The entrance to the remodelled Rijksmuseum is worth a visit on its own, with Mr Calder as a bonus.

The entrance to the remodelled Rijksmuseum is worth a visit on its own, with Mr Calder as a bonus. And it’s free.

No time to queue for Rembrandt and Vermeer? Find the EUR15 entrance fee for the Rijksmuseum a bit steep? Hate crowds?

There is an alternative for cheapskate, agoraphobic art lovers. The gardens of the Rijksmuseum are a little treasure, and this year they’re graced by an exhibition of 14 large-scale works by an international superstar. Entry is free and there’s plenty of elbow room.

We seem to have been following Alexander Calder around this year. We’ve found him in Insel Hombroich in Germany…

Calder Insel Hombroich

…and more recently in the excellent MAMAC in Nice…

Alexander Calder, MAMAC, Nice

Now an exhibition of fourteen of his large-scale works is arranged in the gardens and foyers of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Playful stuff. Art should be fun.

Playful stuff. Art should be fun.

I’m in two minds about Calder’s work. On the one hand I feel very well disposed towards anyone who’s worked in puppetry and circus and I found his performances with his miniature circus (I’ve only seen fragments on video) quite charming and unpretentious.

His monumental works have for mine a sameness about them – an arching iron base, a couple of kinetic arms and colourful shapes hanging off them. See one and you’ve pretty much seen them all. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a criticism of an artist. How many waterlily paintings did Monet produce, and are they any worse because there are lots of them?

What do you think? Am I missing something?






Filed under Art, Holland


  1. Isn’t it nice for the not-that-dedicated art lovers to recognize every once in a while someone’s work at once, such as Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle, for example? I loved Calder’s hanging mobile of glass, china, iron wire and thread from the 1930s we saw at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. I’m not that keen on the monumental ones though.

    • Yes, artists like Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle (also heavily featured in Nice’s MAMAC museum) are certainly accessible. And I should have given Calder credit for inventing the mobile, kinetic art. He can’t be blamed if many copied it later.

  2. Knuckles

    Richard,,do you know how long they will be there for ? We will be in Amsterdam mid September en route to the boat trip around Mull we learnt about from your blog.

  3. Like you, I’m iffy about Calder. He seems to have made a long career out of mobiles (did he really invent them?) and stabiles that are just don’t do it for me. Years ago I stepped out from my job at lunchtime to see a construction crew assembling a huge Calder stabile at MIT. Only on the TV news did I find out that in one of those hard hats was Calder himself, supervising. An unknowing BWF on my part.

  4. Sorry for my English. I am Dutch and English is my second language.
    But I had to react since I do not agree with the term ‘sameness’ when you refer to Calder’s works and was happy to read your own comment on that term by referring to Claude Monet’s painting of Waterlilies. To me…. It is never the same with Calder sculptures. Yes, he used the same materials, the same principles but really every sculpture to me is so different. To me it is like he found and used a language and wrote poetry about different subjects.
    And furthermore I love the way every sculpture in a different way contributes to its surrounding. Clear to see in the photo’s of the garden of the Rijksmuseum and in the lobby. One not only sees the mobiles of stabiles but one becomes much more aware of the beautiful new sculpture garden and the lobby of the Rijks.
    And last but not least: Thank you for writing about this exhibition. It is important for my the as an artist, living, teaching and working in Amsterdam that events like this take place.
    After years of closed museums it is so nice to have our museums back, that the Rijks has this nice ‘new’ sculpture garden and to share the beauty of art with people from all over the world.

    The circus movie can be seen on Youtube.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Marianne. I like that description about artists ‘finding a language’ and of course the exhibitions in the sculpture garden of the Rijksmuseum are a wonderful addition to the life of the city, open to everybody and stimulating discussion.

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