Utrecht, 2019

During my last stay in the Netherlands, I visited Leiden and I was very enthusiastic about this historic town. This time I had arranged to have lunch with a friend in Utrecht and I decided to make it a daytrip, so I could explore another historic town.

Let me start with three images. First a map of Utrecht , drawn in 1652. The town is surrounded by defensive moats (singels in Dutch).

This map is from 1856. Still not much development outside the singels

And here is a Google Earth screenshot from 2017. To guide the eye, I have marked the “singels” in blue and also indicated the locations where I have taken pictures. Click to enlarge. (I have rotated the GE image in such a way that North points in the same direction as in the old maps)

I arrived at Utrecht CS, the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. To reach the historical town, I had to cross a shopping center to the Vredenburg square, from where I had a look at the TivoliVredenburg (2014), the modern music complex of Utrecht.

From the square I entered the Zakkendragerssteeg, mentioned for the first time in 1425 and reached the Oudegracht, dating back to the 12th century. In a few hundred meters from the 21th century to the Middle Ages ūüėČ

The canals of Utrecht (Oudegracht, Nieuwegracht and a few minor ones) are rather unique in the world, very different from the Amsterdam ones. They have functioned in the past as an inner-city harbour. The canals were connected to the rivers Rhine and Vecht, and alongside the canals there were wharves, giving access to basement cellars, underneath the houses of the merchants.

I crossed the Oudegracht (more pictures later) and walked to the Janskerk, founded shortly after 1040, built in roman style, but of course modified many times later.

I had no time to visit the interior, and continued to the hallmark of Utrecht, the Domtoren (Dom tower) built between 1321 and 1382. With a height of 112 m it is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. Work was being done on it during my visit.

On the Dom square I took a picture of the statue of Jan van Nassau, the younger brother of William of Orange, who has been instrumental in the signing of the Unie van Utrecht (1579), regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, during the war of independence with Spain.

The Academiegebouw on the Dom square looks old, but isn’t ! It was built between 1891-94 in Dutch Neo-Renaissance style.

Then it was time for lunch. I met my friend at the Rechtbank, in earlier days a courthouse, now a popular cafe. He was one of my first students when I was a physics teacher, and is now a physicist himself…:-)

AFter our lunch I continued my walk, crossing the Nieuwegracht to the Maliesingel. The Nieuwegracht (New Canal) is actually very old, built around 1390, but still newer than the Oudegracht (Old Canal), which was built in the 12th century. The Maliesingel is one of the moats, still surrounding the old town.

In the past, rich people sometimes built simple houses for the poor around a courtyard. The Dutch name for such a compound is “hofje”, in Utrecht you still find an alternative name : Kameren. The houses consisted basically of one room (kamer). Here is the Bruntenhof (Bruntscameren), built in 1621.

I wanted to visit the Centraal Museum, so I walked back to the Nieuwegracht and the Lange Nieuwstraat. This “New Street” dates back to ca 1300, same as the Dorstige Hartsteeg. The church tower you see in the background, belongs to St Catherine’s Cathedral, no time to visit.

Walking to the Centraal Museum I noticed a sign for The University Museum and the Hortus , the former botanical gardens of the University.

I spent some time in the University Museum. Interesting mixture of sometimes weird objects. As a physicist I was of course interested in the particle accelerator, in this case even more, because my friend told me that he had actually been working with this machine, during his research!

Walking to the Central Museum I passed the Beyerskameren (1597), another charity project to give (free) housing to the poor.

The end of the Lange Nieuwsstraat is dominated by the Fundatie van Renswoude. Built in Rococo style in 1757, it was meant to provide education for “intelligent” orphan boys. The interior must be magnificent, but is only open to the public at specific times, like the Open Monument Day.

The Centraal Museum is the main museum of Utrecht, founded in 1838. It has an interesting collection of “old” art, modern art, applied art, the history of Utrecht etc. For me it was the first time that I visited the museum. Therefore quite a lot of pictures.

Many museums nowadays show their collection, combining the various art forms, like here: paintings, furniture, fashion. I really like this approach..

Of course the museum has lots of Rietveld furniture. The dollhouse is from the end of the 17th century and obviously not meant for children ūüôā

Two examples of art mixing. Left 17th century portraits combined with a self-portrait by Carel Willink (1922). Right various forms of fashion.

Roelant Saverij (1576 ‚Äď1639) was a Golden Age painter who lived a large part of his life in Utrecht.

Pyke Koch 1901 ‚Äď 1991 ) can also be considered an Utrecht painter. He and Carel Willink were the main representatives of Dutch Magic Realism. He was a perfectionist, his oeuvre is quite small, and I am always happy to find one of his paintings in a museum. The Centraal Museum has quite a few!

J.H. Moesman (1909-1988) was born in Utrecht and lived there almost all of his life. A Surrealist painter, the “Dutch Dali”. The museum houses a large collection of his works.

I spent only about one hour in this museum, a next time I will stay longer, there is a lot to see, but I had to make my way back to the station.

The Nicolai church is located next to the museum. Its origins go back to the 12th century, the front with the two towers is still in the original Roman style. In 1586 one tower was raised to make room for a carillon.

