New Melancholy - a selection from the collections of Lidewij Edelkoort and the Van Abbemuseum

New Melancholy @ Van Abbemuseum, 2020. Foto: Joep Jacobs
Foto: Lidewij Edelkoort door Thirza Schaap - op locatie bij het Singita Private Game Reserve in Zuid-Afrika
New Melancholy @ Van Abbemuseum, 2020. Foto: Joep Jacobs
New Melancholy @ Kazerne, 2020. Foto: Bram Saeys
New Melancholy @ Van Abbemuseum, 2020. Foto: Joep Jacobs
New Melancholy @ Van Abbemuseum, 2020. Foto: Joep Jacobs
New Melancholy @ Van Abbemuseum, 2020. Foto: Bram Saeys

New Melancholy a selection from the collections of Lidewij Edelkoort and the Van Abbemuseum

17/10/2020 - 13/12/2020
Curators: Charles Esche, Lidewij Edelkoort

During Dutch Design Week, the Van Abbemuseum and Home of Design Kazerne will simultaneously open an exhibition of art and design entitled New Melancholy. Plans were in place for a collaboration between the Kazerne Foundation, Van Abbemuseum and Lidewij Edelkoort (former director of Design Academy Eindhoven and internationally renowned trend forecaster), but the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that the exhibition would take on a unique character. When curating her collection of innovative contemporary design, a major consideration for Edelkoort was the essential contribution that design makes towards achieving a happy life.


The exhibition combines artworks from the museum with design objects that Lidewij Edelkoort has collected during her career. Together, they reflect on what might be called the current emotional state of the world. This emotional mood is largely determined by the coronavirus pandemic but also influenced by a general state of uncertainty and threat in today’s world. The spirit or atmosphere that Lidewij Edelkoort calls The New Melancholy is represented in this exhibition. By uniting contemporary art and design in the exhibition, visitors will find some unexpected dialogues. Ignoring the familiar divisions between art and design one can explore what the combined work of different disciplines wants to say about the times we live in and the morose (romantic) spirit of the age.

Explore the exhibition in the museum in 360 degrees

New insights

For some considerable time, the Van Abbemuseum’s collection has been shaped by diversity and reflection on the world of today; whereby there is no longer any single dominant culture or artistic tradition, but instead art that has the potential to surprise the onlooker or encourage new insights. Now, parts of both collections will come together at both locations: in the Van Abbemuseum and the Kazerne.

The chosen pieces will be accessible, carrying a sense of melancholy and in-keeping with the current themes of maintaining distance and reflection. But New Melancholy is also intended to offer new ways of engaging with design, art and even the pandemic.

The New Melancholy

an essay by Li Edelkoort

Having reflected at length during the Covid-19 lockdown, we are left with a great void of nothingness. It is clear that our behaviour in the last 20 years has endangered the planet, animals and mankind and that a small group of people have benefited hugely from over-production, over-consumption, over-information and over-work.

The pandemic has made it plain that social injustice, racial divisions and environmental mistakes are bound to become worse, with the potential for civil war, an economic crisis and revolution. How should we respond? What can citizens do? Looking towards the future might seem futile at the moment, there is little point in looking back at the past and any consideration of the status quo is almost impossible because of the cacophony of voices and opinions by which we are being bombarded.

The sense of emptiness pervading society today is heightened by social distancing and the need to communicate digitally, the sadness of separation from parents - who die alone - and students who are forced to sit for exams in isolation. The pleasure of time spent with others and the inconvenience of lockdown alternate in a game of cat and mouse. We experience love and sorrow, loneliness and togetherness, sadness and humour.

These complementary human emotions result in a state of melancholy that will influence culture in the immediate future, sometimes expressing itself in sentimental manifestations. Efforts will be made to find the right words, the ideal note, the perfect dance step and the most delicious bread to express the poetry of day-to-day life. Aesthetics will demand the inclusion of almost romantic aspects.

The opening exhibition of my collection, simultaneously at the museum and Kazerne, will consist of several desolate and lonely works from the collection of the Van Abbe, combined with a number of more abstract design pieces, all of which will work together to create an alienating effect. These works as a whole will convey a sense of melancholy, supported by humour and a certain distance from the subject of the exhibition.

Participating artists

Tigran Avetisyan, Maarten Baas, Jurgen Bey, Nacho Carbonell, Michel Charlot, Kiki van Eijk, Gluklya, Vangelis Gokas, Richard Hutten, Jasper Johns, Anthony Kleinepier, Julia Lohmann, Pieter Laurens Mol, Pieter Ouborg, Wilhelm Sasnal, Studio Bertjan Pot, Studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters, Alexander Ugay, Catharina Van Eetvelde, Rachel Whiteread and Andrzej Wroblewski.