Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Exhibition “Piet Mondriaan, The case of Composition II”

1 Dec 2014

On Thursday 27 November 2014, we opened the exhibition “Piet Mondriaan. The case of Composition II”.  This exhibition is a joint effort of the Ministry of Culture, the Embassy and foremost the National Museum and it is a success story. I am therefore very pleased that Minister Ivan Tasovac, the minister of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, will personally open this exhibition with me and the Director of the National Museum, Ms. Bojana Borić-Brešković.

The starting point of the exhibition is a cultural treasure kept in the National Museum, an iconic work of Piet Mondriaan, “Composition II”. The interaction between this work and important artists in the region, like Mrđan Bajić, Veso Sovilj and Zoran Naskovski, their reflection upon this work and the inspiration they gained from it is the subject of this exhibition.

Mondriaan is an artist of exceptional importance to Dutch modern art in the first half of the 20th century and “Composition II” is a paradigmatic example of his work in his classic period. In his search to depict universal values he evolved an abstract language that rejects all forms except the vertical and the horizontal, the three primary colours and black and white. Achieving balance and cosmic harmony was his pictorial and personal goal. In this quest Mondriaan became founder of abstract art forms that he named Neo-plasticism.

It was a break-through in visual art with strong ramifications in architecture and design through “De Stijl”. Now our world is filled with non-representational and abstract art, but Mondriaan surely stands out, reflecting an important movement in contemporary art.  And even now world class modern architects and designers are influenced by the language of “De Stijl” – clarity of vision, clean, almost sharp straight lines: the horizontal and the vertical ones. Gerrit Rietveld was one of the most famous members of this movement.

The National Museum curators did a great research while preparing this exhibition and they discovered new facts about how this work came into the possession of the National Museum. They further explain the work in its historic context and tell us something about the Netherlands and Serbian cultural establishments of that time and the relations between the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The bare bone facts – and please read the exhibition catalogue for details if you have a chance – are that the honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in Amsterdam, Cornelis Dirk Merens, looked for ways in the ’30 of the previous century to increase the  personal, cultural and economic interaction between the two countries. To this end he founded a Friends of Yugoslavia Association, and that Association helped Merens in realizing his idea to donate works of Dutch artists towards building up the collection of the Museum for Contemporary Art that Prince Pavle had just founded.

I find it particularly interesting that Merens went about realising this project in a typical Dutch way, mobilizing the Friends of Yugoslavia Association to fund the project and setting up a Committee for the Promotion of Dutch Art in Yugoslavia, consisting of well-known experts, to choose the works. Thus the gift of 42 works, among which those of Van Gogh and Mondriaan, became a high quality one. It reflects Dutch art and cultural thinking of the time and is the foundation of the large Dutch collection at the National Museum.

In 1931 the collection was handed over to Prince Pavle and the curator of the Museum. This initiated cultural cooperation between the two countries and in 1932 a reciprocal exhibition of Yugoslav artists at the Stedelijk Museum was held. Even today, 83 years later, the “Composition II” is still a factor of importance in promoting strong interaction between the art and design of our two countries.

This exhibition really merits your visit! You have a chance to view it until 22 February 2015 at the National Museum in Belgrade, don’t miss it!

Piet Mondriaan in Belgrade

Piet Mondriaan in Belgrade

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  • 1 Dec 2014, 8:00
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About the author

Laurent Stokvis
Written by Laurent Stokvis

Dutch ambassador to Serbia

Laurent Louis Stokvis was born on 14 April 1950 in Jakarta. He works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as of 1975. In the period between 2002 and 2006 he was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Slovak Republic. Between 2006 and 2010, he worked as Director in the Directorate for the Western Hemisphere. He has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Serbia in September 2010. He is married and has one child.