A few more pictures of de Oudegracht.

On my way back, I visited a few more “hofjes”. Lot of heritage buildings, a very pleasant part of Utrecht.

But Utrecht is not only interesting because of its heritage. It is a lively town, with many cafes, restaurants and entertainment outlets. And there is a lot of Jugendstil in Utrecht, one of my architecturale favourites. But that will be for a future visit.

When friends of mine are visiting the Netherlands, I sometimes advised them to skip overcrowded Amsterdam and visit Utrecht instead. Now that I have walked around myself, I will keep telling them: Visit Utrecht!

Erwin Olaf in the Gemeentemuseum

To celebrate the 60th birthday of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf a double retrospective exhibition of his work has been held in the Gemeentemuseum and the Photography Museum, both in Den Haag.

I have always been a fan of him, so during my recent trip to the Netherlands, Aric and I made a day trip to Den Haag. The Gemeentemuseum is one of my favourite museums. The building, designed by Berlage and constructed between 1931-1935, is an artwork itself, and the museum houses the world largest collection of Mondrian paintings. My last visit was in 2017, More museums in Den Haag

I was very impressed by the Erwin Olaf exhibition. I was familiar with his older work, but not really aware of his development during the last decades. As the Gemeentemuseum describes him, he is not only a photographer but has become a digital image-maker and storyteller.

Here are two of his recent works, that especially fascinated, and also intrigued me.

What struck me is the lack on interaction between the two persons. They seem to be living in their own world. Here are a few more examples.

More persons, or one only, I get the same feeling of loneliness and isolation. With all of these (large-scale) photographs, you are wondering about the story behind it. And of course admiring the sheer technical perfection!

A selection of portrait photos

Erwin Olaf is also an installation artist.

Last year he has made a widely acclaimed series of portraits of the Dutch Royal Family.

I enjoyed this exhibition of his recent works very much! Maybe also because some of his photographs reminded me of works by other favourite artists of mine ūüėČ

Here is David Hockney‘s painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972).

And here is Edward Hopper‘s painting Automat (1927)

Before moving to the Photography Museum for the second part of the exhibition, we first had some food in the restaurant. The right picture shows my failed attempt to evoke loneliness and isolation ūüėČ

The exhibition in the Photography Museum is about Erwin Olaf’s development as a photographer. Most of the photos I had seen before, so we spent less time here. There was also work of photographers who have influenced him.

Two fascinating self-portraits, created 33 years apart!

More portraits

In his early years he was influenced by Robert Mapplethorpe ūüėČ

It was a perfect outing. On our way back, by tram to the Den Haag train station, we passed the parliament buildings and decided to have a short walk around, because Aric had never been there.

ArtZuid 2019

ArtZuid is an international sculpture exhibition which takes place every two years in Amsterdam. The first time was in 2009 and the artworks are exhibited mainly in Plan-Zuid, an urban development plan designed by Berlage in 1917. The 2019 exhibition takes place from May 17 to September 15. More information can be found on the ArtZuid website.

The exhibition is becoming bigger every time it is held, with extensions until the Rijksmuseum and Amstelveen. I limited myself to the proper ArtZuid exhibition, which has 91 items this year. Of course not all the works of art appealed to me, here is my selection. In a rather arbitrary order, but I start with those that have been created after 2000. For each artist I have added a link either to their own website, or to Wikipedia.

Atelier Van Lieshout. created in 1995 by Joep van Lieshout (1963), the Netherlands

Henk Visch (1950), the Netherlands

Johan Tahon (1965) , Belgium

Yoshitomo Nara (1959), Japan

Gloria Friedmann (1950), Germany

Erwin Wurm (1954), Austria

Yubi Kirindongo (1946), Curaçao. Also represented with some older works.

Roberto Barni (1939), Italy

Armando (1929-2018), the Netherlands

Theo Jansen (1948), the Netherlands

Nick Ervinck (1981), Belgium

Hans Van de Bovenkamp (1938), the Netherlands/USA

Eja Siepman van den Berg (1943), the Netherlands.

Jan Fabre (1958), Belgium

Tony Matelli (1971), USA

Left Nancy Rubins (1952) and right Matthew Monahan (1972), both USA

Ivan Cremer (1984), the Netherlands

Left Barry Flanagan (1941-2009), UK and right Jaume Plensa (1955), Spain

George Struikelblok (1973), Surinam

Left Marc Quinn (1964), UK and right Tom Claassen (1964), the Netherlands

Sachi Miyachi (1978). Japan

Left Joel Shapiro (1941), USA and right Jems Robert Koko Bi (1966), Ivory Coast

There are also artworks, created before 2000, mostly by artists who have already passed away.

Left Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and right Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), both France. Of course both sculptures are not the originals, many (authorised) copies have been made (and sold!). For Rodin see this Wikipedia List of The Thinker sculptures ūüôā

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), France. One of the many copies

Left Jan Havermans (1892-1964), the Netherlands and right the (in)famous thumb of César (1921-1993), France

Charlotte van Pallandt (1898-1997), the Netherlands

Left Nic Jonk (1928-1994) and right Karel Appel (1921-2006), both the Netherlands

Left Arman (1928-2005) and right Antoine Poncet (1928), both France. Poincet is still alive, in 2009 he opened the first ArtZuid exhibition!

