The Dutch are marking the centennial of their most famous modern art movement, De Stijl, a term coined by Piet Mondrian in 1917. In honor of this major anniversary, The Hague unveiled today a transformative makeover of its city hall building into what Dutch officials claim is “the largest Mondrian painting in the world.”
Though the work is not technically a painting — it was made using large, adhesive, monochrome rectangles, applied one by one by Rotterdam-based design firm Studio Vollaerszwart— the overall effect is a powerful transformation of the Richard Meier-designed building into something resembling De Stijl’s original goal of achieving a totalizing aesthetic uniting art, design, and architecture. City hall is just the first of The Hague’s buildings to get the Mondrian treatment, with others to follow; in the coming weeks, a series of cubical, De Stijl-inspired pontoons will also be anchored in the Hofvijver, the pond in front of the Dutch parliament building and the Mauritshuis museum.
The massive Mondrian-ization of city hall is just the most visible element of a nationwide program of public events and exhibitions celebrating De Stijl’s centennial and the domestic developments in art and design that it spurred. Later this year, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, which has the world’s largest collection of works by Mondrian, will put all 300 of them on view in the blockbuster show The Discovery of Mondrian (June 3–September 24). Other exhibitions will focus on the movement’s manifestations in design and architecture, and the relationship between Mondrian and Bart van der Leck, which was vital to De Stijl’s early development.
Though some combination of van der Leck, Mondrian, and Theo van Doesburg is typically credited with co-founding the movement, the name is usually attributed to Mondrian. He published his landmark essay “Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art” across the first 11 issues of the De Stijl magazine. In the third part of the essay, he wrote: “As the time is not yet ripe for its complete unification with architecture, Neoplasticism must continue to be manifested as painting.” Perhaps, finally, 100 years later, De Stijl is finally ripe for total unification with architecture.