the size of his bank account, he didn’t just build a gallery, he bought an estate in Wassenaar, a very affluent suburb of The Hague. For your entry fee you can walk through the grounds to nearby dunes on the coast. The building that houses the collection and temporary exhibitions is essentially a large white box, subdivided into smaller white boxes. Constructing it from the ground up has meant some of the art has been built into the fabric of the structure.
Richard Serra’s sculpture Open Ended is the largest piece in the collection. A vast steel maze-like sculpture, like Doctor Who’s Tardis it seems bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It’s one of many pieces that are both interactive and fun. Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool, is another example. From above, shadowy figures move beneath the water. Downstairs, through a bright blue opening, you become the shadowy figure beneath the water. It’s a fully immersive experience, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Ron Mueck’s Couple Under an Umbrella reminded me of his extraordinary sculpture, Ghost, which I saw at the Tate in Liverpool. Both sculptures have the power to unsettle and unnerve the viewer. Ghost is an oversized teenage girl in a swimming costume, she looks self conscious and uncomfortable … and that’s how you feel looking at her. Couple Under an Umbrella is more touching, the two figures clearly loving. Yet it still makes you feel voyeuristic. The massive size and hyperrealism are a powerful combination.
I’d never seen Rodney Graham’s work before, where the artist adopts various disguises and takes centre stage in giant back-lit photographic installations. In That’s Not Me he takes on various identities: a chef smoking a cigarette, a lighthouse keeper reading a book, or an artist painting. It’s not the scenarios in the photographs that are most interesting though, it’s more the technique he uses to make them. The images almost literally leap off the wall.
Amongst other fun pieces is a table filled with alarm clocks. Their soft ticking turns to a jarring cacophony of noise as alarms go off simultaneously, a reminder that our modern relationship with time is not always healthy. Elsewhere, a Buddhist statue stares at itself in a mirror, a dandelion weed grows in a crack between floor and wall, a full-sized wooden shack has water pouring through its roof. Not to forget Skyspace, a room with a hole in the roof and LED lights that change your perception of the sky outside.
A visit to Voorlinden might cost €15, but I’ll be going back.