An ArtZuid App is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Very useful, it gives you a map with locations and information about the artworks.

Versatile Perak

In my opinion Perak is the most interesting state of Malaysia, regarding nature, culture and history. A rich history, many historical towns , numerous waterfalls. Nice food too..:-)

Recently I visited Perak with my friends Paul and Fahmi. We stayed two nights in the Cititel hotel in Ipoh.

On our way to Ipoh we first visited a waterfall near Sungkai, the Enggang waterfall. At the end of the road leading to the well-known Sungkai Hot springs, a clear trail starts, leading in about one hour to the waterfall.

The waterfall is not visible from the trail, but of course you can hear it.  We first arrived halfway the fall  (left picture). After some scrambling down the slope we managed to reach the bottom. (right picture)

We had visited this waterfall a couple of years ago. Not many people come here, the fall is still pristine! And the flow of water was very impressive this time.

After lunch in Sungkai, we continued to Ipoh, checked in into our hotel, took some rest and went out for dinner. Many times I have eaten in one of the famous chicken taugeh kwai teow places, but this time we were looking for halal food and an Ipoh friend had suggested a few suitable restaurants. The Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice turned out to be a good choice.

On our way back to our hotel, we passed a few interesting buildings. Left the Chua Cheng Bok building (1930s) in Art Deco style, recently painted in bright blue colors. Would you guess that the beautiful building in the right picture originally has been a Fire Station? It was built here in 1913 and upgraded in 1936. Served as Fire and Rescue Department until 1992.

For our breakfast next morning we went to the Halal Dimsum Cafe in Greentown another suggestion from my Ipoh friend. Very good dimsum!

On our program for the morning was another waterfall, the Lata Ulu Chepor, on the outskirts of Ipoh. It was a bit of  failure, I had forgotten to mark the locations of the two (minor) falls in my GPS, and we passed them without noticing them. The trail continued, might lead to a taller waterfall upstream, but we returned, found a nice place to have a bath. Crystal clear water.

I

I had in mind to visit another waterfall in the same region, but this hike had taken quite a lot of time, so we decided to skip it and go for lunch. Nasi Ganja! Using Google we had found the address. When we arrived there, we noticed a big crowd queuing, but no sign of Nasi Ganja. It turned out that this was the shop, all Ipoh people know it as nasi ganja, but the shop can not advertise with the name as ganja is an illegal drug. . Nice nasi kandar, apparently addictive…:-)

In the afternoon Paul and I explored Ipoh Old Town. Paul had published an album about Ipoh Heritage, so he could show me around. We started from our strategically located hotel.

Around the corner St Michael’s Institution, one of the famous¬† Ipoh schools, founded by the La Salle Brothers in 1912. The impressive building is from 1922.

Next to it the India Muslim Mosque. Construction started in 1909

Below left the entrance of the Royal Ipoh Club, records go back to 1895, but it may be even older. Right the High Court buildings, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and built 1926-28.

Two other impressive buildings in Ipoh have also been designed by Hubback. Construction of the Town Hall started in 1914 and was completed two years later. Is is really a monumental building.

Opposite the Town Hall, the Railway Station, nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by locals. Officially opened in 1917. The first floor used to be a hotel, the Majestic Station Hotel, and many years ago I have been staying there several times. It was already rundown at that time, dirty sheets, cockroaches. Now it is closed, although there still exists a website , promoting its¬† “superbly-comfortable accommodation”¬† !

Coming from the Railway Station, the Birch memorial is located behind the Town Hall. J.W.W. Birch was the first British resident of Perak, assassinated in 1875 at Pasir Salak by Malay noblemen, Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor.

The monument, also a clock tower, was erected in 1909 by his son, E.W. Birch, at that time the (much more popular) resident of Perak. Nice detail: the roads left and right of the monument were originally named Station Road and Post Office Road. After independence they have been renamed. The new names? Jalan Dato Maharajalela and Jalan Dato Sagor !

Another interesting detail.¬†On¬† four civilisation panels around the tower, 44 famous figures in the world history are portrayed, for example Buddha, Newton, Confucius, Galilei etc. One of the figures¬† has been painted over. Guess who…:-)

Two bank buildings. Left the impressive building of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank (1931), right the Chartered Bank (1924)

There are more historical bank buildings in the same district, for example the Mercantile Bank (1931) , designed in Art Deco style by Iversen.Now it is housing the Elken company, note the ugly banner on the facade. The OCBC bank is now occupying the building of the Straits Trading Company (1907).

The Perak Hydro building (1930s) belonged to the Perak River Hydro-Electric Company who built the Chenderoh dam in the Perak river, the oldest reservoir in Malaysia

Chung Thye Phin was born in Taiping and became a wealthy tin miner and (the last) Kapitan Cina. The building below carried his name and was built in 1907. In its early days it used to be a medical hall. Beautiful facade.

Walking around in Ipoh Old Town, I was surprised about the numerous interesting heritage buildings. Generally well preserved.

