Fotomuseum Den Haag was established in 2002 as part of Kunstmuseum Den Haag. Since the opening of the Fotomuseum, the Kunstmuseum’s photography collection, which now numbers more than seven thousand works, has been enlarged by numerous important gifts. Artists, private collectors and cultural institutions have entrusted beautiful photographs to the museum. Unexpected Encounters is an exhibition that honours the more than two thousand photographic works that have enriched the collection in this way.
Gifts often come about in remarkable or surprising ways, thus giving colour to the collection. In 2003, for example, on behalf of the Mexican people, President Vincente Fox presented a series of photographs that Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002) took in the Netherlands in 1959 and 1960. This coincided with a gift from the Netherlands to Mexico of photographs taken there by Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) in the same period. Another unique story is that of the photographer Gerard Fieret, who donated almost his entire oeuvre to the museum, but would allow no one to enter his home: he put rubbish sacks crammed with hundreds of photographs on the pavement outside his house, where the museum’s director was allowed to pick them up. Lastly, the Hague-based gallerist, collector and author Erik Bos (1955-2016) not only bequeathed a photography collection of the highest quality to the museum, but also established a fund in his own name to enable the museum to acquire new photographic works and to produce photography publications.
The gifts displayed in this exhibition represent remarkable encounters between donors and the museum. But these works, by both Dutch and foreign artists from various periods, also enter into surprising relationships with each other: Edward Weston’s (1886-1958) first nude rubs shoulders with her male counterpart in a vintage print by Lionel Wendt (1900-1944). Women’s legs in high heels meet in Sem Presser’s (1917-1986) Paris and in Gerard Fieret’s The Hague, and two girls from Zeeland, captured by Werner Bischof (1916-1954) just after the war, contemplate their older mirror image in a photograph by Toon Michiels (1950-2015).