Museum Boijmans Gifted Surrealist Library

Cover design for a 1961 copy of Surrealistische ontmoetingen by J.H. Moesman (Gift from Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam announced a major donation of over 4,000 rare books and periodicals about Surrealism from collectors Laurens Vancrevel, who is a Surrealist poet himself, and his partner Frida de Jong, also a member of the international Surrealism network. With this gift, the museum plans to open a Surrealism study center that will be accessible to the public, the most comprehensive of its kind.

The Boijmans has been collecting Surrealist art since the 1960s — in fact, in 1967, it became the first European museum to hold a major René Magritte retrospective — and some of the prize works in its holdings are pieces by Magritte, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, and Yves Tanguy. In 2017, the museum released a catalogue on its Surrealism collection that included an essay by Vancrevel. Since then, the couple has gifted the museum 50 Surrealist artworks, including paintings by Her de Vries, J.H. Moesman, Kristians Tonny, and Willem van Leusden.

Cover design for a 1961 copy of Edda by Reuterswärd (Gift from Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)

Vancrevel and de Jong have been gradually building a collection of international literature on Surrealism since the 1960s, with a library spanning monographs, catalogues, poetry, essays, and more. The gift includes a copy of Brumes Blondes, a Surrealist magazine which Vancrevel co-published with de Vries; Surrealism founder André Breton’s 1948 Poèmes published by Gallimard; and publications that accompanied important Surrealism exhibitions in the Netherlands, including the catalogue for the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition at Galerie Robert in Amsterdam.

Werk van Theo van Baaren, “Offrande/Offer” (1989) (Gift from the artist to Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong in 1989 and donated to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in 2018)

In a statement, Boijmans modern and contemporary art curator Saskia von Kampen-Prein said of the donation: “This generous gift removes the traditional separation between Surrealist art and literature.” 

Vancrevel and Kampen-Prein are currently writing a book on the donation for release in the fall of 2021. The publication will pay special attention to the evolution of Surrealism across art and literature in the Netherlands and “give an overview of all Surrealist art works that were collected by public institutions in the Netherlands, of which Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the most famous,” Kampen-Prein told Hyperallergic.

In a joint statement, Vancrevel and de Jong said:

It is a brilliant idea of [Boijmans director] Sjarel Ex’s to set up a Surrealism study center within the museum’s planned knowledge center. This is a striking innovation in the museum presentation of Surrealist art, not just here in the Netherlands but internationally. It shows clearly that in Surrealism, as a philosophy of creativity, visual art is not detached from poetry or from the maker’s view of the world. Our Surrealism library will come into its own there.

The museum is closed until 2026 for an extensive renovation program that is estimated to cost €223.5 million (~$271.9 million), though a portion of its collection will be on view in its new public art depot slated to open this year.

Velp, “Permanence du surréalisme” (1967) (Gift from Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen)

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