At first I thought that this could be the exception: overgrown decaying shoplots. But I was mistaken…:-)

Actually it is part of Kong Heng square. Not overgrown, but modern vertical gardens..:-), The first floor houses  Sekeping Kong Heng , will try to stay there during my next visit

Three more buildings. Left the Han Chin Pet Soo building, now housing the Hakka tin mining museum.¬†Originally the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893 and rebuilt in 1929. In the middle a nameless house, under renovation. And right the building of the FMS Bar and Restaurant, an icon from Ipoh’s glorious past. A couple of years ago it was hoped that the glory would come back after a ambitious restoration. But during my visit it was closed without a sign of life. A failed project?

And here are two more buildings from a different era. Left the Labrooy House, modernist design, completed between 1960 and 1961. Right from the same period, the first parking garage of Malaysia!

Finally here are two street views of Leech Street (now Jalan Bandar Timah). Beautiful. Followers of my blog know that I love Taiping as my 2nd hometown. Pity you can not find similar street views in Taiping ūüôĀ

To be honest, I was very impressed by the heritage of Ipoh Old Town. Taiping’s history starts earlier, it boasts on its many “Firsts” and is promoted as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town), but when you compare the two towns, Ipoh deserves this title more.

Of course I had to walk through Concubine Lane. After reading negative reports about how tourism had destroyed the character of this street,¬† I was prepared for the worst. Actually it was not too bad, not worse than Petaling Street in KL…:-)

Two year ago I visited Ipoh to see the Zacharevic murals, see my blog Ipoh Murals. Mural Art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia the last few years and also in Ipoh there has been copycatting. Not  really a positive development.

We had dinner our last night in another Chinese Muslim restaurant, this time Fahmi’s discovery. Roast duck, Mongolian chicken, bitter gourd with salted egg. A nice, filling meal!

The next morning, before checking out,  a view from my room in Cititel.

We had breakfast in the Medan Selera near the BIrch memorial with soft-boiled eggs on toast, an Ipoh specialty. Yummie!

Our plan was to visit the Hakka Tin mining museum in the Han Chin Pet Soo building, but they have only guided tours and the timing was not suitable for us. So we started our trip back to KL.

Our first stop was at the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. I have visited this gargantuan relic from the tin mining era several times in the past, was able to explore the dredge freely, climbing up to the upper level, sometimes  bit scary, but fascinating. Since a few years the situation has changed, there were plans to make it a No 1 tourist attraction and it was closed, you could only see it from the outside.

Friends had told me that it was now open to the public, and I wanted to have a look. I was a bit shocked by the ticket price, RM 10 for Mykad holders, RM 20 (!) for foreigners. Senior citizens get a 50 % discount, but still too expensive, as at the moment only the (less interesting) lower level is accessible. Although the guided tour was informative, better wait until the whole dredge can be visited.

Left the ambitious development plan for the Tanjung Tualang dredge. Rather unrealistic and completely over the top, in my opinion. Right a simpler version. I got the impression from our guide that the project has been put on hold after the recent change in government. Good, the dredge itself can become a tourist attraction, like Kellie’s castle, no need¬† to surround it with all kind of nonsense.

During my earlier visits the dredge pontoon was tilting because of leakage, that has been stabilised now. Right a small canteen, closed when we visited the dredge, but probably more busy during weekends. There is also  small museum.

Our next target was the Salu waterfall, 6 km north of Kampar. Easy access, two waterfalls. Suitable for senior citizens..:-)

From the carpark a cemented path leads in a few minutes to the lower Salu fall. 

The upper fall can be reached in about 15 minutes via a clear trail. There are more waterfalls upstream, but these require jungle  trekking.

Our last destination was the Tin Mining museum in Kampar. Until a few weeks ago I had never heard about this museum, but apparently it exists already for seven years! It was a pleasant surprise.

As the signboard says, it is mainly dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps.Here is an interesting pdf file about Gravel Pump Tin Mining. Impressive machinery, I understand there are guided tours, which would really have been useful here.

Besides the machinery, there is a big hall with lots of information. A few scale models of tin mines give  a good impression of the process.

Both inside and outside the halls dioramas have been created of the various activities related to tin mining. Also here a guide would be useful, or leaflets with information.

After our museum visit we had lunch in the mamak next to it, and then it was time to go home.

Versatile Perak!

Good News for Modern Man

Under this title the Groninger Museum has organised an exhibition of works created by the American artist David LaChapelle.

I had never before heard about this artist, but when I saw the poster of the exhibition I was intrigued, so I decided to visit the museum during my recent visit to Groningen.

I had no idea why the exhibition was named Good News for Modern Man and did a Google search. Surprising result: in 1966 the American Bible Society published a “modern translation” of the New Testament under this title! Why did LaChapelle choose this title?¬†Time to find out more about him.

David LaChapelle (born in 1963) was 17 year old when he moved to New York, came in contact with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and in the following decades acquired fame as a fashion and celebrity photographer. His style was easily recognisable, exuberant colors, references to classical art. Technically perfect, often decorating and transforming his (analogue) color negatives.Sometimes controversial too.

Around 2007 he got fed up with the empty glamour and glitter of the consumerist society, moved to the island of Maui and started to create “fine art” photography…:-). Art with a Utopian vision of a post-industrial era, where men will live in harmony with nature: Good News For Modern Man.

