Artis, Het Groote Museum
For five years, Kossmanndejong and ARTIS worked on Amsterdam’s newest museum, which Queen Maxima opened. When you enter the Groote Museum, you embark on a personal expedition revolving around the question of how you are part of nature. As you and your body move through the museum, you continuously compare yourself to plants, animals and microbes. Through these comparisons, you discover that you are much more connected to the world around you than you may have thought. What makes you who you are? How do you differ from a salamander? Do your shoes say something about how connected you are to the earth? This museum is for anyone who is open to question themselves and their environment.
A different kind of museum
When you enter at the top of the building’s monumental butterfly staircase, an Art+Com installation shifts your perspective. On a screen, you see yourself in the space. Suddenly, the room’s ceiling flies off and animals peer inside, eyeing you from above. Are you still that big as a person?
We purposely do not give visitors any traditional didactic tools that tell them what to think or do. They can decide for themselves what they want to explore. The museum provides insights but draws no conclusions. This may throw visitors off-kilter. Soundscapes, such as a deafening downpour, may disturb visitors even more. And then there is the scent tunnel. Here, it is not about what you smell but how the smells affect you. They may unlock surprising associations, memories and emotions. The Groote Museum heightens the senses to emphasise how you experience nature with your whole body.
A contrarian visual language
The building was specially created in 1855 to study and organise nature according to the prevailing taxonomic principles at the time. This building with its 170-metre-long showcases is actually the only real collection piece and, therefore, still plays a leading role in the story. But in this story, our relationship with nature has radically changed – it’s no longer us and nature, but us as part of nature. That is why the museum’s new visual language is different. The story no longer sits neatly in the showcases, arranged according to biological classifications. The showcases’ glass doors open and the animals step outside. The barriers between “man” and “nature” begin to recede.
We left the museum’s central axis open, from one end of the East Hall to the other end of the West Hall. There is a new workshop in the East Wing, an open space for everyone where something happens every day. In this way, the boundaries between collection and visitor blur, and the boundaries between nature and people fade and become one.
Everything is connected
We organised the exhibition into twelve zones, each based on a specific body part. We link the body parts to their respective themes in an associative way. To support these associative connections, the team created a new collection. While each theme aims to tell something about you in relation to the world around you, they all materialise in their own way. A work of art, an interactive display or animation represent some themes, whereas others make use of the existing showcases in an inventive way.
Artistic direction – Haig Balian
Project management – Harrie Knol
Concept, content and design – Peter den Dekker, Eveline Hensel, Haig Balian, Marjolein Drenth, Michel de Vaan (Kossmanndejong)
Collection – Bettine Verkuylen, Colette Olof
Text – Anneke van Huisseling
Films and animation – BIND
Media installations – ART+COM Studios, Yipp
Sound design – Pablo Lamar
Light design – Simon Corder
Exhibition construction – BRUNS
AV technology – Ata-tech
And many others
Photography: Maarten van der Wal