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Sculpture garden 50th anniversary

On June 3rd 1961 the sculpture garden of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller was opened by the then Minister of Education, Jo Cals. As the man responsible for the now legendary Dutch Mammoth Act, he was asked to step through a polystyrene relief of a mammoth. This temporary sculpture was conceived and created by Oswald Wenckebach, whose bronze figure Meneer Jacques has welcomed over 16.5 million visitors to the museum and sculpture garden since 1961.
The creation of the sculpture garden was also a mammoth project. It was a dream of the director at that time, Bram Hammacher, which became a reality through sheer perseverance. He wished the visitors joy with this new ‘world of space and light’ at the museum.
By now, the museum’s sculpture garden has become world famous and is widely praised for its beauty and richness of visual experiences.
I would like to draw your attention, for once, to those people who work with dedication and pride to keep the sculpture garden in tip-top condition. Firstly, there are the personnel of our gardening department, who, following a maintenance plan, work throughout the year in all weathers, on the pruning and sawing, sowing and mowing, digging up and planting, clearing leaves and spraying clean; in short, an endless range of gardening duties and who also, incidentally, provide the flower arrangements in the museum.
There is the landscape architect and the personnel at his office, who advise and assist us in drawing up and carrying out the maintenance plan and whenever alterations or restorations are necessary. There are the technical staff who install and move sculptures, make pedestals, bring sculptures to and from their winter storage or provide them with protection against frost in situ, assist artists with new projects and inspect the sculpture pavilions and keep them free of leaves and algae. The conservator and the conservation staff monitor the condition of the sculptures and projects, wax the bronze sculptures, restore patinas, remove algae and moss and regularly carry out extensive conservation projects. The security personnel oversee the safety of the sculptures and visitors. Designers take care of the signposting and title plates. Our content-related personnel are responsible for documenting the sculptures, organizing educational projects in and around the garden and recording and communicating the stories that all the works of art have to tell.
Taking care of the sculpture garden is one of our core activities and it takes up a great deal of our capacity. Much of that work goes on behind the scenes, but is indispensible to allow you, the visitors, to have that special experience when strolling through the garden. Come and enjoy the garden, it is at its most beautiful in late summer.

Evert van Straaten
September 2011

Image: Oswald Wenckebach, Meneer Jacques, 1955