This exhibition provides a unique portrait of one of the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century: the 1960s. Alongside Dutch artists like Ger van Elk, Daan van Golden and Jan Schoonhoven, it includes work by international stars like Bill Copley, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin and Andy Warhol. The combination of art, fashion, films, photography and design will give visitors an almost tangible impression of the changes, not just in the arts but also in politics and society, that took place during this colourful period.
The explosion of events in the 1960s - from student riots to the first man on the moon and the Vietnam war - had a huge impact on artists and designers, triggering the emergence of a host of new movements. Created by the ever more influential art trade, movements like Pop Art, Minimal Art, Fluxus and Happening all came on the scene at this time. By presenting these movements and art forms side by side and in relation to each other, ‘Sixties!’ takes a refreshing new look at the art of the now legendary decade.
The exhibition starts in 1958 with the fall of the financially repressive Drees government, leading to an economic boom in the Netherlands which was eventually brought to an abrupt end by the oil crisis of 1973. Thanks to the rise of the mass media, which made it easier for young people to follow emerging trends, a strong youth culture developed, with its own dress codes ranging from hippy to mini. Exponents of ‘Pop Art’ like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine and Jasper Johns were inspired by this and played with the fading distinction between high and low culture. This was not the only way in which artists and works of art lost their ‘sacred’ status during this period. Arman emptied waste bins into a series of identical Plexiglas boxes and sold them as unique objets d’art in a limited edition. In painting, Frank Stella went back to basics, eliminating all emotion, intuition and improvisation. This laid the foundation for what was to become Minimal Art. Minimal artists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre put paid to the idea of the personal signature of the artist. Their works feature simple, geometrical shapes, which were generally machine-made. Artists like Joseph Beuys and Gilbert & George went on to abandon the studio in favour of projects or happenings executed in public spaces and recorded on film.
The Dutch art world was at the forefront of all these developments, but nevertheless preserved its own distinctive identity. For this reason, ‘Sixties!’ includes a separate but adjacent presentation of a number of Dutch artists, such as JCJ Vander Heyden and Anton Heyboer, but also photographers such as Gerard Fieret and Ed van der Elsken. The popular visual icons of the 1960s are many and various: it was the era of the Beatles, Flower Power, Martin Luther King and the death of J.F. Kennedy. Contemporary newsreels and documentary photographs will vividly evoke the atmosphere of this scintillating period. In the course of the 1960s, the Gemeentemuseum held a number of highly influential exhibitions, including one on Minimal Art in 1968 and The New Realists in 1964. Sixties!’ is being organised in close cooperation with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum and the Spaarnestad Photo archive in Haarlem.