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Photo: © Manfred Sellink

Lecture series ‘Museum Talks’ kicked off

Major renovations, much-discussed exhibitions and current museum related questions. ‘If you want to know what is happening in the art and museum sector in a very up-to-date way, then the 'Museum Talks' lecture series is the thing for you’, says Professor of Art History and organiser Stijn Bussels.

In the lecture series, museum directors and- curators talk about their policies, using much-discussed exhibitions or renovations. ‘We came up with the idea for the lecture series over the course of last year', says Bussels. ‘We wondered what had been going on in the museum sector last year, in other words, very recently. We thought about the most important developments and then we started looking for people who could tell us more about them.’

Pieter Bruegel: the hand of the master

The idea took shape under the name ‘Museum Talks’ and kicked off on September 12 with a lecture on the blockbuster and commemorative exhibition about Pieter Bruegel (c. 1525-1569), at the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna. In his lecture, curator and Bruegel specialist Manfred Sellink, who is also director of the Museum van Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, talked about the seven-year long multidisciplinary research project that is hidden beneath the exhibition. Bussels explains: ‘The exhibition was not so much about how beautiful Bruegel's works are or about their iconographic aspects - in other words, what a piece wants to tell you - but rather about the material aspect. Instead of just looking at the front, you could also look at the back and sides of some works. Suddenly you can see the technicality of the artist.’ Manfred Sellink also gave insight into certain choices that were made during the making of the exhibition. Bussels: 'There were about 160 people attending, that was a huge surprise for a first time organised event!'

A brief summary

This bodes well for the continuation of the lecture series. A brief summary of what is coming up:

October 10: The Reopened Africa Museum Tervuren
Curator Bambi Ceuppens talks about the radical and criticized renovation of the Africa Museum in Tervuren in Belgium. She talks about how the former museum has transformed itself into a modern museum, that pays attention to the colonial story behind many magnificent objects.

October 17: The Secret Life of Art: Data Science for Art History and Art Conservation
Robert Erdmann talks about preserving, understanding and making accessible visual artistic heritage through the latest digital techniques. ‘Photographs of works of art of unbelievable quality provide something that can help define a work of art (who made it), its conservation (where it is damaged) but also the accessibility of the work. Because, if you put such an image on the internet, everyone can look at it down to the smallest details,' Bussels explains.

November 7: Meet our LUCAS Kress Fellows!
American PhD students and young art historians Catherine Powell and Jun Nakamura talk about their own research. Bussels: 'Every year we are allowed to invite two American PhD students to come to Leiden, so I thought it would be interesting to listen to how they are working on art history and collection building.'

November 21: The Making of the Exhibition Shifting Image. In Search of Johan Maurits
The Mauritshuis is named after the man who had it built, Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679). In this lecture, director Emilie Gordenker talks about the making of the exhibition about Johan Maurits and the sensitivities that come with it. Bussels: 'In addition to emphasising the importance of art, architecture and science, Johan Maurits' life story was also part of Dutch colonial history, particularly his role in the development of Brazil and the transatlantic slave trade.’

5 December: The Reopened Lakenhal and the Exhibition Young Rembrandt
The restoration and expansion of Museum de Lakenhal has been completed and the museum reopened on June 20, 2019. In her lecture, director Meta Knol talks about the ideas behind the restoration and expansion of the museum and about further plans for the future. Bussels: 'She will also talk about the Young Rembrandt exhibition, which has yet to be opened; something that I personally am very much looking forward to.’

A public talk with an academic foundation

‘What I have tried to do, is to keep the series very scientific; a public talk with an academic foundation. But at the same time, it does show some key issues, the well-known things that are currently going on in the museum world', says Bussels. Will there be a next edition? ‘We already have some ideas for next year, such as a lecture on the large Rembrandt-Velasquez exhibition that will open in the Rijksmuseum next year.'

This lecture series is the result of collaborations with the RKD, the African Studies Center in Leiden, the KRESS Foundation, Brazilian studies in Leiden, the Leiden University Fund and LUCAS.

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