Celebrated Op Artist Bridget Riley Unveils New Work in The Hague Museum

The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the museum whose striking modern structure is the work of the celebrated “Father” of modern Dutch architecture H P Berlage, and widely recognised as one of Europe’s most attractive modern art museums, is renowned for housing the world’s largest Mondrian collection. It has recently unveiled a new permanent installation of similarly prestigious origin: Dance, the stained glass window commissioned from one of Op Art’s foremost artists, Bridget Riley.

Bridget Riley Erezaal
Bridget Riley’s installation: Dance

Joining a long tradition of artists from Sol LeWitt to Niele Toroni and their commissioned murals for the gallery space, Dance is a permanent installation that contributes to the ‘total artwork’ – in the Wagnerian sense – that Berlage intended the museum to be, lending the optical and geometric play characteristic of Bridget’s work to the first-floor reception area of the Art Nouveau building. “The daylight behind the window lends it an extra dimension”, says Bridget of the piece’s location: the careful arrangement of black cleft triangles is highlighted by the luminescent white of the sunlit glass behind, encouraging an especially striking optical free-play exploiting the strengths of the medium of ‘light’. “It’s powerful because she didn’t choose colour, she chose black and white. It underlines the colour of the museum”, Benno Tempel – the museum’s director – tells The Plus.

Bridget Riley Erezaal
Natural light is a key player in integrating the architectural and artistic elements

“The new medium posed different problems and different potentials”, Bridget told us when The Plus went to talk to her about her work at the unveiling of Dance at the Gemeentemuseum Den Hag. We talk with her about her particular affinity with Dance, and with the museum itself…

“It’s so important to have things like Dance: because it adds to the completeness of the space.”
Benno told The Plus, when we caught up with him after the unveiling to discuss the production of the work itself …

The Plus: Why did you choose to commission a window? What was here before?
Benno Tempel:
When the museum was built in 1935 it was a stained glass window, but that was removed decades ago. When I came here 7 years ago there was a very large black computer screen, so this used to be a bright space, but we turned it into a black space – which was not the idea of the architect.

Piet Mondrian Victory boogie woogie 2009S0948
Mondrian’s last and most famous work, ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’, numbers in the prestigious collection

TP: Were there any technical issues you faced when producing the piece?
When we started working and experimenting with glass we had the impression – with light coming from the back side – that the black forms were casting shadows. With light coming from the backside of the black forms it discoloured: it became greenish, or blueish. It became a relief if you painted on top of the glass.

TP: So how did you fix this?
We decided to have three layers. The first layer at the back is frosted glass, like the canvas of a painting: it’s white. Then we have a layer of sheets – these are the black forms – and this creates a small relief, so we put another glass in front of this so there’s no relief: it doesn’t have a shadow, it doesn’t discolour. The only thing that changes is the light, because it’s daylight-illuminated.

Forg, trappenhuis gM
Iconic murals by renowned artists set the design of this museum apart

TP: So if the daylight changes, then…?
This will change.

TP: As Director, what are some of your favourite features of the museum?
In this museum we have a lot of space, empty space, and the only reason that this space exists is to filter daylight through the museum. It means that you lose maybe 20 gallery rooms because of these spaces, but it gives so much plasticity to the artwork.

Recent mural contributors include Sol leWitt and Niele Toroni

TP: Could you tell us a bit more about the curation of the space?
The gallery rooms differ in size: it’s like breathing, you have a smaller room then a bigger room, then a smaller room. You could get lost – but that’s OK, as you can discover new things. You can always see from one gallery to the next.

TP: To what does the museum owe its particular power?
We have over 300 works by Mondrian. We also have the most beautiful pantings of Monet in the Netherlands, and we have beautiful paintings by Picasso, and Bacon – it’s a very strong collection with very powerful pieces of work. The power of this building and this museum is the quality of the works.

TP: Could you tell us a bit more about the interactive children’s section?
It’s sincere, we mean it sincerely: we really believe that this is important. You need to take children seriously enough to let them enjoy things. I believe that enjoyment can only come from serious thought and by paying serious attention.

An extensive interactive kids’ section sparks creative engagement

Bridget Riley Erezaal
Dance is on show now at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague.