The 13th Paper Biennial at Museum Rijswijk, 12 June to 15 November 2020 in Rijswijk near The Hague
The theme chosen by the organisers for this year was “Home”: “When we established HOME as the theme for the Paper Biennial 2020, we could not know that it would become such an important item so soon. It was already topical, but the international lockdown that made us work at home, teach at home, entertain ourselves at home gave it a whole new dimension that has never been more discussed than now. HOME is a topic that everyone in the world is now occupied with, not just the homeless, the fugitives and the stateless. More than ever, everyone now needs a safe home.”
This is the first Paper Biennial not organised by curator Anne Kloosterboer, with her long years of experience running both the Paper and the Textile Biennial. It seems that the whole team has changed, as during my visit in July 2020 there was no one I knew from before. The present director of Museum Rijswijk says in a video statement that changes are to be expected: “More focus on fine art and less on techniques”! This means he has not grasped the work of Anne Kloosterboer, who never went in for techniques. She liked paper and textiles because of the lightness and playfulness they bring to fine art. That she should now be identified with “techniques” may be due to her love of textiles, which are often perceived as mere techniques. At any rate, this is no way for a museum to treat its former curators.
The new person in charge is Diana Wind, curator of contemporary art, who appears to have been the organiser responsible for the 2020 edition of the Biennial, the 13th Paper Biennial. I will say straight away that this was not the best of the 13. The general impression was that the paper scene is somewhat tired. There were no really great discoveries to make, except maybe for the cardboard portrait by Quentley Barbara of his family in Curaçao. He managed to display delicate expression in a very rough material.
I very much liked the works by Anna van Bohemen, Mardoe Painter and Marianne Lammersen (winner of the Audience Award), all from the Netherlands. Then I was really pleased to detect works by Josephine Tabbert from Germany and Mirjam Lodoño from Colombia who I have long admired.
Other writers commenting on this Biennial remarked that there was not that much paper in the exhibition, instead it included all kinds of materials like wood, rattan and cord as well as photos and works on paper. (Michael Hasted: “Perhaps paper itself isn´t quite as much in evidence as in previous years”).
At least half the participants were from the Netherlands, which also used to be the case when Anne Kloosterboer was still in charge. In my eyes this is not great for the international standing of the event. When targeting an international audience, you should really look beyond your own country.
However, this aspect may well be due to the pandemic: the Biennial opened in June 2020, a fantastic achievement in these difficult times.
The upcoming Textile Biennial is scheduled to open in June 2021 and will be themed Food for Thought. Unfortunately I found out about the deadline too late for publication, as I was under the impression it would stop altogether. The fact that the Textile Biennial, too, will continue is good news.