Skip to content

Hidden past and new insights in 'Groninger Museum 150 years - Behind the Scenes'

Hidden treasures. Like other museums, the Groninger Museum houses many objects that deserve to be exhibited. Interesting paintings, sculptures or archaeological splendour of which visitors are unaware. Happy birthday is a treat. The Groninger Museum celebrates its 150th anniversary with - among other things - an exhibition in which you get a look behind the scenes. Objects that were gathering dust in the depot can now be admired. The highlight of the exhibition is surely the recently returned Spring garden By Vincent van Gogh.

Safe home

Detective - and crime stories; it is one of my favourite genres. Preferably one with a happy ending, because hope springs eternal after all. The theft of the Spring garden is not inferior to the most captivating novels. Stolen from Museum Singer Laren during corona time, when society was already so weighed down by bad news. Four years later, the artwork is back home where it belongs. Art detective Arthur Brand tells the story. The theft - or rather abduction - of the Spring garden. Motive, check. Perpetrators, check. Spring garden delivered in a blue IKEA bag, check. Unfortunately, not unscathed. In a highly engaging way, the art detective tells not only the story of the heist, but also why art is stolen.

The criminals' interest in stealing a painting. According to Brand, it is not about money, as criminals earn hundreds of millions from drug trafficking, among other things. For them, art is not an object of beauty, but a means of blackmail. To arrange a reduction in punishment. Mafia boss Imperiale used, or say abused, two stolen van Goghs. He successfully managed to blackmail the Italian state; 12 years of reduced sentences.

Spring garden was, however, unusable due to the new deprivation claim - the person involved in the stolen artwork must then pay the value of the work. It became an object best not to burn your hands on. However, it is fortunate that the painting was returned 'in one piece', because for the same money it would have disappeared forever or even been destroyed. Only eight per cent of stolen art returns. 

Showing scars

Where the museum's Spring garden could also have been silently restored, the damages are shown. The theft and return have caused people - including Groninger Museum conservator Marjan de Visser - to look more closely into the work and come to new discoveries. Every disadvantage has its advantage. Visitors can see the front and back of the painting. There are also infrared images on display, among other things. Fascinating. In the room behind Van Gogh's serene painting, a beautiful comic strip drawing by cartoonist Barbara Stok about the complete story of the Spring garden.  

From start to finish

The exhibition shows more than just Van Gogh's splendour. It shows how a museum works; from transport to exhibition. What visitors don't see and usually don't know about. Conservation and presentation.

The exposed depot pieces show the diversity of both the Groninger Museum and art in general. Piece by piece, they are impressive. From Peter Paul Rubens to Anton Corbijn. Certain pieces I have seen before, but the vast majority were unknown to me. I found Rubens' Adoration of the Kings, Spilsluizen from the Boteringe bridge by De Ploeg painter Johan Dijkstra, as well as several archaeological sculptures.

The exhibition shows the strength of the Groninger Museum. Introducing visitors to a variety of collections, objects, subjects and styles. International, but also regional. The museum cannot be pigeonholed. Some people associate that with something negative. Others enjoy the variety and surprise. Nor do art and culture arise in a vacuum. Creativity needs space. To grow and flourish.

New and accessible depot

Director Andreas Blühm sees in the old and vacant tobacco factory of BAT Niemeyer on Paterswoldseweg the ideal location for an art depot like that of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. A depot accessible to the public. The location is just outside the city centre and would be perfect for the countless art objects now hidden in the Groninger Museum depot in Hoogkerk. Whether his dream will come true...that depends on the Groningen municipality, among others.

Should you visit the exhibition, also admire Jan de Rijk's three-metre-high and rare sundial from around 1700.  

Groninger Museum 150 years - Behind the Scenes will be on display until 1 June 2025.

Appreciate this article!

Happy with this story? Show your appreciation with a small contribution! That's how you help keep independent cultural journalism alive. (If you don't see a button below, use this link: donation!)

Donate smoothly

Why donate?

We are convinced that good investigative journalism and expert background information are essential for a healthy cultural sector. There is not always space and time for that. Culture Press does want to provide that space and time, and keep it accessible to everyone for FREE! Whether you are rich, or poor. Thanks to donations From readers like you, we can continue to exist. This is how Culture Press has existed since 2009!

You can also become a member, then turn your one-off donation into lasting support!

Annika Hoogeveen

Private Membership (month)
5 / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36 / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)