Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has had a highly successful year, a large part of which was devoted to celebrating the centenary of the De Stijl movement. As a result, the museum attracted particularly large numbers of visitors over the summer. ‘Thanks to our major Mondrian exhibition, we actually had our best summer ever’, director Benno Tempel is proud to report. But there were other successes too. The museum was visited by a record number of schoolchildren, some important works were loaned to leading museums all over the world, and some magnificent new pieces were added to the collection.
The Gemeentemuseum, including GEM museum of contemporary art and the Hague Museum of Photography, welcomed 543,000 visitors in 2017. Escher in het Paleis, which shows the museum’s Escher collection, received a further 155,000 visitors. The Gemeentemuseum’s visitor numbers also included 40,000 primary, secondary and vocational college students. In addition, 23,000 pupils at primary schools in The Hague were given a free Mondrian activity book, and over a million pupils did a special topical reading comprehension on Mondrian.
The museum celebrated De Stijl’s centenary in style, with no fewer than four exhibitions. Visitors travelled from the Netherlands and abroad to discover Mondrian. The Mondrian exhibitions and activities attracting 289,000 visitors, 18% of them from other countries. Piet Mondrian and Bart van der Leck, opened by King Willem-Alexander in February, and The Discovery of Mondrian drew the biggest crowds. ‘But we achieved so much more than these fantastic visitor numbers,’ Tempel is keen to point out. ‘We really managed to convey the extraordinary story of Mondrian’s unique development as an artist. Together with our partners in the national centenary celebrations, entitled Mondrian to Dutch Design – 100 Year of De Stijl, we also further raised the profile of the Netherlands as a tourist destination. Mondrian ranks alongside Rembrandt and Van Gogh as one of the world’s most important artists, and you have to come to the Netherlands to really get to know him.’
Benno Tempel was also struck by how the entire city engaged with the centenary celebrations. ‘The general public really took Mondrian to their hearts this year. That confirms what I always say: art is alive in The Hague. This is truly a city of museums, home to some of the most attractive and successful museums in the country. Our exhibitions drew a lot of visitors, but this record year is also down to the many residents, local businesses, large companies, other partners in the community and the local authority, who all worked with us to make it a success.’
There were other highlights in 2017, too. Fashion lovers were treated to a dazzling exhibition on Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. And our current exhibitions – Art Deco – Paris and Gonzalez, Picasso and Friends – have rounded the year off beautifully. Our Mondrians may not have travelled the world this year, but hundreds of other pieces from our collection did. We collaborated with and provided works on loan to some of the world’s leading museums, including Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Madrid, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The museum organised exhibitions of work by Escher in Italy (Pisa) and Toorop in Germany (Berlin). ‘The Gemeentemuseum is one of the most generous art lenders in the Netherlands’, says head of collections Doede Hardeman. ‘It’s important to us that our magnificent collection is seen as much as possible, both at home and away.’