Haarlem painters such as Frans Hals started implementing exciting, artistic innovations at the beginning of the 17th century. Thus they unleashed the unparalleled boom of painting in the 17th century. Art that still has – to this day – an unrivalled international allure.
At the time, 400 years ago, the city of Haarlem started to purchase high-level art and display it in the city hall complex. The municipal’s art heritage has since then been exhibited, managed and expanded without interruption. The unique collection includes the world’s largest compilation of paintings by Frans Hals. In 1913 it was moved to the former Old Men’s House at Groot Heiligland, which was dubbed Frans Hals Museum. In 2013, the museum celebrated its 100th anniversary, but curator Antoon Erftemeijer rightly argued in the jubilee book that the Frans Hals Museum is actually over 400 years old and deserves the title of ‘oldest art museum in the Netherlands’.
Since 1913 the museum – in the spirit of its ‘founding father’ Frans Hals, who was known as an innovator – has also shown and collected ‘contemporary art’. From 1972 to 2017, this mainly took place in De Hallen Haarlem, now the Frans Hals Museum’s HAL location on the Grote Markt, where high-quality modern and innovative contemporary art was presented. The collections of photography, video, film- and computer art, in particular, have an outstanding international reputation. When it comes to exhibitions, for example, this means milestones such as the first solo shows in the Netherlands for Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas and trend-setting exhibitions such as Dread.
The acquired contemporary works belong to the same, four centuries’-old municipal art collection of the Frans Hals Museum. Therefore, to emphasise this unity the Frans Hals Museum and De Hallen Haarlem have, as of 30 March 2018, united and will go forward together under one name. But more importantly, the museum wants to show that art history is a continuous story. That the division of styles, movements, genres and periods sometimes conceals more than it reveals. Combining old masters with modern work by artists challenges you to observe art differently and to see more.