From 13 June to 6 January 2011, the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht will show a spectacular and unique exhibition on gold. Also spectacular and unique is the guest curator for this exhibition: the famous Dutch fashion designer and performance artist Aziz Bekkaoui.
The aim of this exhibition is not to dazzle people with the glitter and glam of this coveted precious metal, the purpose is to intrigue and amaze the public. The museum has asked Bekkaoui to answer questions as; What is the meaning of gold? What qualities are attributed to it? And what is the real value of gold? What powers are derived from it? What is gold in the proportion of religion and the philosophy of life? Aziz shows surprising answers along the different aspects of gold: protection, decoration, power, immortality, value and worship.
Crowns, sceptres, icons, masks and jewellery are some of the objects that have been made from gold at all times, and for all reasons. In the exhibition Gold, Aziz enhances the museum’s own collection of religious objects with remarkable, surprising, old and contemporary works on loan. Together they not only tell the story of the applications and functions of gold, but also show that gold is used in much the same ways today as it was centuries ago.
The beautiful liturgical objects from the depot of the Catharijneconvent comprise many stunning, gold-embellished paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, chalices and clothes. They illustrate the tradition that gold is the only material worthy of praising the Lord: only gold can contain the divine. Such as a silver gilded chalice in the Catholic doctrine. It does not simply contain red wine, but also the blood of Christ during Holy Communion.
The secular use of gold is nicely illustrated with a marvelous object loaned by the Dutch Royal House: the British Field-Marshall’s staff belonging to King Willem II. In 1845, the Dutch king was appointed Field Marshall of Great Britain in 1845 by the Duke of Wellington, under whose command he had fought in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The staff is executed in gold and velvet and radiates a sense of power – similar to a bishop’s crozier from the museum’s own collection.
The exhibition is set up in an interesting associative and artistic way. A gilded wooden crown of an Ashanti king is placed alongside a facsimile of a gilded Roman helmet. And as a modern equivalent, Aziz exhibits a face cream by La Prairie containing… gold! He comments: ‘Gold on crowns and helmets offers protection from external forces, in face creams it protects from the aging process’. And so it is.
On loan from the State Museum of History in Moscow a gilded evangelistary is shown in which the holy word is highlighted in gold. This tradition is also found in Islamic culture as shown in a juz (a section of the Koran) from the Museum of Ethnography in Leiden. The book dates from the sixteenth or seventeenth century and its cover is completely coated in gold. Opposite it, Aziz has placed today’s holy book: a gilded laptop. Interesting contradiction, similar radiation.
Gold will always be a valuable commodity. We have hundreds of every day examples: the golden Olympic medal, golden symbols on statues, golden fashion-logo’s and common gold jewelry. And even the golden Credit Card in your wallet…
Besides the exhibition, the museum organizes treasure hunting for children (the never ending search for gold) and a course in gilding. A special Gold magazine is published for the occasion and: all the Golden Calves awarded by the Dutch Film Festival are on display.
At the same time, the neighborly Geldmuseum will discuss the recently very relevant theme of the value of money where visitors are able to see a visualization of the complete but scarce gold stock of the world. More questions are asked: what is the worth of gold and what is it worth to you?