Museum the Lakenhal dazzles with PEARLS in the arts, nature & dance

Friday September 14 2012

A breath of air, a dive into the deep, spherical blue and next you will be astonished by an overwhelming number of pearls. From 16 September, Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden dazzles with PEARLS in the arts, nature & dance, which is both a unique and cross-border experience. PEARLS was designed by guest curator and choreographer Karin Post on commission of Museum De Lakenhal. Opening performances of dance films by the Dutch National Ballet, Peter Delpeut l LeineRoebana, Natalia Horecna, Jiři Kilián and Michael Schumacher are incorporated in PEARLS, as well as new works by Marijke van Warmerdam and a spectacular installation by Rob Birza. The arts, dance and natural history are combined in an exhibition focusing on pearls as a source of imagination. Museum De Lakenhal will stage a memorable Gesamtkunstwerk.

The story of the pearl
Karin Post developed the idea for PEARLS when she travelled in Australia in 2001. Aboriginal dancers with white dots painted all over their dark bodies reminded her of dance movements in motion capture technique. This technique translates human movements into computer animations and some examples are on display at the exhibition. The story of the pearl is told in ten scenes in the exhibition rooms. The life of Siluce, a female pearl diver, was described by playwright Rob de Graaf and narrated compellingly on the audio tour by actor Pierre Bokma as the exhibition’s leitmotiv. Siluce is swept off the warm Pacific beaches to the chilly northern beaches by the currents. Her journey is a metaphor for the route from South to North, from warm to cold, from fairy tale to reality, from nature to culture. Artist Peter Struycken has designed a colour scheme, which runs from warm aquamarine to cool deep blue and acts as a visual basis of the exhibition. Musical leader Yannis Kyriakides has provided the music and soundscapes for the exhibition.

A museological choreography
PEARLS is an innovative, museological choreography which links varied disciplines such as dance, film, the visual arts, music, literature, ethnographics and crafts. In this respect, PEARLS constitutes a basis for a completely new museum experience. As the story unfolds in every consecutive room, distinctions between museum visitors, listeners and the audience fade away. The objects, films and installations of PEARLS link up with Museum De Lakenhal’s monumental rooms. Loans from institutions such as Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden are on display alongside objects from Museum De Lakenhal’s own collection.

Even to the ancient Egyptians and Romans pearls were favourite and rare natural jewels. Centuries later, rich merchants would take pearls home from distant shores so as to wear them on their Dutch attire or to display them as showpieces in curiosity collections. Exclusivity diminished when fresh water pearls were cultivated for the first time in the 19th century and pearls turned into a fancy commodity for a large audience instead of a product for the extremely wealthy.

Vanitas and Barbie
Purity, lust, vanity and beauty: due to their symbolism pearls have stirred the imagination of artists for ages. On David Bailly’s Vanitas met portret van een jonge schilder, 1651 (Vanitas still life with portrait of a young painter, 1651), a string of pearls holds pride of place. Pearls are not only found on painted still lifes by famous masters; they also pop up frequently in contemporary art. Marlene Dumas adorned her  Barbie (1997) with pearls and Erwin Olaf depicted a superfluous gush of pearls from his model’s mouth in Pearls (1986). Its wide scope on art disciplines and history has turned Museum De Lakenhal into a pioneer in the field of exhibitions and PEARLS into a must-have experience.

Karin Post
Dancer and choreographer Karin Post designs exhibitions, television films, shows and debates which never fail to focus on the encounter of various art disciplines. In 1992, she was awarded the incentive prize by Stichting Dansersfonds for the exhibition ‘True Colour’, which she staged together with choreographer Hans van Manen and visual artist Peter Struycken. Post’s works include the television film l'Aubette, la grande salle des Fêtes (VPRO 1996) and she is also a curator for art institutions and a teacher. In 2011, her book Soupez! Soupez! was published by Pels & Kemper on the relationship between work and food and the art of pleasure.

Public events
Live dance performances, lectures and other visitor’s events will be organized alongside the exhibition. The public is also invited to share personal stories about pearls or the exhibition online. As such, special heirlooms, relevant poems and unanswered questions will become a lively addition to the displays at the museum. A special PEARLS visual tour is available to children.

A special issue was published in the shape of a copybook on the occasion of this exhibition. It is available at  €10.00 from the museum shop.

PEARLS in the arts, nature & dance features contributors including:
Choreography & Dance:

Peter Delpeut, Emio Greco l PC, Natalia Horecna, Altin Kaftira, Jiři Kilián, LeineRoebana, Hans van Manen, The Dutch National Ballet, Karin Post, Michael Schumacher and others

Visual arts:
David Bailly, Maura Biava, Rob Birza, J.C. Boom, Felix van Cleeff, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, Yvonne Fontijne, Conny Groenewegen, Koen Hauser, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Jiři Kilián, Fransje Killaars, Kinke Kooi, Daniëlle Kwaaitaal, Erik van Lieshout, Joep van Lieshout, Erwin Olaf, Jan Steen, Berend Strik, Peter Struycken, Claire Verkoyen, Marijke van Warmerdam, Lee Eun Young, Marinke van Zandwijk

Amsterdam Museum, Rob Birza’s collection, Centraal Museum, Christie’s, Eye Film Institute Netherlands, NTR Podium, Museum Speelklok, Museum Volkenkunde, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency

Johan Ambaum & Anne van der Zwaag, Guus Janssen, K. Michel & Dirk Vis

Audio tour
Rob de Graaf, Voice: Pierre Bokma Production: Imagineear & Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Audio visual
Royal Conservatoire The Hague conducted by Yannis Kyriakides Production dance films l  audio visual editing: Selfmadefilms Amsterdam

Note to the editor: Museum De Lakenhal makes visual arts, crafts and Leiden’s history accessible to a wide audience in order to inspire them and to contribute to their development. Famous masters such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Theo van Doesburg and  Erwin Olaf may be admired in the museum.

Additional information:
Minke Schat l Milou van Oene, PR Department Museum De Lakenhal, contact tel. + 31 71 5165 360 or

Museum De Lakenhal, Oude Singel 28

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