Looted art stories take centre stage at Mauritshuis museum in The Hague

Looted art is taking centre stage at Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

“Loot – 10 stories” puts 10 objects and their history in the spotlight thanks to virtual reality (VR).

The exhibition focuses on three periods: colonial looted art, the art thefts committed by French revolutionaries in 1795, and art stolen by the Nazis from Jewish owners.

The artworks are from the collections of the Mauritshuis, but also three Berlin museums (Ethnologisches Museum, Stadtmuseum, Gipsformerei), and the Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes (France).

“A museum is there to make those objects look more beautiful, but we don’t make them more beautiful. The light is working light as you can see here. So with the VR installation, you put on your goggles and your VR installation and then you dive into the moment of loot itself. So you as a visitor are witness of the loot, and then the object tells the story by itself. It’s about the biography of the objects, and the object tells the story to you as a visitor,” says Marine Grosselink, director of the Mauritshuis.

Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait from 1669 is one of the artworks which can be seen in VR. The painting belonged to the Jewish Rathenau family but was confiscated by Nazis during World War II.

The Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is another highlight. It was looted by Napoleon in 1806.

In the exhibition, the artistic duo Jongsma+O’Neill uses VR experience to present the story of the looted objects.

“We made a very deliberate choice with these experiences to essentially draw people into history. It’s not particularly narrative. You’re essentially arriving back at a time that you would not have access to. Like you stepped into a time machine,” says Kel O’Neill, co-curator of the exhibition.

“Loot – 10 stories” runs from 14 September 2023 to 7 January 2024.

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