Historical building, contemporary masterpieces: a perfect blend

Thursday 26th of February, the cultural press got a preview of the exhibition which can now be viewed by the public at the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam. This exhibition is part of an annual series which started in 2011.
The church, situated right next to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and close to the white Dutch National Monument to commemorate all victims of WWII, hosts interesting exhibition throughout the year. You may already have visited its last one on African Art.

Its present exhibition is part of the annual series called “The Masterpieces”. The “Masterpieces” series are related to the Lent period, world religions, pilgrimages.They combine the building’s religion function and issues like mankind’s pilgrimage in search of answers to life’s questions. The “Masterwork” series focusses on works of art which are related to themes all religions share.

Previous masterpieces included Rembrandt‘s “Holy Family”, Andy Warhol‘s “The Last Supper”, and Francis Bacon‘s “In Memory of George Dyer”.

The present exhibition shows two contemporary masterpieces by internationally renowned artist Bill Viola. He uses images, sounds, and you to create installations.

The installations shown in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam are his “Tristan’s Ascension” and his “Fire Woman”. The installations combine modern techniques like video and sound.

“Tristan’s Ascension” is related to Bill Viola’s earlier cooperation with Peter Sellars and Esa-Pekka Salonen for the opera “Tristan and Isolde”. It shows a man who slowly disappears and drops of water going up.

“Fire Woman” shows a mysterious woman seen from behind. In front of her rages a fire. Like the man in “Tristan’s Ascension”, she slowly disappears. She seems to drown or fuse with her reflection in water.

The woman and man seem to be related to a kind of universal Eve and Adam. Will their sins be washed away by the water? Will suffering be blown away, or scorched free? If water washes all and everything away, what is its relation to God? At least, that were a few ideas which popped up in my mind. You make up your own, when you visit this exhibition.

Bill Viola thinks that dreams and ideas which everyone of us carries within us, need to be expressed. This gives you space to use your aspirations, dreams, ideas, and association to interpret his art. The blend of a historical, religious building and Ben Viola’s contemporary art works quite well to foster contemplation, association, interpretation – while also making you more aware of what you bring to these masterpieces.

The exhibition runs till April and can be easily combined with visits to the Palace at the Dam Square and shopping in the Kalverstraat. Perhaps you will accidentally become famous. At least, that’s what nearly happened to me, when I bumped into a television crew and queue right in the middle of this street. They were all waiting for the opening of the new shop “Top Shop – Top Men”.

I walked on from the Nieuwe Kerk, to a few of my favourite Amsterdam places: its beguinage and the Rijksmuseum. So when you’re in Amsterdam, why not combine modern art, a historical building, perhaps a quick shopping tour – while winding your way to the Rijksmuseum, Vincent van Gogh Museum and other Amsterdam delights.

Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam


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