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Focus Beijing is the third and, for now, the last presentation of the De Heus-Zomer collection. In the spring of 2013, Dutch art from this collection was exhibited at the Singer Museum in Laren, entitled: Cobra to Dumas. From December 2013 to May 2014, the Museum Belvedère in Heerenveen mounted Facing Nature, works from the collection with landscapes as theme. Publications were produced to accompany all three exhibitions giving background information and including illustrations of the exhibited works.
Henk and Victoria travelled to Beijing in September 2013, in the company of their daughter-in-law, Ilse de Heus, who has assumed the archiving and day-to-day management of the collection. Other travelling companions who occasionally appear: Noor Mertens, curator of modern and contemporary art at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the maker of the exhibition, Hans De Hartog-Jager, critic with NRC Handelsblad and one of the authors of the catalogues; Rineke Dijkstra, artist and photographer; Sabine Wang, art historian and interpreter; Jonas Schönstein, cameraman, Zheng Wenliang, camera assistant and Els Hoek, education curator at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and maker of the documentary.
In the work of Huang Rui (1952), time, in the sense of historical moments, plays an important role. The sculptures on which first Henk and Victoria and subsequently Huang Rui himself drum, can be considered personal year calendars. Huang Rui makes a new constellation each year, whereby each drum represents an important event in the past year. Because of their size, the calendar sculptures are not included in the De Heus-Zomer collection. More information about Huang Rui can be found on his website.
When, after more than twenty years in the Far East, Marco Polo returned to Europe, he ended up as a prisoner of war. During his time in prison, he related his experiences to the writer Rustichello van Pisa, who wrote them down and published them. The original manuscript has been lost, but the contents lives on in several Medieval copies and countless modern publications. The fragments read by Dragan Bakem are about the palace of his client Kublai Khan. In the documentary, images of the Forbidden City are shown, but this did not exist in the time of Marco Polo. See: Marco Polo, The wonders of the Orient. Il Milione, Amsterdam (Atheneum, Polak & Van Gennip), 2008, pp. 74-75.
Ai Weiwei (1957) is just as famous in the West for his activism and the measures taken by the Chinese government to silence him as for his work. A documentary by Andreas Johnson which was broadcast on 28 May 2014 by the VPRO, also emphasises the artist as activist. But in 2013, the Stichting De Pont in Tilburg mounted an exhibition in which Ai Weiwei’s sculptures and installations took a central position. His major retrospective exhibition in the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin can be visited until 13 July 2014.
Hai Bo (1962) graduated from the Printmaking Department of the Fine Art Institute of Jilin in 1984. His artistic ideals involve the restoration of the past through photography. Hai Bo’s work is less about what changes through time and more about what endures. His photography often depicts people shown in various stages of life as well as the passage of time.
Zhang Dali (1963) actively engages with the rapidly changing environment in Beijing. He started as one of Beijing's first graffiti artists, spraying and carving his own profile into the walls of the hundreds of buildings scheduled for destruction. Working across a wide variety of media - from urban art, to archiving photographs of Mao, and large scale installations – Zhang Dali documents a culture in radical development and flux.
The tornado of scarves is a work by the female artist Yin Xiuzhen and was on show in September 2013 in Pace Gallery Beijing.
The young artist with whom Victoria is talking here about the painting with hands folded in front of the face is Zhang Shujian. His work was exhibited in C Space in September 2013.
Peppers or tomatoes
The imposing video work that gave rise to this discussion was made by Ma Quisha (1982) and was shown in September 2013 in Beijing Commune.
That one or that one?
The paintings from which a choice is made, were all created by Yin Xiuzhen (1963). Her work was exhibited in September 2013 in Pace Gallery Beijing.
This closing image shows the artist Zhang Linhai (1963) in his studio. Together with Zhang Xiaogang and Huang Rui, he is among the oldest friends of Henk and Victoria De Heus-Zomer. In surrealistic-inspired paintings, Zhang Linhai connects the tension that can exist between the individual and the group to the political history of his country.
Henk and Victoria de Heus-Zomer own a family business in animal food that exports its products worldwide. They work hard, earn money and become interested in contemporary art. From that moment, now 25 years ago, they have enjoyed accumulating what is today a celebrated collection. Initially the emphasis is on Dutch painting. As the years pass, sculpture is also included. They look over the borders. They meet Fang Lijun, a young Chinese artist who is working temporarily in Amsterdam. Fang Lijun visits Henk and Victoria in Barneveld. He invites them in return to visit his home. In Beijing. It is 1998.
Henk and Victoria visit the Chinese capital and meet many artists. They buy work and decide to monitor their developments. Regularly they visit their artist friends. Some have now achieved a star status. Their collection of Chinese art grows and so does their circle of friends.
In September 2013, Henk and Victoria again go to Beijing together. They visit leading galleries and more than 20 studio’s. This video does report their visit to a.o. Huang Rui, Ai Weiwei, Zhang Dali, Hai Bo, Zhang Xiaogang, Lin Tianmiao, Wang Guangle, Liu Wei. The artists speak about their work in relationship to China’s (recent) past.
This video was made on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Focus Beijing’, which shows a selection from the collection of contemporary Chinese art belonging to Henk and Victoria De Heus-Zomer. It can be seen in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen until 21 September 2014.
filmmaker Els Hoek
camera & sound Jonas Schönstein
camera assistent Zheng Wenliang
editing & graphics Manfred Poppenk
mix Henk Jelle de Groot
voice Dragan Bakema
music Pieter Straatman
translation Lebbink Productions #SinArts Jonathan Ellis
many thanks to Sabine Wang Caroline Hoeberechts
and everyone who made this film possible