This year, Disclosing Architecture is paying special attention to the collection of Theo van Doesburg. Some 190 works from his archive are being restored, mostly fragile tracings. Thanks to research and restoration, works by Van Doesburg are once more available for consultation and loans. They can also offer clues for viewing the archive from new perspectives.
In the early 1980s, the Netherlands Documentation Centre for Architecture, the predecessor of the Netherlands Architecture Institute and Het Nieuwe Instituut, bought 47 drawings from Nelly van Doesburg van Moorsel, Theo van Doesburg’s widow. In 1983, Wies van Moorsel, Nelly’s niece and heir, donated the entire Van Doesburg legacy, including the house and studio in Meudon-Val-Fleury, to the Dutch nation. In Nelly’s spirit, the institute’s Collection has distributed the collection to various museums and institutions in the Netherlands, so that the material would be available to the widest possible audience.
The Netherlands Architecture Institute received the major architectural component of the Van Moorsel donation: approximately 330 drawings and photos. This is now part of the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, managed by Het Nieuwe Instituut. It includes designs and completed works such as the counter constructions and tesseracts through which Van Doesburg tested his architectural theories. There are also examples of his collaboration with the architects J.J.P. Oud, Jan Wils, C. van Eesteren and others, featuring tile and stained-glass designs, proposals for colour schemes and furniture, and interior designs.
For Het Nieuwe Instituut, collection mobility is of great importance. It offers opportunities to show previously unseen works and brings a larger audience into contact with the collection. It is also interesting to be able to show collection pieces in a new context: this is how new stories are constantly being created. However, a large part of the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut consists of drawings that were not made to last for years. It is an archive, not a museum collection of works of art meant to be preserved for generations. The archive works are therefore fragile. This certainly applies those of Theo van Doesburg: they were produced as working drawings and presentation materials. The traces of this can still be seen in the drawings. Various fragile, non-durable materials were used and during presentations the works were simply pinned to the wall using drawing pins. Research, restoration and conservation make it possible to exhibit these works again, as in Atelier Nelly and Theo van Doesburg.