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René van Engelenburg takes his Pleinmuseum concept to the next level in a project created to get art and design out of galleries and into the minds of the every day people.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 28-05-2009

The Netherlands has the Rijksmuseum for classical art, the Stedelijk Museum for modern art and when discussions started a few years ago about contemporary art, everyone had an opinion.

Where should it live and how should it look?

That discussion was going on just as René van Engelenburg was graduating from the Rietveld Academy in architectural design.  His final project challenged traditional notions of space and display using an inflatable Rietveld Academy building.

Using that as a basis, he came up with the Pleinmuseum project.  “It was my contribution to the discussion on what a new contemporary art museum should look like,” Van Engelenburg says.  “I very much believed in the idea of breaking outside the modernist white cube.”

The Pleinmuseum was an architectural object that resembled a white cube.  It was closed by day but by night opened via a hydraulic system to reveal panels over which contemporary art could be digitally projected.  The project traveled all over Holland and France, and then made its way to the Venice Biennale in 2007.

“We built up a digital collection of art works,” says Van Engelenburg.  “Visual artists, architectural artists, graphic designers, composers and even choreographers were invited to join.”

With the Pleinmuseum success, Van Engelenberg was contacted by Edwin Jacobs, director of the Museum Jan Cunen in Oss.  “The Museum Jan Cunen had a museum and a museum school and were doing some quite progressive things,” says Van Engelenburg, “but he wanted something in the middle of the two like the Pleinmuseum.  Something that would better suit youth e-culture and media culture.”

It was from those discussions that was borne.  Using public and private funding, Van Engelenberg constructed a traveling glass pavilion with a sixty square meter LED screen attached to the front.  “We dressed it up as a fully operational audio visual studio,” he explains.

Professional artists and designers are invited to exhibit in the pavilion which then narrowcasts (as opposed to broadcasts) the work to hotspots all over the Netherlands so that a wider audience can enjoy it.   “We have hotspots in all the art academies, museums and public libraries,” Van Engelenburg says.  “By the autumn, we are hoping Dutch Rail will get on board and then we will really be able to maximize the number of people actually getting to see this art and design.”  

Participating designers and artists create mostly interactive work that in someway invites the public to participate.  “The public might have to SMS the artwork, or if they have Bluetooth the artwork might message them,” Van Engelenburg says. also accepts, via its website, outside contributions which are judged and then programmed into the system.

“For me this all means getting art out of the white cubes,” Van Engelenburg says.  “And really, I think new media art is much more at home in real public spaces anyway.  It means art is no longer as dependent on traditional art galleries and museums.”

The pavilion will be at the Venice Biennale from the 2nd to the 7th June.

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