The Glass Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy is unique in both national and international terms and can be regarded as one of the most important of its kind anywhere in the world. This year sees the fortieth anniversary of the department’s inception. The exhibition Glas(s), Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam 1969-2009 is being held at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag as part of the celebrations to mark the occasion. Glas(s) will show the whole rich history of the Glass Department as well as focusing on contemporary designs that demonstrate the trailblazing role it continues to play.
The Netherlands has a long tradition of involvement by artists, architects and designers with glass as a material. As far back as the 1920s, the Leerdam glassworks (Glasfabriek Leerdam, now known as Royal Leerdam) started to work in partnership with artists. At that time, artists produced designs and the factory’s professional glassblowers executed them. In 1940, the Leerdam glassworks set up a glass school closely linked to the factory. Although the partnership between artists and craftsmen became increasingly close as time went on, the artists always remained dependent on the factory’s facilities for the execution of their designs. In the mid-sixties, all that changed. The invention of a small, portable glass furnace that could be used in their own studios meant that artists suddenly had unlimited freedom to work and experiment directly with glass on their own account. ‘Studio glass’ was born.
Sybren Valkema, a glass designer and teacher at Leerdam since the 1940s, played a key part in this development. His ideas were a major influence, both technically and artistically. In 1969 Valkema opened a glass studio at the Rietveld Academy. From this small seed, the Glass Department was able to grow into one of the most important of its kind anywhere in the world.
Together with a detailed book of the same title to be published simultaneously, the exhibition will provide not only an overview of the last forty years but also a discussion of more recent developments and trends. Its main emphasis will be on contemporary glass art, including work by present and former teachers and students, such as Bert Frijns, Mieke Groot, Dafna Kaffeman, Katrin Maurer, Richard Meitner, Richard Price, Sybren Valkema and Gareth Noel Williams (to name but a few). The exhibition is being organised in close collaboration with the Gerrit Rietveld Academy with Caroline Prisse as guest curator.
In parallel to Glas(s), Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam 1969-2009, the Gemeentemuseum is showing a second glass exhibition, Glittering Glass. 1500 Years of European Glass, showcasing the museum’s unique collection of European glass dating from the period between 400 and 1900.