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Preview Cobra Magazine autumn | winter 2020/2021 edition: Quarter of a century Cobra museum

On 8 November 2020, it will be 25 years since the Cobra Museum of Modern Art first opened its doors to the public. This was not a random date: exactly 72 years earlier, on 8 November 1948, the Cobra movement was founded.

Almost immediately after the major Cobra exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam in 1988, culture alderman Piet van den Heuvel and art-loving businessman Karel van Stuijvenberg agreed on a letter of intent to house Van Stuijvenberg’s unique Cobra collection in a newly build museum in Amstelveen. Former Government Architect Wim Quist, who is responsible for the Kröller-Muller Museum and also the prestigious South Wing of the Rijksmuseum, was commissioned to design the museum.

Over the past 25 years, the museum has assembled an impressive collection of Cobra art. The artworks, all highlights of Cobra, are executed in various techniques, from paintings and drawings to sculptures, ceramics and original documentary material. The collection is still growing, with purchases, donations and long-term loans.

The Cobra group of young artists and poets from various European countries believed that everything had to be done differently. After the horrors of the Second World War they wanted, with their art, to contribute to a new and better world. They tried to go into their artistic creation process as open-mindedly as a child, always ready to experiment.

Even though the results of Cobra’s experiment were initially loathed by many, embracing ìt turned out to be a successful path for the artists involved. Most of them had a flourishing career, and the movement itself has become an integral part of European art history.

Although the often naive-looking depictions of animals, children and hybrid creatures, that characterise part of the Cobra art and clearly come from another time, the Cobra Museum strives to show that the values behind the Cobra movement are timeless. Feeling free enough to challenge existing conventions in order to create a better world for all is no less relevant in 2020 than it was in 1948. People are still subjected to constricting labels or unequal treatment, and societies still need refreshing perspectives and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to be renewed.

The Cobra artists, besides the heart, literally form the foundation of this museum. Deep in the ground, perhaps the most special artwork in the collection: is a painted pile. On December 9, 1993, 10 Cobra artists painted this pile with their signature and a colourful message.

This text was originally published in the autumn | winter 2020/2021 edition of the Cobra Magazine. The magazine can be picked up free of charge in the museum during opening hours (limited offer).

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