Double Dutch

by - November 09, 2015

To play Holland, You have to play the Dutch.
Ruud Gullit

Detail of the dress by Jan Taminiau worn by Queen Maxima during the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.

Normally I'm more of a 'at the end of the exhibition' kind of girl. I mostly avoid the big hype of a new instalment and patiently wait until the big crowd has gone (pro tip: don't leave it for too long, otherwise you'll be caught in the hysteria of last minute exhibition goers. Not always a friendly bunch of people). But this time, due to school bound regulations, I for once went quite early to an exhibition (Ode aan de Nederlandse Mode (Ode to Dutch Fashion) at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag). School is indeed a good stimulant for going regularly to museums. Well, my school is a good stimulant for going regularly to museums. I don't think that the more technical courses are that keen on taking trips to the museum (although, that being said, there are some wonderful museums with exhibitions dedicated to technical subjects. Just saying).

Ode aan de Nederlandse Mode
(Ode to Dutch Fashion)
19 September 2015 - 7 February 2016

Lets immediately go straight to the point:
Some time ago I went to another exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum, namely Romantic Fashions: mr Darcy meets Eline Vere (which you can read about [here]). Coincidentally this exhibition is held in the exact same part of the museum AND -now it's getting freaky- the same Art Director, Maarten Spruyt, has been responsible for creating this exhibition. My oh my! Maarten, as I've already stated in the other blogpost, has a very unique and on his own perspective on how to put objects together. You can immediately recognize his work, but he'll always stay true to the nature of the subject that he's handling. It just seems to be that these subjects are very 'me'. I mostly do my research on the exhibitions after I've gone (because I first want to experience it by my own eyes and mind before ruining it all with the blablabla from others), but somehow I always end up with dear Maarten's work. Interesting....

Naturally there were some interfaces to be found between Romantic Fashions and Ode to Dutch Fashion (besides the fact it was all embraced by the same bricks and made by the same hands). But I think that the two are substentially totally different from one another. Although I must say I got taken by flashbacks when seeing an 18th century dress that was also featured in Romantic Fashions. However the way Ode to Dutch Fashion has been organized is completely different and felt -in a way- quite 'fresh' and new. Naturally the subject of this exhibition is far more singular or focused and in some way very limited. We're talking solidly Dutch couturiers with designs from 1885 to 2015. I really liked how they step away from a chronological approach (as to be seen in Romantic Fashions) to a thematic categorization. This way it visually made a very strong statement (my mum absolutely loved the second room about Dutch Blue, which looked very much like a Cabinet of Curiosities which also is a very cheeky nod to the history of museums self and the way 'we' (people) used to present and divide or classify the objects we collected). This way of presenting a collection also underlines the fact how some designs are literally timeless. You couldn't easily pick out the 200 year old dress or the 2015 -fresh from the catwalk- dress because both neatly blended into the theme of the room. It once more proved how there is so much now and new to be found in history.

As with most fashion exhibitions goes, the given information was very on the surface. No in depth information was given at any point of the exhibition and it often repeated itself (and at some point you'll start thinking ArtEZ (an art school in Arnhem where for instance Viktor&Rolf have graduated from) were main sponsors of the exhibition). I always find it so disapointing in that aspect. Especially when you buy the book accompanying the exhibition and it's filled with very interesting essays proving that they do know a thing or two about the subject. I understand that you want to keep the exhibition approachable for everyone that happens to walk into it, but why directly deny the knowledge you own to your visitors? There are many ways to work it into the exhibition while still being approachable for everyone that happens to walk into it. By not giving this information -in anyway possible- during the exhibition you lose a very big bite from the context of the couturiers, their designs and the main subject as to why they can be distinguished from the rest of the world due to the influence of the Netherlands as a society (and thereby answering questions as to why for instance the dance-scene is so vibrant here and in what way this gets to be reflected into the designs of certain couturiers. Instead of offering just a dark room filled with dresses with paillettes and headphones hanging on the wall playing very loud music (it had to 'reproduce' a silent disco, but it was anything but silent. You could hear the music three rooms further) without giving any context as to who/what/where/when/why).

Ode to Dutch Fashion -ultimately- is a very well visually presented exhibition covering 200 years of fashion and proving how time is limitless regarding good designs. The pictures in this post just represent a very very small part of all the things you'll be able to see. So I'll definitely recommend -if you can- to go and see it all for yourself (just make sure to buy the book if you want more then just a memory of pretty clothes).


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