I found it a fascinating exhibition. Took many pictures, would have taken more if I had known more about him. I show them here in more or less chronological order.

Burning down the house (1996), a portrait of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen (left) and his “muse” Isabella Blow. The castle in the background is real!

From left to right Lil’ Kim (1999), Death by Hamburger (2001) and¬† Self Preservation (1995). Lil’ Kim has Louis Vuitton tattoos, the Hamburger photo is actually a fashion ad for the shoes the model is wearing! It seems that David Bowie was not too happy with his portrait.

My Own Marilyn (2002) and¬† Amanda as Liz (Red) (2007) LaChapelle started his career in Andy Warhol’s Factory and of course knows about Warhol’s iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.¬† These portraits are based on real photos , both with transgender Amanda Lepore as model.

Evidence of a Miraculous Event (left)   Intervention (right)  . From  the series Jesus Is My Homeboy (2003)

The Last Supper (2003). Of course inspired by Da Vinci, and also part of the Jesus is my Homeboy series.

Deluge (2007). This work, inspired by Michelangelo’s Deluge in the Sistine Chapel marks a change in LaChapelle’s work

Cathedral (2007). Same series as Deluge, also referring to the Flood

American Jesus: Hold me, carry me boldly (2009)

The Rape of Africa (2009). Inspired by Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. Venus is personified here by Naomi Campbell.

The Raft of Illusion, Raging Toward Truth II (2011). Inspired by Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa. It is a collage, a work in progress, not often shown by LaChapelle

From left to right:  Concerning the Soul, Early Fall and Late Summer. From the series Earth Laughs in Flowers (2011)

Nativity (2012) from the Paradise series

Icarus (2012)¬†In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the inventor of a way to fly, using feathers and wax. In spite of his father’s warnings, Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he fell down in the sea, where he drowned

Seismic Shift (2012), purchased by the Groninger Museum in 2018. It shows the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ruined after an earthquake. Try to find the many works of art in this photo, by artists like Koons, Hirst, Warhol, and even LaChapelle himself…:-)

Self Portrait as House (2013)¬†An intriguing version of a self portrait. The various rooms in the house depict aspects of the artist’s personality

Gas Stations (2012)   Gaia (2011)

Kardashian Christmas Card (2013). Apparently the (in)famous Kardashian family spends every year tons of money for a “personal” Christmas Card. In 2013 it was LaChapelle’s turn, for 250.000(?) dollar

Land Scape series (2013) From a distance this may look like real refineries, but they are not. They are built from waste material like cans and straws in the artist’s studio. Click here for a video how LaChapelle did it: Land Scape part 1 and part 2¬†Amazing.

Secret Passage (2014) From the Paradise series

In his most recent series New World, LaChapelle imagines a world where many religions come together in harmony. The following pictures belong to this recent series

The First Supper (2015) If there is a Last Supper, there should also be a First Supper.

From left to right    News of Joy (2016), Jesus and Buddah under a tree (2017) and A New World (2017) 

Behold (2017)   Poster image of the exhibition

The exhibition can be visited until 28 October 2018.

Singapore, July 2018

In January I visited Singapore, see my blog post Singapore 2018 . We met my friend Dr Lee and had a wonderful time. It was only a short visit and there was no time to visit his penthouse in the iconic  Pearl Bank apartments, the tallest and densest residential building in Singapore when it was completed in 1976.

In February the building has been sold¬†to a developer and it will likely not be conserved¬†despite the wishes of heritage lovers ūüôĀ

The building was designed by architect Tan Cheng Siong, here is an interesting interview with him about the Pearl Bank apartments. 

Dr Lee invited me to stay a couple of nights in his penthouse. The C-shape of the design is very impressive, both looking up from the central courtyard, as looking down from the 37th floor where he has been living since the completion of the building!

From his penthouse you have an unobstructed view of Singapore. It was slightly hazy during my visit, but Dr Lee told me that you can even see the sea and Indonesia when the sky is clear.

The apartments are built in split-level style and as a penthouse occupies two floors, there are many levels. Fascinating, how I would love to live in an apartment like this!

But as the building probably will demolished in the near future, my friend is already preparing to leave. Very sad. There have been proposals for conservation, read more details here, but at the end of the day it came to nothing.

Two more pictures, a night view looking up, and a proposal for conservation/renovation, prepared in 2014 by Tan Cheng Siong’s firm, Archurban Architects Planners.¬†Pity that this beautiful design¬†will not be realised.

