Art on Sunday | Victory Boogie Woogie

M&M went away for a long weekend and visited three museums. Maybe a bit much for a weekend, but the weather was not good: it was cold, it was windy, it was raining and we stayed at the coast. So the beach and the dunes had to wait until summer.

And because we are human, we have also done to the Ethiopian, the Thai, the Lebanese, the Indonesian, but that aside. Although the Indonesian restaurant still plays a small role in this story. I will return to that.

So you’re away for a weekend and visit three museums, with the permanent collections and several new exhibitions, what’s there to write home about? What, a piece about just one painting? Yes, but a painting that consists of 574 squares.

Of course I’m talking about Victory Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian. The painting that was such a fuss about 25 years ago. The Dutch state had bought it for 82 million guilders. And the Secretary of State for Culture, Rick van der Ploeg, was only too happy to say that it was one Night watchman of the twentieth century, people thought that was a lot of money for an unfinished painting.

I followed the commotion, commotion, commotion from afar. I am a fan of Mondrian. Strangely enough, I still find him modern and fresh, which I can’t say about many other early art innovators. I like that directness The style. I love the canvases that consist of the primary cheerful colors: blue, red and yellow. No additional decoration, Ornament is a Verbrecheni like to mumble to myself.

It seems so little, but it is very effective and finely balanced. When a friend moved into a new house, we painted a Mondrian on his wall in the living room, with high gloss paint, delicious. You saw immediately: someone lives here with an eye for aesthetics, with a spirit that blows.

But a meeting between Victory Boogie Woogie and it just didn’t work out for me. Until Sunday 20 November. And my expectations were, how else could it be, high: I finally wanted to come face to face with the iconic canvas. We wanted to see each other in reality, because I had understood that the painting had a soul from the different publications.

The tram stopped in front of it Art Museum The Haguedesigned by HC Berlage in Art Deco, a building of terrifying beauty. Go, cover and grab the closet and through the corridor with all the glazed tiles. Could anyone here have ever spontaneously developed a psychosis due to excess stimuli in this Gesammtkunstwerk? Too much beauty at once for the brain to process? I have read of such cases in Florence. My heart began to beat a little faster, my eyes moved faster from left to right: where is the tie?

And there, around the corner, there was Victory Boogie Woogie. Alone on the wall. Behind glass, behind a wire so you had to keep your distance. There was a bench in the room, I sat on it to process it all.

Because: damn, how disappointing was that. Was this it? Was it this masterpiece? Mondrian, what have you done? What are you doing to me now?

In 1938 Piet Mondrian traveled to London, and in 1940 he went to America, to New York. There he continued to paint, literally: he abandoned the oppressive rules The style something solved. And the city, the streets of New York came alive in his paintings. There was the dynamism of the music, jazz. The dynamics of the cars: If you looked down into an apartment in New York, you would see the cars as colored blocks between the lines. The yellow blocks were the taxis.

Well, that’s how lyrically this canvas was interpreted.

He searched, he experimented with tape, with adhesive tape on his paintings, he searched for innovation. Changes had to be made, improvements had to be made, He was far from finished painting.

Unfortunately, he was stricken with pneumonia and died in a New York hospital at the age of 71. He left behind his last painting, the Victory Boogie Woogieleft unfinished.

And that’s how I saw that painting, one Sunday in November in The Hague.

From my bench I let it all in just as well. The unfinished parts, the uneven lines, the sloppy areas, the tape, the tape stuck over each other, the tape carelessly stuck over each other, the non-opaque paint. It dazzled my eyes,

Because all the publications, all the interpretations, all the gossip: in the end it’s all about the painting. And it was disappointing. And then it was also displayed in an altar arrangement, as if it were a shrine.

When Piet Mondrian died, the painting went Victory Boogie Woogie to the art dealer and gallerist Francis Valentine Dudensing. He sold it in 1944 for $8,000 to art collector Emily Tremaine. It was in her possession from 1944 to 1988. Then she in turn sold it to a media mogul and publisher Samuel Irving Woodhouse(Samuel Woodhouse was extremely wealthy. He was a publisher and media magnate and owned Vanity Fair and Vogue: she wanted a magazine for her birthday so I bought it Vogue‘) who gave it to his wife Victoria donated.


Honey, come on, I’ve got a present for you.
– Oh, what, dear, what is it?
Unpack it, there it is.
Zipper, tearpchroejts, shrits
– Uh, thanks honey. But what is it?
It’s a real Mondrian, Pete Mondrian.
– But it’s not finished
Yes, that’s right, Pete is dead, he doesn’t paint anymore.
– And it’s all tape on honey. And it’s sloppy, how should this be on the wall live?
It’s your painting now, you can hang it wherever you want honey.
– Then I hang it in the bedroom.
Um, and you don’t keep it right, you have to keep it straight.
-I must crooked Hang up?
Yes, it was Pete’s idea. The point must go down. Do you feel it? atmosphere from New York, honey?
-I do not know. Mondrian did not have any paintings there of was, and maybe not so big? So are they all a lot of apartments. Couldn’t you have expressed your love for me with another painting? With one that was finished?

In 1994 it had Art Museum The Hague an exhibition about Piet Mondrian. Victory Boogie Woogie was only missing because Samuel Woodhouse was afraid of damage during transport. But occasionally it was still asked what the price would be if he wanted to sell it. It was $14 million. The asking price was later increased to $16 million.

But Holland didn’t react anymore, never mind. A little later, the contact was renewed again, and a new tender price was set. Samuel apparently realized that Holland would own the unfinished painting hanging in the Woodhousjes’ bedroom and raised the price again, to 30 million, and boom, then, haha, Spielerei, up to $40 million, they happen. And, hatseflats, it was one share82 million guilders.

IN Indonesian restaurant Seinpost Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm and director of De Nederlandsche Bank, Nout Wellink, had dinner. Tasty and also a nice view of the North Sea, but the meeting also had a business character. Nout proposed that his bank would donate a gift of 82 million to pay for the purchase of Boogiewoogie. This to celebrate the imminent farewell to the Dutch Gulden and the entry into the euro.

This gathering and this decision by these two gentlemen all went a little outside the House of Representatives, not everyone was happy about it. So now there was a painting of dubious quality (which ended up being paid way, way too much, in New York art dealer circles they still laugh about it: the Dutch didn’t even negotiate, they immediately paid the asking price ) plus a decision-making, which was subject to some control. Sigh. And have it there M&M, admittedly 25 years later, sat in the chairs at Zalm and Wellink. It feels, in retrospect, a little uncomfortable.

In the room where Victory Boogie Woogie hung, was M&M the only visitors that afternoon. From the room further on, where you could interactively dress yourself with the help of an iPad in something eccentric, something hip, there was infectious laughter.

Photo: Maria Willems (With permission)

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