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Oxenaar, Rudi

    Full Name: Oxenaar, Rudi

    Other Names:

    • Rudi Oxenaar

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1925

    Date Died: 14 December 2005

    Place Died: Arnhem, Gelderlands, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands


    Director Museum Kröller-Müller, 1963-1990. Oxenaar studied art history at Leiden University under Henri Van de Waal. In the 1950s Oxenaar held the position of research assistant at the Municipal Museum of The Hague. In 1958-59 he contributed on modern sculpture to the Winkler Prins van de Kunst encyclopedia, edited by W. R. Juynboll and V. Denis. In 1963, Oxenaar succeeded Abraham Marie Wilhelmus Jacobus Hammacher as director of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo. In Hammacher’s footsteps he continued to broaden the sculpture collection in and around the museum. In 1965, the sculpture garden was enriched with the Rietveld Pavilion, which was originally designed by the Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), in 1955, for the third international Open-air Sculpture Exhibition in Sonsbeek Park, Arnhem. After its relocation to Kröller-Müller, the pavilion opened with a retrospective exhibition of Barbara Hepworth. Oxenaar added, in 1965 and 1967, eight sculptures by Hepworth to the permanent collection. He also acquired works of other British sculptors, such as Henry Moore, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Anthony Caro and Philip King. A spectacular purchase was Dubuffet’s Jardin d’émail, which was constructed, in 1974, in the sculpture garden. In 1976 Oxenaar earned his doctor’s degree from Utrecht University with a dissertation on the painter Bart van der Leck, a member of De Stijlmovement, Bart van der Leck tot 1920. Een primitief van de nieuwe tijd. In the same year the museum organized a retrospective of the work of van der Leck, Bart van der Leck (1876-1958). Between 1970 and 1977 Oxenaar played an active role in the realization of the new extension to the museum, designed by Wim Quist (b. 1930). It opened in 1977. The sober architecture of this extension creates a harmonious unity with the sculpture garden and the surrounding nature. In the 1970s and 1980s Oxenaar purchased works of some younger British sculptors, including Richard Long and Anish Kapoor. He had a particular interest in Minimal Art artists, such as Don Judd, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt, and Dan Flavin. From 1979 onwards he built up the Arte Povera collection of the museum, purchasing works by Mario Merz and others. From the mid-eighties Oxenaar privately began collecting picture books, developing the children’s book collection of his late wife, Thil Oxenaar-van der Haagen. In 1990 Oxenaar was succeeded by Evert van Straaten. After his retirement, Oxenaar kept an ongoing interest in what happened in the museum. He also was actively involved in the establishment of the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in Tilburg. In 2007, two years after his death, this museum honored its former board member with the presentation “Picture Books from the Collection of Rudi Oxenaar.”

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation] Bart van der Leck tot 1920. Een primitief van de nieuwe tijd. Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, published, The Hague: Interprint Sneldruk, 1976; De schilderkunst van onze tijd. Zeist: De Haan, 1958; “Barbara Hepworth and the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller.” Barbara Hepworth. The Tate Gallery, 3 April-19 May 1968. London: Tate gallery, 1968, pp. 48-49; Dubuffet, Jardin d‘émail. Otterlo: Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, 1974;; Tentenprojekt, Cornelius Rogge. Otterlo: Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller, 1976; and others Kröller-Müller: honderd jaar bouwen en verzamelen. Haarlem: Joh. Enschedé, 1988, English: The First Hundred Years. Haarlem: Joh. Enschedé, 1989.


    Stegeman, Elly. “Oxenaar in Kröller-Müller.” Kunst & Museumjournaal 2, 3 (1990): 50-60; [obituaries]: “Oud-directeur Oxenaar Kröller-Müller overleden” Apeldoornse Courant December 16, 2005; Reith, Maarten. “Levensloop Rudi Oxenaar – Een pionier in het Kröller Müller Museum.” De Gelderlander December 16, 2005; Schoonenboom, Merlijn. “Sobere kunsthistoricus met lef” Volkskrant December 16, 2005.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Oxenaar, Rudi." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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