Colourful tribute to Mondrian

Exhibits at the Mondriaanhuis include commercial products showcasing his grid design, while his Victory Boogie Woogie (above) is on show at the Gemeentemuseum.
Exhibits at the Mondriaanhuis include commercial products showcasing his grid design, while his Victory Boogie Woogie (above) is on show at the Gemeentemuseum.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
Exhibits at the Mondriaanhuis include commercial products showcasing his grid design (above), while his Victory Boogie Woogie (top) is on show at the Gemeentemuseum.
Exhibits at the Mondriaanhuis include commercial products showcasing his grid design (above), while his Victory Boogie Woogie is on show at the Gemeentemuseum.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

The Hague is awash with the red, yellow and blue hues Dutch painter Piet Mondrian is known for using

THE HAGUE • You might notice it from the highway - in the form of a high-rise sporting a colourful grid on its exterior or perhaps next to the train station, where the Hampshire Hotel Babylon shows off a flashy facade.

Look further and bits of bold red, yellow and blue can be found splashed around the city known mostly for its dignified embassies and government buildings.

The colourful geometric patterns celebrate the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and the 100th anniversary of de Stijl (the Style), the modern art movement he and others launched.

While Mondrian is overshadowed by more famous Dutch artists Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn, he was considered a leader of modern art by the time he moved to New York City in 1940.

He died there in 1944, aged 71.

Using geometric shapes, flat planes of primary colours and horizontal and vertical lines, Mondrian and his cohort, including famed architect Gerrit Rietveld, went on to influence architecture, furniture, fashion and advertising.

The Hague's Gemeentemuseum, which already holds the world's largest Mondrian collection, is the focus of a year-long national programme, Mondrian To Dutch Design: 100 Years Of De Stijl.

Smaller shows and events are being held nationwide, including Rietveld exhibits in the architect's hometown of Utrecht.

This summer, the Gemeentemuseum, decked out in swatches of Mondrian hues, will display its cache for the first time, spotlighting more than 300 works representing every stage in the artist's extensive career.

The retrospective runs from Saturday until Sept 24. Earlier this year, the smaller but insightful show, Piet Mondrian And Bart van der Leck: Inventing A New Art, focused on the two painters, whose friendship sparked a movement.

Regardless of which special exhibits are running at the Gemeentemuseum, viewers can always see Mondrian's Victory Boogie Woogie, a frolicking composition of colours and lines on a diamond-shaped canvas that is considered one of the 20th century's most important works.

Mondrian died before he finished the piece - one can still see pieces of tape stuck to certain parts.

For years, the painting, inspired by his passion for boogie-woogie music and dance, was in a private American collection.

In 1998, it was bought by a Dutch art foundation for about US$40 million and is now in the Gemeentemuseum's permanent collection.

Mondrian's designs have also lived on in commercial uses - from L'Oreal hair products to a 1966 Yves Saint Laurent cocktail dress.

Venturing out from the museum into the city, visitors can find evidence of a Mondrian metamorphosis, especially at City Hall, home to the "world's largest Mondrian painting". The exterior of the white complex, which was designed by American architect Richard Meier, has been adorned in red, yellow and blue strips of adhesive foil.

At the nearby Hofvijver, a small lake with a walking path in front of the Dutch parliament, 14 pontoon cubes of primary colours float in another tribute to the artist.

Several shopping streets have got in on the act, partly assisted by the city, which provided 850 "Mondrian tool kits" with signs and removable coloured foil for window dressing.

Another Mondrian site worth seeking out - about 90 minutes east of The Hague - is the Mondriaanhuis, in the beautifully preserved city of Amersfoort.

The museum is in the house where Mondrian was born and lived until he was eight years old.

It was a run-of-the-mill history museum until this year, when the staff transformed it into an innovative exhibition tracing the artist's development, as well as a repository for commercial products showcasing his grid design.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Colourful tribute to Mondrian'. Print Edition | Subscribe