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Swan looks for a playmate

The Kröller-Müller Museum is the museum for visual art in nature, amidst tranquillity and space. It offers visitors a chance to come face to face with high quality works of art, to concentrate on the immaterial side of life. This is the mission of our museum. In the sculpture garden you can wander around and contemplate paradise, transience or the (un)attainability of happiness. It is already nearly 100 years since the decision was taken to establish this museum in De Hoge Veluwe, to provide the busy populace a visual and spiritual port of refuge, far from the hustle and bustle of the city! The fact that this formula works is evident from the annual stream of hundreds of thousands of visitors and the constant expressions of amazement and admiration from those who visit us for the first time.
Gilbert & George, the London-based artists from whom the museum recently acquired the monumental work The Paintings (1971), described our museum as the most philosophical museum they know of. I regard that as a great compliment. And they were as yet unaware of our successful series about philosophizing for children from 7 years of age, three editions of which have appeared to date: ‘Philosophizing with sculptures’, ‘Philosophizing with paintings’ and, in collaboration with De Hoge Veluwe National Park, ‘Philosophizing with nature’. A new edition has very recently been added to this series for even younger children, so children of pre-school age. Under the title ‘Swan looks for a playmate’, the museum has published a picture book, a CD with songs and a teaching package. In it, the sculptures in the museum garden come to life and an exciting story is told about loneliness and friendship. It is another example of how we try to connect art to the personal experiences of people, children in this case.
We don’t need to teach children how to look at art. They are ideal art critics because they feel no inhibitions when viewing art and immediately start asking questions and suggesting ideas. They (still) understand very well that art is there to acquire experience and knowledge, which is not pre-programmed. Thus, it is wonderful when children are enabled to be aware of that freedom and to enjoy it. After all, who doesn’t cherish their memories of unusual moments, of the excitement of a special experience, of something that occurred outside the familiar framework? Generating ideas and stirring the imagination creates space and freedom and you can never start too soon with that. Do not, therefore, miss the chance to purchase this enticing picture book in the museum shop or to order it online and have your children take you along to the Kröller-Müller Museum.

Evert van Straaten
January 2012