The merging of the Frans Hals Museum and De Hallen Haarlem will be complemented in the museum’s new house style via a series of ‘wedding portraits’, where works of art from both museum’s collections will meld together. Conceived by creative communications agency KesselsKramer, the concept is explained here further by Erik Kessels.
The Frans Hals Museum and De Hallen Haarlem will encounter each other more intensively as they continue together under one name. We have made this convergence very clear in the new house style by combining old and contemporary art of all variations into one image. One half of the image always comes from the collection of De Hallen Haarlem, the other half from the Frans Hals Museum. The resulting images are not confrontations of two artworks but fusions, and together they form a new whole.
The image you see here is one of many combinations we have made: the bottom half is a painting by Frans Hals from 1640. I was inspired by the indecisive title: Portrait of a man, possibly Willem van Warmondt. Now that there is only half of that painting in the picture, this title has an extra comical meaning, I think. It might be an inside joke, but there are certain attentive viewers who will also understand the humour.
The top half, the photo, is a collaboration between artist Roy Villevoye and photographer Koos Breukel, in which it is in itself a double portrait. Roy Villevoye works a lot with people from Papua New Guinea and makes videos, installations and performances there; I’ve always found his work really good and surprising. And in my opinion Koos Breukel is the Frans Hals of our time. He is one of the very best portrait photographers out there. His approach is actually very classic: he photographs in a studio, using a simple background. All the focus is placed on the person and the facial expression. Just like with Frans Hals. Breukel is a Dutch master of the 21st century. Plus, he produces so much – he really is a hard worker. He’s an artist and a craftsman – another parallel with Hals.
The dark man’s eyes, in combination with the mouth that Frans Hals painted, are almost demonic. While they do not seem so fierce when you see the whole, original photo, somehow the eyes are given a new air in the composite portrait. Or is it the viewer who sees it with a new perspective? In any case, the two half works of art do something to each other that yields more than the sum of the parts. This is, of course, also the intention of the museum in its new set-up, where old and new art are combined – that they affect each other, that it prickles and causes sparks, or that it actually surprises and complements. So that you, as a visitor, get a different perspective on both the old and the new. That you pay attention to other things and see other things. Teaching people how to see things from a different perspective, in a new manner, is a wonderful thing for a museum to strive for.
I’m sure there are people who find it sacrilegious that iconic images are cut in half, but I personally think that you can afford to allow such playfulness. With respect of course, and with a purpose.
At Documenta in Kassel, I once saw an exhibition that will stay with me forever. I must have been around 20 years old. The exhibition was held in an old museum, and there were two rooms full of classic portraits of women. The American artist Zoe Leonard had hung small, black-and-white close-up photos of vaginas in between each lady. It was so beautiful. You suddenly realised: Okay, this lady is also a being of flesh and blood. That was one of the first moments I experienced how incredibly exciting the combination of old and new art can be.
I didn’t make all these different combinations – one of which you see here – by myself, but with a team from our agency. Every brain works differently and makes different associations. I love that and really enjoy being able to harness that. As a result, you get a lot more unpredictability, individuality, surprise and humour in the mix. Soon lots of different people will look at these images, and they will undoubtedly see them all in a slightly different way. They will be touched, stimulated or seduced by something else.
We didn’t have to scour the basements of the museum when mix-and-matching the images together, because they were all available online. When everything is ready, and the museum has reopened, I will go to see the works of art that I now have on a screen in real life. I’m looking forward to that; it will be the icing on the cake for me.