KVdL Art: 25th Anniversary

This year Kennedy Van der Laan celebrates its 25th anniversary. A good reason for the art committee to spare no expense. We asked four artists to make a wall painting about the adventures of the 19th century naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.

Von Humboldt was a brilliant mind who realised already in the beginning of the 19th century that mankind would change the climate radically in the future. He depicted his journeys in beautiful drawings and in timeless travel-tales. He shipped loads of plants, rocks and animals from South America to Europe. He saw the earth as one big living organism in which all things are connected. Nowadays, we have uncovered practically all regions of the earth and we are exploring the deep sea, large parts of which are still unknown. In space we have reached the moon and are now reaching for Mars. Seen from that perspective, twenty-five years suddenly seem very little.

Aware of this, Jacobien de Rooij painted the grey-blue rocks at the bounds between land and sea in the north-west of Ireland. In the rock you can see the motionless but lively pattern of the fossils of plants, coral and fish; the life of about 300 million years ago.

In the entrance hall Gijs Assmann painted a large clown holding a scale model of the earth and a boat (the SS von Humboldt) as a puppeteer. The figure is composed of geometrical patterns of Amish quilts. These are handmade comforters produced in a strict religious community that rejects technological developments and innovation.

For Mai van Oers, the first introduction to the wide world were the books of Hergé (Tintin) and Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days). While reading she learned how to travel in her imagination.

Could Von Humboldt have imagined that in 2017, Belgian scientists would discover seven earth-like planets, 40 light years away?  Sure he could! In her drawing Mai van Oers gave these far-away planets a place of honour.

Upstairs, in the reception area, Gijs Frieling depicts how Von Humboldt sailed down a river in Venezuela, the Orinoco. The painted picture is related to the 17th-century Flemish carpets, with woodland scenes and ornamental frames. He used four pigments: Titanium white, English red and Berlin blue, with a final layer of transparent lemon yellow. The binder for the pigments is casein, which has been used in frescos for many hundreds of years.

The history of our law firm is shown in both lifts, in the form of large cut-outs made by Jantien Jongsma. For the employees and visitors, it will be a challenging puzzle to recognize all stories, anecdotes, buildings, persons and ambitions in the intricate cut-out art.

The art committee considers itself fortunate to celebrate its anniversary with this group of fantastic artists. If you are curious about the context in which these works were created and about other work of the artists, you are welcome to visit their websites.