by - September 15, 2015

Without foundations, there can be no fashion.
Christian Dior 

until 27 September 2015

What to do in the Rijksmuseum? Trying to look at the The Night Watch by Rembrandt while stabbing away tourists with my elbows. Seen it, done it. No! Let's explore some of their more underrated (yet as promising) collections, of which one of them happens to be put in a temporary exhibition.... Sounds like a plan to me!

We're talking prints! Fashion prints in this particular case... Most of these prints were acquired by the museum in 2009. Give or take 300 prints are on show out of about 8.000 prints in total -which you can gawk at yourself thanks to the Rijksstudio (which enables everyone from anywhere to look at (AND USE!!) high resolution pictures of almost the whole collection of the Rijksmuseum. Which is a bloody lot!).

I think this exhibition has been perfectly summed up by the cashier at the museum shop. Normally cashiers aren't that chatty -especially those based in Amsterdam-, but this one kindly asked how we'd experienced the exhibition and told us that her nan of 85 absolutely adored the exhibition catalog (which I was buying at the time. Which I also absolutely adore. That's right, I'm a 85 year old nan trapped in this body. Send help). She said that it's a beautiful, well-thought and outlayed exhibition, but not necessarily presented in a way that would attract the massess (as we experienced first hand by seeing people come and go while we were still gawking at one of the prints. FOOLS! Although, in hindsight, we had the whole place to ourselves. PARTY TIME!!!).

I thought the presentation very pure and coherent with the prints and the time-table they were set in. However I totally agree with her that it's heaven for the pre-informed interested and a careless whatever for those who walk by in search of previous mentioned Night Watch (you're way out of course, buddy!). But I absolutely love the Rijksmuseum for also presenting this in combination with their big-names (which frankly can't be seen without a hoard of again previously mentioned tourists who are fighting for the perfect spot, using their elbows as lethal weapons... And it hurts. Badly).

Prints are quite an underrated form of art. However just look at the details many of these possess. It tells you so much about society and their courtesies, habits and changes. Change is also a main subject in the exhibition. It doesn't just shows you the origin of the fashion magazine and its many predecessors, but it shows you the influence of time, place and culture from 1600 up to half of the 21st century. Just thinking about the role of (fashion)magazines now and the way they correspond 'the latest trends' into the public eye is -bluntly said- mesmerizing.

It's funny how the looks on the prints were presented as something 'old' and 'not for now' (as the introduction states: "Fashion is always NEW... NEW for NOW, and almost instantly becomes passé."). However, as we all probably know, what comes around goes around. There are certain key-trends that gets to be recycled every season or so (Remember: "Florals? For Spring? Groundbraking." or everyone's favourite "Black is the new black!" or any variation on that with yellow or green or blue or any colour you can imagine suddenly being 'the new black' and right goes around again to being black actually being the new black. Confusing business, I know).

On a personal level I've taken so much inspiration from these prints that I think you can't take away from a picture. The artistic freedom of a simple pencil just can't be beaten by a clear straightforward picture. It sometimes lacks that bit of artistic influence an illustrator can use to depict a garment. On a picture you get the garment the model's put on, on an illustration you get an artistic interpretation of the garment. It brings a whole different dimension to the way it gets to be experienced.

A year or so ago I had a lecture/guided tour in the Rijksmuseum (about glass and porcelain and silver and... well you get the drill) and we walked passed this section of dresses and jewelry, which immedaitely tickled my senses. I'd almost wandered off if I hadn't in time realized that all of this would've been part of my exams, so I reluctantly went on to look at some other kind of glass (Man! there are many different kinds of glass!).

But I never forgot about it. 

So to keep in tune with the exhibition, instead of going to try to look at the Night Watch (that's right! I've been to the Rijksmuseum and didn't see the Night Watch. But I've seen it many times before, so don't you worry) we went downstairs to the Special Collections. We passed the glass and porcelain and silver and found this beautiful installation where different types of dresses were combined with floral paintings. Unfortunately there wasn't that much background information on the dresses (except for the maker and making year). But I love how they intertwined the different (art) forms, as I believe clothes always should be shown (thus in context).

It was again surprising to see how little interest there was for the Special Collections in general. Not to sound downgrading, but tourists only go to the Night Watch, use their elbows in a severe battle for the best spot, take a selfie and probably leap over to go to the Van Gogh Museum and disappointedly find out -when trying to take a selfie with mr. Van Gogh himself- that you aren't alowd to take any pictures there. What about the rest of 'our' heritage? What does it take to make you glance twice at a, say porcelain sculpture, to make you care as much about your selfie with Van Gogh. Fascinating, to say the least, how much the 'importance' (or better said 'notoriety') of an image influences the behaviour of people. But again PARTY TIME!!).

So next time you go to the Rijksmuseum take a splurge -after taking a brief look at the Night Watch- and go out and explore the richness of the collection they've got on offer! Maybe you'll discover something that's even more precious...


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  1. What have we enjoyed the exhibition.
    It's always fun to getaway togheter......
    let's do it again soon!!!

    love, Marjan

  2. I really like to see clothes in museum I find it so interesting to see all the materials that used to be used from up close, all the little details that make each piece it's own and the common points from one era to the next... Seems like a beautiful exposition !

    xx, Charlie

    1. I always wish to get closer to the garments and take a sniff. They probably smell a bit musty, but I'm hoping that when you take a really deep breathe (like, really really deep), you ought to smell the perfume of the last person who wore it centuries ago... Or their sweat, naturally. But for the sake of romance we'll call it 'natural' perfume.