Exhibitions Preview: Glenn Brown at the Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam

Guests arrived early, the museum director and artist on time, while Amsterdam’s deputy mayor was caught up in a traffic jam. No problem: the rest of us enjoyed the museum’s excellent hospitality inside Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk. The church is just a short walk from the Rembrandt House Museum, which has no museum café.

Once everybody was ready, the exhibition opening started with three speeches. Director Lidewij de Koekkoek pointed out preparations for this fabulous Glenn Brown exhibition had started under the museum’s previous director, Michael Huijser. Amsterdam’s deputy mayor kept things short and stressed the importance of international ties, exhibitions, artists, for Amsterdam. In between these speeches came the most important one: Glenn Brown’s introductory speech to his exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum.  

The Tate Liverpool hosted a retrospective of the artist’s work in 2009. The present exhibition covering two floors in the modern part of the Rembrandt House Museum, shows work created during the last two decades. It includes new works, inspired by pieces from the museum’s permanent collection.

One of the new works by Glenn Brown, on show in the Rembrandt House exhibition

One of the new works by Glenn Brown, on show in the Rembrandt House exhibition

In his talk, Glenn Brown stressed the importance of Rembrandt, his paintings and etchings as influence and inspiration. He also stressed how important it is for visitors, to take a complete tour through the whole museum.

This museum consists of two parts. The 17th century period house, which was Rembrandt’s home for about twenty years. It was not just his home, but also contained Rembrandt’s etching press, studio and studios for his pupils. The house shows work by the master’s pupils as would have been the case while Rembrandt lived here, for he was also an art dealer.

This part of the museum prepares the visitor for Glenn Brown’s works, on show in the modern part of the building. His works relate to works by Rembrandt and Rembrandt’s contemporaries, as well as other artists. Brown takes well known images and reinterpret and reuses these. This can involve changes in colour schemes, techniques, materials, distortions, fusing works by different artists from different art historical periods, and more. Yet, the original work remains recognizable.

In case you shudder: Rembrandt experimented as well and also reused and reworked images by other artists. One only has to remember the museum’s previous exhibition on Hercules Seghers. So Glenn Brown works within a tradition.

Glenn Brown's work "Nigger of the World" links Rembrandt, Suzanna, the song by Yoko Ono and John Lennon, feminist ideas and much more

Glenn Brown’s work “Nigger of the World” links Rembrandt’s painting, the Biblical Susanna, the song by Yoko Ono and John Lennon, woman as an object and more

The exhibition starts in the attic of Rembrandt’s former home. The 17th century house and its content contrast and blend perfectly with the modern works. This partly illustrates what Brown calls his  love-hate relationship with Rembrandt and other masters.

Next the small cubicles which would have been used by Rembrandt’s pupils, is an introductory video to Glenn Brown’s exhibition.Take time to watch this video, for Glenn Brown explains a few works and how he sometimes works in it. Then set your audio-tour, included with the museum’s entrance fee, to English.

Why English? This treats you to a tour of the exhibition, with Glenn Brown himself explaining his works. His works are so rich in meaning, have so many layers, refer to other painters and their art, Glenn Brown’s personal explanations will help you understand and appreciate the exhibited works even more.

Glenn Brown’s beautiful and challenging exhibition “Rembrandt, After Life”, will be on show at the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam from the 27th of January till 23rd of April 2017.
The exhibition catalogue, by David de Witt and Hans den Hartog Jager, published by WBooks, costs about 25 Euro and is on sale at the museum or through the publisher’s.

Though the museum has no own café, “Tis fris” at Sint Antoniebreestraat 142, will offer you a discount of 1 Euro on ordinary coffee or tea, provided you can show your museum entrance ticket – and there’s a table free.

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