Vernissage: Marcel van Eeden

Christina/ February 19, 2024/ Culture

When I arrive at the exhibition site shortly before 6 p.m., the two classical gatehouses of the Museum of Photography are already well filled. It is not yet clear to me whether the numerous greetings are spoken in the right or left part. I first choose the building on the left, looking out of town. The cash register is there too. Maybe I need a ticket or even a personal invitation? After all, it’s neither of those things. At that moment, “normal” museum visitors and guests at the opening seem to mix with each other. The art patrons are already toasting the event with wine and beer and are primarily celebrating themselves. People reflect on the last art events they were able to attend and ask about the (successful) children and general well-being. When the chronometer audibly strikes 6 p.m., you move to the other side of the street because this is where the music is playing.

The greeting cascade begins
The hall for the exhibition opening is very full, but it is not particularly large. I can just manage to get hold of one of the last folding chairs. But I still have no idea that the praise and thank you speeches will occupy us for over an hour. Today, explains Regine von Monkiewitsch, first chairwoman of the Museum of Photography, we are not only celebrating the start of the new exhibition, but also the 40th anniversary of the house. Ms. Monkiewitsch is followed by Prof. Dr. Anja Hesse, Friedemann Schnur, Ms. Barbara Hofmann-Johanson and Ms. Dr. Bettina Ruhrberg. The latter ladies keep their lives comparatively short. Then finally comes the “main act”, Dr. Reinhard Player, director of the Sprengel Museum in Hanover. He gives a long and detailed introduction to the work of the Dutch artist Marcel van Eeden.

What’s the deal with the secret emperor?
However, I have to admit, I did wonder what the eponymous secret emperor was all about. Does that mean van Eeden? Not even close. When van Eeden was awarded the Hans Thoma Prize in 2022, the artist and director of the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts began to take a closer look at the namesake. In fact, he finds evidence that Thoma was a supporter of ethnic-national thinking. From here it’s not far until the secret of the secret emperor is revealed. This is where Reinhard Player comes into play, who, by the way, has also recently become Honorary Consul of France in Lower Saxony. It is now up to the players to put the audience in the picture. The story begins in 1898 when Hans Thoma travels to the Rembrandt exhibition in the Netherlands. Marcel van Eeden went on this journey. The result of his artistic research can confidently be considered a bang. Van Eeden documents nothing less than the friendship between the Rembrandt German Julius Langbehn and Hans Thoma. His findings lead him to the conclusion that Hans Thoma is an anti-Semite. We are now considering renaming the Hans Thoma Prize. But there is also Opposing voices that lead to an exact Encourage review.

The freedom of art as a ray of hope in difficult times
In 1890, Langbehn published a publication with the title: Rembrandt as an educator. Langbehn’s book, it explains to us players, speaks of a new leader or emperor who would succeed democracy. This is him, the secret emperor, who, according to Langbehn, must be an artist. “If such a ‘secret emperor’ comes, Langbehn writes, he will have to have the gift of leading and shaping.” What will happen next with the Hans Thoma Prize is still unclear.

Nevertheless, Marcel van Eeden used Langbehn’s book as an opportunity to process history artistically. In general, and this is also special, van Eeden’s work takes place in the time before his birth, i.e. before 1965. History and fictions blur in his photographic works and drawings, which seem like graphic novels, but are not continuous. The player’s excursion into the historical facts turns out to be a little long. The audience’s seat has already been occupied for over an hour. Finally, the guests are dismissed and asked to devote themselves to the works. Here, however, the interest seems to be more focused on having a nice chat. Sentences like “my father was a writer, painter and archaeologist” are not uncommon. Well, such statements delivered with a broad chest can only be appreciated with another sip of wine. Although van Eeden’s series “When the big wobbly hug came to town (…)” also seems appropriate to me.

The show, designed as a double exhibition “Marcel van Eeden. The secret emperor. Photo works and drawings” (Museum für Photography Braunschweig and Mönchehaus Goslar) can be seen until April 21, 2024.

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