The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum

  • 1970
  • Jan Dibbets
  • colour photograph on acrylic board
  • 170,2 x 176,5 cm
    172,1 x 178,5 cm (incl. lijst / frame)
  • Location VAM, A1, 09, 00
  • Acquired in 1971
  • Inventory number 521

The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.

If you need specific information on this work or artist, remember that the Van Abbemuseum Library is at your disposal, or feel free to write to the library.


For this work the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets took a photograph of a view through a window in the Van Abbemuseum every 6 minutes from sunrise to sunset, leaving the camera in the same position and with the same settings. The differences between the photographs reflect the natural progress of daylight.

Originally this work was recorded on slides which were exhibited at intervals of six minutes. In this way, the element of time played a role both during the recording and during the presentation. Later, Dibbets decided to replace the slides by photographs which he showed on a panel simultaneously. This means that the differences between the images can be seen better and the viewer does not have to remember the previous image. Dibbets started to use photography in his work in the late 1960s, focusing intensely on perception. He used phenomena such as light, time intervals and focusing – all essential aspects of photography – as the subject of his work. Most works consist of a series of photographs because a series can tell more of a “story” than a single photograph.

In each work, Dibbets proceeded from a starting point which he had formulated earlier. Therefore he can be seen as a conceptual artist. In Conceptual Art the idea has central place and its execution is often of subordinate importance. However, Dibbets said: “You can develop an idea in millions of different ways, but a work of art only acquires depth as a result of the personal way in which it is done.” He wished to create work which expressed a clear concept, but which also produced a strong visual experience. In 'The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum' these two components are both present with equal strength. On the one hand, it is the pure recording of the progress of time and the changing light in a particular place; on the other hand, the image that is presented acquires its own aesthetic quality in which structure, colour and rhythm play an important role.

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