After I had arrived in Singapore (by First Coach bus) and met Dr Lee in his apartment, we went out in the afternoon to visit an exhibition of textile art,¬†N√ľshu: An Inspiration¬†, just opened the day before I arrived. The artist, Benny Ong, was present to explain to us the meaning of the artworks.¬† Even without any explanation his work is quite fascinating. Ong became famous as a fashion designer, but switched in the 2000’s to textile art

The exhibition was held in the Goo Loo Club, more than 100 year old, and a couple of years ago revitalised. It used to be the club for the Peranakan millionaires of Singapore The building next to it (right picture) is even grander and was the club for the Chinese millionaires…:-). It dates back to 1891 and was more modestly named the Chinese Weekly Entertainment Club

We had dinner with friends  in another prestigious club, the Singapore Cricket Club , the second oldest club of Singapore, established in 1852, the present clubhouse is from 1884. Very good cuisine, I had a delicious lamb shank

After dinner we had a walk through town. Every time I visit Singapore, I enjoy it more. Traditionally in Malaysia the opinion about Singapore is rather negative, concrete jungle, over organised etc. But when you see everybody enjoying the evening temperatures on the Esplanade, with everywhere activities, it is a pleasant, peaceful town.

The next morning, after breakfast we visited the Flower Dome in the Gardens by the Bay. Special exhibition during our visit was an orchid display, nice, but I prefer the Orchid Garden in the Singapore Botanical Gardens

There are many different gardens in the Flower Dome, each dedicated to a specific continent or plant species. I liked the cactuses..:-)

Nice flowers, old olive trees, a baobab tree, you wonder how they transported those trees from their original locations.

Decorated by Peranakan facades and other decorative items, it was a pleasure to walk around, although the other dome, the Cloud Forest, visited during my January visit, is more spectacular.

Walking back to town from the Gardens by the Bay, you pass Marina Bay Sands hotel, the iconic landmark of Singapore. Not cheap but worth to stay there at least once, see my 2013 report Singapore.  The ArtScience museum nearby is by the same architect

My next destination was an exhibition in the ArtScience Museum by a Dutch(!) artist, Theo Jansen, who has been designing and building “beach animals”, constructions of PVC tube that are able to move along the beach when there is enough wind.

It was a fascinating exhibition, I have written a separate post about it: Strandbeesten, (the Dutch translation of beach animals). Here one of his creations

My trips are not complete without food..:-)¬† ¬†For lunch we went back to the Singapore Cricket Club, where I had a tasty laksa. That evening we had dinner at a friend’s place, he had prepared a delicious meal with many different dishes. And the next morning we went to the¬†Tiong Bahru Food market, where I had nasi lemak. I think it is a misconception that the Singaporean food culture is inferior to the Malaysian one.

This day I spent on my own. After breakfast Lee dropped me at the Peranakan museum, near the Fort Canning Hill. I had never visited this part of Singapore, it was a pleasant walk. The hill has a rich history, read the Wikipedia link.

In the 19th century there was a Christian cemetery on the hill, the Gothic gate (1846) is a remnant and probably the two attractive cupolas as well. Several tomb stones have been placed in the surrounding wall.

I was interested to visit the Battle Box, the Military Command Center during the Japanese invasion in 1941/42. It is now a museum with a guided tour. After I bought my ticket there was just enough time for a cup of coffee in the National Museum of Singapore, located nearby.

The guided tour was very informative. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the maze of corridors and rooms, pity but understandable.¬†¬† I found a picture on the Internet with the most impressive room, where on 15 February 1942 Lieutenant-General Percival decided to surrender, in spite of Churchill’s order to keep fighting until the last man.

I am very interested in the Japanese invasion of Malaysia, see my report Japan invades Malaya 1941/42 which describes the first part of the invasion, until KL.

Some pictures outside the Battle Box. A sally port is a hidden door to enter and exit the Battle Box undetected. In case of emergency or fire you could escape via a ladder. What is now the Fort Canning Arts Center, were originally British Army Barracks, constructed in 1926. And Hotel Fort Canning was the British Far East Command Headquarters during World War II.  Everything looks so peaceful and serene now..:-)

After the Battle Box I walked down the hill to the Peranakan Museum, a beautiful building in Classical style, originally built in 1910-12 for the Tao Nan Chinese School.

You can explore the museum on your own, but I decided to follow a (free) guided tour, which was again very informative. The Peranakan are¬†are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago between the 15th and 17th centuries. Another term for them is Nyonya (for the women) and Baba (for the men). I didn’t know that Yap Ah Loy, Capitan Cina of KL and Lee Kuan Yew, first president of Singapore, were Peranakan…:-)

Dinner that night was in the Tanglin Club, one of Singapore’s most prestigious and prominent social clubs, founded in 1865. Even more upmarket than the SSC, I would say.

Western food this time. Walking around in the lobby I noticed a board with the past presidents of the club. Surprised to find J.W.W. Birch in the list, the first British resident of Perak, murdered in 1875 in Pasir Salak. In 1876 the club had no president, just a coincidence?

After breakfast the next morning,¬† I took the bus back to KL. Already looking forward to my next visit of Singapore…:-)

Strandbeesten

The Dutch artist Theo Jansen has become famous by the creation of Beach Animals, otherworldly constructions that are able, under favorable wind conditions, to move along the beach. In Dutch language they are called Strandbeesten and on the Internet you can find many fascinating videos of them.

Here is a compilation

I had never seen a Strandbeest in the real, so I was thrilled when I read that there was an exhibition of Jansen’s works in the ArtScience Museum in Singapore! I had planned already to visit my Singapore friends before my next trip to Holland, this was an extra reason. A full report of my Singapore trip will come later.

