The Ouborg Prize is awarded in alternate years to a Hague artist producing work of both local and national importance. Named after Hague artist Pieter Ouborg (1893-1956), the City of The Hague’s prize for the visual arts goes this year to Marcel van Eeden (b. The Hague, 1965). The award comprises a sum of € 10,000 plus a publication issued by Stroom and a show at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. To mark the occasion, Van Eeden will exhibit his ‘Sammlung Boryna’ installation (2009), comprising 60 drawings and two sculptures. The piece has already been purchased by the museum.
Van Eeden’s on-going relationship with the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag reflects his entire artistic career. The museum’s collection even includes a small group of drawings from the period immediately following his graduation from The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in 1993. Despite their early date, these drawings provide an introduction to the main common denominator in Van Eeden’s work: that all the scenes he depicts date from before his birth in 1965. This fact means that he works from existing visual materials, which he finds in old magazines, books or newspapers. The subjects are wide-ranging and include 1950s interiors, cartoons, news events and even abstract patterns or texts. His first retrospective (‘Retrograde’, held at the GEM in 2003) comprised 600 drawings.
In recent years, Van Eeden has produced several series of drawings composing complex narratives (often crime stories) in which fact and fiction constantly intertwine. The stories feature three main characters: botanist Karl McKay Wiegand, archaeologist Oswald Sollmann and psychiatrist Matheus Boryna. All are art buffs and practising artists. In ‘Sammlung Boryna’, the protagonist is Matheus Boryna, a fictional character based on a real-life German psychiatrist, Hans Prinzhorn, who collected artworks produced by his patients in the 1920s. Prinzhorn was the first person to take a serious interest in this kind of ‘outsider art’. The ‘Sammlung Boryna’ installation alludes to Prinzhorn’s collection but the images in it are drawn from a variety of sources. Next year, a decade after the first Van Eeden retrospective, the GEM is holding another large-scale exhibition of the artist’s work. The museum will then be able to show the various story lines in all their complexity.
The members of this year’s Ouborg Prize jury were: Justin Bennett (practising artist and teacher at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague); Roos van Put (former editor-in-chief of art magazine ‘Kunstbeeld’); Marie-José Sondeijker (Galerie West, The Hague); Benno Tempel (Director, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag); Arno van Roosmalen (Director of Stroom Den Haag and chairman of the Ouborg Prize jury). The choice of Marcel van Eeden was unanimous. “Van Eeden is an artist whose oeuvre is of unprecedented richness, constant high quality, and – thanks to his international artistic practice – enormous significance.” The official award ceremony will take place on Friday 8 November, when the prize will be presented by Marjolein de Jong, The Hague's alderman for Culture, City Centre and International Affairs.
The award and exhibition will be accompanied by a book on Marcel van Eeden (published by Stroom Den Haag and designed by Elektrosmog of Zurich), available from the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Stroom Den Haag and various bookshops (price: € 25).
Artist’s book Marcel van Eeden - Gerrit Achterberg
Marcel van Eeden draws the world as it existed before he was born. He has written about this key theme in his artistic practice as follows: ‘The time when you will be dead lies ahead of you. It is still indefinite. But there was also a time when you were dead: the time before your birth. And that time when you were dead, that part of your ‘minus me’, your anti-me, is something you can describe.’ Dutch poet Gerrit Achterberg (1905-1962) dealt with the same subject in his final poem, Anti-materie (‘Anti-matter’). It was Van Eeden’s fascination and feeling of kinship with this poem that inspired him to translate Achterberg’s concept of anti-matter into his drawings.
Achterberg’s poem has now been translated into German and English specifically for inclusion in a new artist’s book, where it is combined with drawings by Marcel van Eeden extending over 5 pages. The book is published by Bureau Claxon/de Statenhofpers in a limited edition of 120. Each copy is numbered and signed by Van Eeden. The text is hand-printed on handmade paper and bound in a stamped cover between boards handmade in the Zaanland.
This bibliophile artist’s book, priced at €125, can be ordered by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org