The G Art Blok (Facebook) exudes the atmosphere of a museum with style. An exquisite collection of artworks hangs on the high snow-white walls and on the upright panels in the middle of the room. There is a pleasant amount of space between the works of art which makes every painting come into its own, while visitors can also take it all in better due to sufficient distance.
After the opening night on December 12, 2019, the Old Treasures exhibition was open for two whole days. With art from the impressive private collection of two collectors with excellent taste, a sharp eye for quality, and a great love of beauty. Lucia Bijlhout and her husband Ro Liauw Anjie (who died in 2012) built up a beautiful collection over the years. This exhibition was a unique opportunity for the public to see Surinamese masterpieces of visual art. Art lovers walked around enjoying it. Such a treasure room that opens … not often does one get the chance to experience this!
Old Treasures showed fifty-four works by fifteen artists, three of which are no longer alive (Erwin de Vries, Jules Chin A Foeng and Quintus Jan Telting). The oldest work – more than half a century old – is by Erwin de Vries, he made it in 1963. His powerful handwriting was already unmistakable at the time. ‘Old’ in another way, are the two paintings by Remy Jungerman, Personage (1989) and a still life with a skull. Not so much old in time, but because Jungerman has been working so completely differently for so many years: he now mainly makes installations and has immersed himself in winti. In this way, interesting comparisons can be made from several artists between their old and their recent works. René Tosari for example, who used to paint in a much more illustrative way and later moved to a more abstract style.
Large canvases by Quintus Jan Telting dominate the left half of the room. No less than seventeen paintings by this artist are seen, including the grim Blind Justice, the blindfolded Lady Justice who is menacingly baring her teeth, furious because there is no justice in the world.
What does a person do with so much art? First you fill your house with it. Then you buy a second home. When that also becomes full, you start an art gallery. And then gradually you come to a saturation point and you begin to feel that such a beautiful collection should not remain locked up within four walls. You want to share these treasures with others, you feel that the artworks deserve to be seen and admired by many more eyes. They have to go into the world. This was probably more or less the case with Lucia Bijlhout when she decided to compile an exhibition from her collection. Together with her son Jamil, she made a selection from their collection of more than a hundred pieces; George Struikelblok did the lay-out for the exhibition, Rinaldo Klas and Glenn Fung Loy lend a helping hand. It has to be said: the collection is in excellent condition. Well framed, well protected by a fresh coat of varnish – clearly always well maintained. Something that is not easy in our climate, so this deserves a compliment as well.
To me, walking through this exhibition was like being warmly greeted by a room full of old friends. So happy to see each other again after a long time. My acquaintance with many of the beauties in Old Treasures was in 1995, the year in which I made the exhibition Twenty years of visual art of Suriname 1975-1995 together with art historian Paul Faber. That exhibition was set up on a large scale (one hundred works of art) and was the gift from the Netherlands to Suriname on the occasion of twenty years of Srefidensi. With the opening of that exhibition, after years of military use, Fort Zeelandia also reopened as a museum. A double milestone.
For three months the exhibition was well attended, and was even taken to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam the following year. Never before so many visual works of art from Suriname been given such a large, prestigious presentation space as in 1996. The interest, the reactions and the appreciation were heart-warming and enormous.
It is good to know that preparations are now underway from the Stedelijk Museum to again pay attention to the visual arts of Suriname in the second half of 2020. Almost a quarter of a century after that first explosion … Again a nice spotlight will then be put on our old treasures, our old riches. A treasure room to cherish gratefully.
TEXT & TRANSLATION Chandra van Binnendijk
Chandra van Binnendijk (Paramaribo, 1953) is editor and publicist. From 1977 until 1988 she was part of the news editors of various newspapers and radio stations, and was a correspondent for various Caribbean media. After ten years she said goodbye to active journalism and is since focusing mostly on culture, art and history. She has co-written several art publications amongst which Twintig jaar beeldende kunst in Suriname 1975 – 1995 (Amsterdam, KIT Publishers, 1995) and she was author and compiler of the art catalogue Zichtbaar (Paramaribo, 2005) about the art collection of De Surinaamsche Bank. Other publications in which she was involved as co-author and co-compiler are Bouwstenen voor een betere wereld. 250 jaar vrijmetselarij in Suriname (Paramaribo, 2011) and TOR. A People’s Business (Paramaribo, 2012).
PHOTOS G Art Blok/Peter Thielen, Bart Krieger & Roosje Verschoor
What: Old Treasures. 50 paintings (1968-2002) from 16 wellknown Surinamese visual artists: Erwin de Vries, Rinaldo Klas, George Struikelblok, Cliff San A Jong, Ray Daal, Quintus Jan Telting, Marcel Pinas, John Lie A Fo, Hans Lie, René Tosari, Paul Chang, Wong Loi Sing, Jules Chin A Foeng, Remy Jungerman, Carlos Blaaker & Soeki Irodikromo)
When: Opening: Thursday December 12, 2019, from 07 p.m. Exhibition: Friday December 13 & Saturday December 14, 2019, 10 a.m.-01 p.m. & 06-09 p.m.
Where: G Art Blok, Verlengde Keizerstraat 35, Paramaribo (next to God’s Bazuin church), Suriname
Contact: Tel. ++ 597 858 5094