Foto: Enrico Baj in Milaan 1961. Foto Carlo Cisventi. Ontwerp Richard Niessen

Foto. Enrico baj voor het werk Tu Quoque Brute Fili Mi 1964. Fotograaf onbekend

Detail Tu Quoque Brute Fili Mi 1964. Collectie S.M.A.K.

Enrico Baj Generale Collection Fondazione Marconi. ©Archivio Baj, Vergiate.

Enrico Baj: Play as Protest

Saturday, 4 February through Sunday, 14 May 2017

  • Enrico Baj: Play as Protest is an overview and re-introduction in the Netherlands of the work of the Italian artist Enrico Baj (1924 - 2003).
  • His work is playful and colourful, but at the same time a sharp critique of society and of those in power.

The Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen displays an extensive selection from the works of the Italian artist Enrico Baj (1924-2003). Enrico Baj: Play as Protest is a re-introduction in the Netherlands of this free spirited artist's work. The exhibition displays about 100 of the artist's works dating from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Enrico Baj's works look playful, colourful and humorous, but simultaneously show his sharp socio-critical, even anarchist, attitude. Baj himself stated that “only fun can validly oppose the system”. Baj used play as a form of engagement and creation as a form of protest. His work was a protest against fascism, totalitarian systems, the power of the ruling class and the potential annihilation of the environment (the then new nuclear threat). The exhibition shows how Baj playfully used the strategies of satire and deliberate disrespect as means of protest against a society that seems to be on the constant verge of self-destruction.

Baj developed a highly original visual language with assemblage paintings bursting with fun. Just like the Cobra artists, Baj loved to experiment with materials and media, and the exhibition includes not only paintings but also ceramics, Meccano sculptures, assemblages, publications and manifests. The exhibition begins in the 50s with works from the period by the Movimento Arte Nucleare, founded by Baj. Asger Jorn, co-founder of Cobra, would later participate in this movement. The exhibition includes Baj's series Generali (Generals) from the first half of the 60s, with which he also participated in the Venice Biennial in 1964. The Generals are absurd characters that partly consist of found objects like belts and medals. Works from the 70s include sculptures from Meccano toys, which provide a commentary on the improvident use of technology and the automation of humans in society. The exhibition's closes with the 12-metre wide work I funerali dell'anarchico Pinelli (Funeral of the Anarchist Pinelli) from 1972. This work was a reaction to real events and was censored in Italy at the time, but then shown internationally in other museums like Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.

The attitude of Enrico Baj is still today relevant and can be seen as a source of inspiration for contemporary protest. For these reasons, the Cobra Museum also looks to contemporary protest groups. On 23 April the museum will collaborate with De Vrije Bond and hold an Anarchist BAJgathering dedicated to lectures, poetry, anarcho folk music, documentaries and a tour of the exhibition by art historian and anarchist Dick Gevers.

Enrico Baj: Play as Protest is curated by Carrie Pilto in collaboration with Luca Bochicchio in the role of research consultant and with the generous cooperation of Archivio Enrico Baj, Vergiate and Fondazione Marconi, Milan. Theatre maker Beppe Costa has put together an audio tour especially for this exhibition.

The works in the exhibition are mainly from the Archivio Enrico Baj and from Fondazione Marconi in Milan. There are also valuable additional loans from private collections and from the S.M.A.K. in Ghent and Museo d'arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.

The exhibition has been made possible by the Council of Amstelveen, The BankGiro Loterij and the Instituto Italiano di Cultura



The Danish artist duo, Bank & Rau, based in Copenhagen, have been invited by the Cobra Museum to create a contemporary presentation of the museum collection from the perspective of their own unique vision. The collection of the museum, the stories associated with it and the history of the Cobra movement, with associated archival material, are the building blocks with which Bank & Rau have set to work. They will further complement this with their own work, inspired by the Cobra collection and thereby creating a new, total installation in which they tell a story of Cobra in a completely new way.

In the artistic practice of Bank & Rau (Lone Bank & Tanja Rau), hand crafting and elements of folklore are consistent elements. By setting aside accepted tradition and everything we tend to take for granted (in a museum), Bank & Rau endeavour to create new forms for museum presentations.

The Open Collection Programme of the Cobra Museum is an investigation in practice, in which contemporary creators are invited to open up the Cobra Museum collection and contribute new impulses and perspectives. The Open Collection Programme has been made possible by the Mondriaan fund. The presentation by Bank & Rau is also supported by the Danish Arts Council, SVFK (Danish Art Workshop) and the SKF (Danish Art Foundation).


CoBrA Collection

• Collaborations
• New acquisitions

The Cobra Museum presents its own collection in changing exhibitions, thereby emphasizing the wide range of the international Cobra movement, as well as revealing the dynamics between the various members of the group. Relationships between text and image played an important role right from the beginning of the Cobra movement, and this presentation focuses special attention on collaborations between poets and painters.

Some elements are now being shown for the first time: a recent donation of works by the Scottish CoBrA artist Stephen Gilbert, and new in our collection: works by Dutch artist Gerard Verdijk that are shown in the presentation 'Tegengestelde beweging (Opposing movement)’ Verdijk (1934 - 2005) processed influences like informal painting, pop-art en fundamental art in their own way in his art.