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A new look at the work of Nelly and Theo van Doesburg is possible thanks to the restoration of their architecture archive. The exhibition recognises Nelly as a key figure in the consolidation of the reputation of Van Doesburg and De Stijl. The magnificent focus of the exhibition will be on the couple’s most striking joint project: their studio-house in the Parisian suburb of Meudon. Sketches, drawings and scale models rarely (if ever) exhibited before reveal the house’s rich history.

Koehorst in ’t Veld on Atelier Nelly and Theo Van Doesburg

Theo van Doesburg is the starting point for Atelier Nelly and Theo van Doesburg, the first public exhibition in the context of Disclosing Architecture. This winter, the exhibition will undergo a modest transformation, as the fragile collection items cannot be exposed to light for very long. When designers and curators Jannetje in ’t Veld and Toon Koehorst started working on the exhibition concept, this practical limitation was one of the preconditions. How then did they approach this project? How did they balance their roles as curators and designers? Why does Nelly van Doesburg take centre stage? And how can digitisation help uncover new stories and connections? In an interview, the Koehorst in ’t Veld duo explain the origins of “their” exhibition.

Nelly’s role is also gradually coming into focus. Discussion of the archive is shifting more towards such themes as identity and authenticity, for instance the question of her voice within the artistic union. After Theo’s death Nelly abandoned her own role as an artist, while using her influential network, including such figures as Peggy Guggenheim, to ensure that his name was firmly anchored in the history of art. Attention is being paid to their studio-house in Meudon, where she lived for decades following Theo’s death. The house played an important role as a meeting place for such guests as the sculptor and painter Hans Arp, the sculptor Alexander Calder, the jazz musician Thelonius Monk, and the future president of Benin, Sourou Apithy, who organised the anti-colonial movement in France from this address.

The research has also uncovered the existence of variant signatures, which makes it likely that Nelly signed work that is attributed to Theo. This is a subject for further research –is it forgery, a gesture of authentication or appropriation, or a sign of shared authorship?

Atelier Nelly and Theo van Doesburg focuses on these and other questions, which help to demonstrate the importance of this restoration and which can in fact only be raised thanks to the restoration

11/07/2020 – 10/10/2021

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam

Tuesday — Sunday
10.00 — 17.00


Disclosing Architecture

Because of its special cultural and historical value, the Theo van Doesburg collection has been extensively researched, preserved and, where necessary, restored as part of the extensive Disclosing Architecture restoration programme. Disclosing Architecture looks at the archives from fresh perspectives in order to reformulate the collection policy and develop new ideas in relation to how we value historical sources.