The iconic ArtScience museum was designed by architect Moshe Safdie and opened in 2011. The Strandbeest exhibition fits perfectly in the concept of this museum. Theo Jansen actually studied physics before becoming an artist and you can still see clearly the scientific/technical background of his creations.

Theo Jansen started the creation of his animals in 1990, basically using PVC tube. The first Strandbeesten are now fossils, they have evolved during the years, the newest species is the Burchus family, resembling giant caterpillars

The exhibition shows 13 large-scale Strandbeests, fossil ones and new developments. They have been assembled in the museum by a team of Jansen’s helpers, according to a museum attendant it took months..:-)

It is really a pleasure to view these creations, even when they are static and don’t move

But of course it is even nicer when they  move..:-) At certain times of the day demonstrations are given with a few models, using a wind generator, but not during my visit.

However, there are two models you can move by hand. Fascinating!

Of course I had to do it myself.

It is a nice exhibition, occupying one floor of the museum. You can experiment yourself, the kids can make drawings.

Some of his creations look like prehistoric animals.

The details are often astonishing.

A few more pictures

If this one was supposed to move, I don’t know. But so beautiful!¬† This exhibition brings you in a happy mood.

The exhibition in Singapore will be on until 30 September 2018. More information about opening times, guided tours etc, can be found here.

For the Dutch readers of this post, here is a very readable interview with Theo Jansen, from 1996: De schaamte van een strand-eskimo

 

National Gallery, Singapore

On November 2015 a new museum was opened in Singapore, the National Gallery, with a collection of over 8000 artworks. It is housed in two national monuments, the Old Supreme Court Building and the City Hall. They are adjacent, facing the padang, City Hall was built from 1926 to 1929, the Supreme Court a decade later, both in neoclassical colonial style.

In 2005 it was decided to convert the two buildings into a new museum. An architectural design competition was launched and Studio Milou Singapore came out as the winner. In their design, the two buildings are connected by a curtain like canopy roof and two skybridges. The right picture shows an evening view from the Singapore Cricket Club

Here is a scale model of the National Gallery

On the last day of our recent trip to Singapore, before taking the bus back to KL, we decided to visit this museum. Here is a view from one of the skybridges. Left the City Hall, right the Former Supreme Court. Ticketing counter and entrance to the galleries are in the basement.

I like the design, the contrast between the old heritage buildings and the modern link. In the left picture you see the tree-like structure supporting the curtain roof, in the right picture the two skybridges. There were many (very disciplined!) groups of students.

We were lucky that there was a special exhibition going on, Century of Light, consisting of two parts, Colours of Impressionism, with masterpieces from the Paris Orsay Museum, and Between Worlds, dedicated to two 19th century Asian painters who were strongly influenced by European Art.

First we visited the Colours of Impressionism. The Mus√©e d’Orsay, specialising in 19th century art, is one of my favourites, it was an interesting experience to view the artworks here in Singapore.

I don’t know why, but I am always happy when I see a painting of Caillebotte. On my own website I have a page, dedicated to him

Gustave Caillebotte, Vue de toits (Effet de neige) (1879)

Several paintings by Monet were exhibited. In 1886 he visited the Netherlands and of course he had to paint the tulip fields…:-)

Claude Monet, Champs de tulipes en Hollande (1886)

More paintings of Monet, Signac, Renoir, Sisley and others

The gallery design was quite attractive, nice colours, good lighting

We continued with the second exhibition. Raden Saleh was born in 1811 on  Java in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). He traveled in 1829 to the Netherlands, where he became a well-known painter. He returned in 1852 to the Dutch East Indies and died in 1880.

I had never before heard about him!  What a pleasant surprise. Here I am admiring his painting Boschbrand (Forest Fire), painted in 1849. A vivid depiction of wild animals trying to escape a forest fire.

Searching information about him,¬† I found that this painting until a few years ago belonged to the Dutch royal family. It was presented in 1850 to King William III, and in 2014 sold in “deplorable” condition by 14 grandchildren of former queen Juliana to the Singapore National Gallery! Read the curious story here:¬†Experts critical after Royal Family makes millions from private art sales

He was 18 when he arrived in the Netherlands where he got most of his training. It is interesting to see how his style develops

The second painter in the Between Worlds exhibition is Juan Luna, born 1857 in the Philippines, a Spanish colony in those days. He died young, in 1899. He traveled to Spain when he was young and stayed many years in Europe.

I found this painting impressive and intriguing. It is called¬†‚ÄúLes Ignores‚ÄĚ (‚ÄúThe Unknown Ones‚ÄĚ) and he painted it in 1889-1890. It depicts a funeral of humble people. A real masterpiece.

Also here a variety of styles, compare the classical romantic “Death of Cleopatra” with the impressionist “Picnic in Normandy”, both painted around 1880!

Then it was time for lunch. We had a look at the top floor, where there is a roof “garden” and a restaurant, but we only wanted a simple sandwich, so we went down to the basement

From the top floor there is a nice view of the padang and the Singapore skyline.

One of the interior courtyards and the food we had in the cafetaria

After our lunch we walked over to the Former Supreme Court. Here the large UOB Southeast Asia collection is housed in fifteen galleries. We could only get an impression in the limited time we had.

