Paper short abstract:
Exploring the Asian Pavillion of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the paper examines the museum's colonial past and the role of private collectors in producing the Asian collection, and discusses how the curatorial framing of 'Asia' relates to the presentation of Dutch (art) history at the Rijksmuseum.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on the case study of the Asian Pavilion at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the paper explores acquisition practices, exhibition strategies, and perceptions of 'Asian' art in the Netherlands. The acquisition of the collection during colonial times and the museum's non-challenging narrative of the Dutch colonial past have been critically debated since the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum in 2013 (Bloembergen et al, Colonial Nostalgia in the Rijksmuseum, NRC Handelsblad, 2013). Examining the role of the VVAK (Dutch Asian Art Society) and other private collectors from the former Dutch colonies in shaping the collection, the paper focuses on how the profile of the collection and the curatorial framing of 'Asia' relate to the presentation of Dutch (art) history in the main museum building. Drawing on findings from a visitor study, carried out in collaboration with professors Anna Grasskamp and Mariana Francozo and students from Leiden University, the paper further discusses how the museum's (colonial) acquisition practices, issues of contested heritage, and questions of provenance and historical as well as current ownership are interpreted by visitors. Exploring how visitors respond to the presentation of 'Asian' artefacts in the curatorial context of the Rijksmuseum (as opposed to the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, for example), I shall discuss how the profile of the collection has produced narratives of 'Asia', and ask whether the presentation in a separate pavilion challenges or rather reinforces existing stereotypes about 'Asian' art. How might museums challenge their historical and current narratives of 'Asia', and transparently address their colonial past?
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities