100 years of the Princessehof

The Princessehof is being renovated and will reopen to celebrate its centenary anniversary

The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics in Leeuwarden has started renovating the museum. The Princessehof celebrates its centenary anniversary at the end of 2017 with an entirely new presentation of the permanent collection on the first floor. In addition, the entrance, the shop, the ticket area, the tearoom and the garden are being completely revamped. The Sexy Ceramics exhibition on the ground floor and the contemporary ceramics and design exhibition on the second floor will stay open for as long as possible. But the museum will have to close for a brief period in the autumn. The Princessehof will celebrate its refurbishment in the second half of November, 100 years after the museum first opened its doors in 1917.

The renovation consists of three phases: a new presentation of the permanent collection, a redesigned entrance to the ground floor and a new garden design. The exhibition rooms on the ground floor and the second floor will not be not refurbished and remain available for rotating exhibitions and ceramics in contemporary visual arts and design. In the style room in Maria Louise van Hesse-Kassel’s city palace, a previously bricked-up door has been reopened, but the rest of the room remains unchanged. The renovation of the first floor has already begun. The permanent collection is therefore temporarily unavailable for viewing. Refurbishment of the shop, the ticket area and the tearoom will begin in the autumn. The museum recommends checking the website before coming by.

Metamorphosis of a monument
The Princessehof is housed in a number of interlinked national monuments. The 18th-century palace of Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel, a direct ancestor of the Dutch king, stirs the imagination the most. In 1898, the world-famous artist M.C. Escher was born in the same building. The museum building also includes a 16th-century estate (stins), a 19th-century wine warehouse, the 17th-century horse-riding academy, the Stadhouderlijke Rijschool, and the building at 9 Grote Kerkstraat, which now houses the museum shop and the educational space. The Princessehof is a true maze of halls, rooms, stairwells and attics that all have very diverse backgrounds when it comes to dating, style and function. The renovation will provide clarity. Making the original architecture visible showcases the unique character of each of the five buildings.

Transformation presentation top collection
As the national ceramics museum of the Netherlands, the Princessehof has exceptional collections of Asian and European ceramics. Especially the Chinese porcelain is famous: the Ming collection is among the best in Europe, the Kraak porcelain collection is one of the most important in the world, and the Princessehof’s collection of Zhangzhou porcelain is unmatched anywhere. The collection of European ceramics – ranging from Delftware to Art Nouveau and Art Deco ceramics from the period 1880 to 1930 – is also exemplary. With these collections, the museum can tell the story of the world's most important ceramic traditions and their mutual interaction. Instead of an academic arrangement of the collection, there is now a more public-oriented setup that takes visitors into the world of ceramics without detracting from the beauty of the individual objects. This approachable story connects East and West, the past and present, and gives pride of place to the museum’s highlights.

Director Kris Callens says about the new arrangement: ‘A strong easterly wind will soon blow on the first floor. Visitors travel geographically and chronologically from Asia to the Netherlands, from a Chinese Ming vase to a ceramic object by Karel Appel. Geography and chronology are the stepping-stones, but not the only route through the exhibits. They form the contours within which the almost invisible arrangement seems perfectly natural.’ One of the rooms on the ground floor is reserved for Frisian pottery.

Transformation of the reception areas
The entrance, the ticket area, tearoom and museum shop are being refurbished with the support of BankGiro Loterij. The museum will have two entrances, one on the Grote Kerkstraat and one on the garden side, on the Groeneweg. The current shop entrance will also become the entrance to the museum. The palace hall on the ground floor of the museum will sparkle with its original allure and together with the style room and the Frisian hall form a prelude to the rest of the museum. The tearoom will be located behind the shop, with doors opening onto the garden with a terrace. The new garden design is based on historical documents and will be the last to be implemented. After the reopening, the museum will be much more accessible, and the museum shop and tearoom will be independent and can be visited without an admission ticket. In addition, admission to the entrance area, the style room and the Frisian pottery room in the palace will only cost one euro. With this, the museum hopes to entice people to explore the entire museum. The changes to the ground floor and the garden mean that the museum will be better able to compete as a venue for meetings and events.

100 years of the Princessehof
In 2017 it was a hundred years ago that the Frisian notary Nanne Ottema opened the doors of the Princessehof for the first time. The centenary anniversary will be celebrated after the current renovation with the reopening of the museum. The Princessehof will unveil the new setup of the permanent collection, a large exhibition of contemporary ceramic installations from East and West, and two exhibitions with new works by artist Johan Tahon and designer Floris Wubben.

Now in the Princessehof
Although the permanent collection on the first floor will not be viewable until the end of the summer, these exhibitions are: Sexy Ceramics, Design # 2: Light, Anne Wenzel: Chasing Silence and EKWC @ Princessehof: Markus Karstiess. On the ground floor, classical Greek vases, sophisticated Asian porcelain and contemporary ceramics take the viewer into a world of sex and seduction. Attention is paid to hidden symbols, suggestive shapes and explicit objects, but also to the sensuality of the material, of the clay itself. On the second floor, the museum presents ceramics in contemporary art and design. Anne Wenzel: Chasing Silence is an ode to the transience of life. Wenzel was inspired by vanitas still lifes from the Golden Age. She portrays motionless birds lying on a huge table. Their dark feathers glitter and shine. In EKWC @ Princessehof, Markus Karstiess exhibits his series Boxes and the work Scholar's Rock, made of glazed ceramics and asphalt remnants from Robert Smithson's Asphalt Rundown (1969). In the museum’s design series, five designers demonstrate how to combine ceramics and light to create a glittering spectacle. Design # 2: Light – which also forms part of the international event 100 Years of De Stijl – From Mondriaan to Dutch Design, presents hanging and standing lamps, projections on porcelain and a huge light-emitting installation.

The renovation of the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics is made possible with the financial support of the BankGiro Loterij, Ir. Abe Bonnema Stichting, Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fontein Stichting, VSBfonds, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Stichting Van Achterbergh-Domhof, Stichting Dioraphte, Het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis, Stichting Woudsend Anno 1816, St. Anthony Gasthuis, Meindersma-Sybenga Stichting, Stichting Dorodarte, Leeuwarder ondernemersfonds, GGB Bolhuis Fonds, P.W. Janssen’s Friesche Stichting, Stichting Herbert Duintjer Fonds and Boelstra-Olivier Stichting.