The interior of the building itself is very impressive.

From Wikipedia:¬† “the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will present the history of Southeast Asian art through artistic impulses shared across the region. Starting in the 19th century, the history of Southeast Asian art is characterised by negotiations between the region‚Äôs traditions and modernity.¬†”

Here a collection of pictures, to show the variety of art styles and nationalities. Hidalgo was Filipino and a contemporary of Juan Luna, Mori Kinsen was Japanese (1888-1959), Inguimberty was French but worked in Vietnam (1896-1971), Chua Mia Tee is Singaporean (1931 Р), Jose Tence Ruiz is Filipino. Just to name a few.

Many of the artworks have social/political connotations. An interesting collection

When I will visit Singapore again, I will plan at least a full day for this museum.

More museums in Den Haag

In my last blog post I visited the MORE museum in Gorssel¬†, where MORE stands for MOdern REalism. In this post I visit¬†more¬†museums in Den Haag, where more stands for two…:-).¬†I went there with my soulmate Inez, who suggested to visit the Gemeentemuseum and the Mauritshuis

The Gemeentemuseum is a masterpiece of the Dutch architect  Berlage. Built in Art-Deco style, 1931-1935. It is a spectacular building, both from the outside and the inside

We visited the exhibition Tumult in the City, one day before it closed!

In the 1880’s a group of young artists¬† no longer painted the countryside, like the¬†Hague School, but became interested in city life.¬†George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israels, Willem Witsen and others explored the city, especially Amsterdam, so they are sometimes called the Amsterdam impressionists

Here are a few examples of their style. They painted the everyday life of the city, street action, fashion ladies, entertainment, labourers, construction sites.

And more paintings

We had our lunch in the museum restaurant

There is a lot more to see in the Gemeentemuseum, for example the world-famous collection of Mondriaan paintings, but we left that for another visit and went to the Mauritshuis. This magnificent building was built as a home between 1636 and 1641 by Jacobus van Campen (his masterpiece was the Townhall of Amsterdam)

It now houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings

A visit to this museum is really a joy of recognition. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Avercamp, the famous bull of Paulus Potter…:-)

Here are more paintings

In 2007 the museum announced that it needed to expand. The architect Hans van Heeswijk designed the expansion, the project started in 2010 and the museum was reopened in 2014. This is the same architect who designed the MORE museum in Gorssel!

Here a few pictures of the expansion. Nice combination of new and old

It was an interesting museum excursion

MORE Museum in Gorssel

Five years ago, in 2012, business tycoon and art collector Hans Melchers bought more than 1200  artworks from the bankrupt DSB bank. He owned already a large number of paintings by Carel Willink and wanted to create a museum for his collection. He found a suitable location in Gorssel, a village south of Deventer in the province of Gelderland. The MORE museum was opened in 2015 and is now the largest museum  for Dutch Modern Realism.

When I am back in the Netherlands, I always try to meet Nellie, my friend of more than 55 (!) years. We both like art and this time we decided to visit this new museum. She traveled from Friesland where she is living, I took the train from Amsterdam, we met in Deventer, took the bus to Gorssel, and started with coffee in a nice cafe opposite the museum

The museum is housed in the former town hall of Gorssel and a new extension. A very successful combination of old and new.

A few months ago Melchers opened a second museum in nearby Ruurlo, specially dedicated to Carel Willink, the most famous Dutch “magic realist” painter. We decided to keep¬†this museum for a next visit, fortunately quite a few of Willink’s masterpieces were still on view in this museum.

Carel Willink (1900-1983)

Zeppelin (1933)

Terrace with Pergola (1951)

City Square (1958)

Towards the Future (1965) and Landing on Mars (1969)

Willink’s Imaginary Realism¬†is easily recognisable, it was a surprise for me to see that he has been experimenting with other styles when he was young. This¬†is also Willink, when he was 24 year old!

The Silver Wedding (1924)

The ground floor of the museum houses (part of)  the  permanent collection. Well-designed exhibition halls

Here are¬† a few examples of Dutch “modern realist” artists. Still-lifes are a popular genre. Click on the links for Wikipedia info.

Raoul Hynckes (1893-1973)

Jan van Tongeren (1897-1991)

Wim Schuhmacher (1894-1986)

Portraits are also common

Philip Akkerman (1957- )   He painted thousands of self-portraits!

Charley Toorop¬† (1891-1955) Easily recognisable style…:-)

Pyke Koch  (1901-1991) Another favourite of mine..:-)

Resting Somnambulist (1930)

The Signal  (1975)


Herman Gordijn (1932 Р2017)

And of course various other subjects

Co Westerik (1924 -)

Jan Mankes  (1889-1920)

One hall is dedicated to photography. Not my main interest

But I am a fan of Erwin Olaf…:-)

Erwin Olaf (1959 Р)

We had lunch in the museum cafe and continued with the first floor of the museum.

 

The first floor is for temporary exhibitions. We were lucky, a retrospective of the versatile artist Herman Berserik had just opened.

Herman Berserik (1921 Р2002)

When we left, the weather had become clouded, I could not really take pictures from the outside. I have to come back, it is really a very interesting museum, worth a second visit.