Now on view



Black in Rembrandt’s Time

6 March to 6 September 2020

Black people were present in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. Here, in society, in Rembrandt’s neighbourhood and in art. It is an aspect that has long been overlooked. This exhibition brings you eye to eye with portraits of black people. How did artists depict them? And can we find out who they are? HERE: Black in Rembrandt’s Time is about overlooked works of art and representation, about recognition and acknowledgment.

“For years I’ve been looking for portraits of black people like me. Surely there had to be more than the stereotypical images of servants, enslaved people or caricatures? I found the alternative in Rembrandt’s time: a gallery of portraits of black people who are depicted with respect and dignity.” – Stephanie Archangel, Guest Curator

What strikes us in Rembrandt’s art and that of many of his contemporaries? The stereotypes that would later fix the image of black people did not yet predominate. Black people were not just secondary figures in subordinate roles, but often the subjects of the works of art.

The exhibition also tells the stories behind the works. Between around 1630 and 1660 there was a small community of free black people around Jodenbreestraat, in Rembrandt’s neighbourhood. Recent research has revealed a lot more about these Afro-Amsterdammers. In that same period black people are most often represented in works of art without negative stereotyping, simply as they were.

“As a museum we hope that this exhibition will make an impact. HERE. Black in Rembrandt’s Time makes a powerful statement about black presence and representation in the Netherlands, about better looking and blind spots, about having a voice and a changing image.” – Lidewij de Koekkoek, Director of The Rembrandt House Museum

HERE: Black Artists Now

In contemporary art, black plays an entirely different role from that in the seventeenth century. Now there are black artists who reflect on their own identities. And when black people are depicted, we know who they are. Both sides, the maker and the portrayed, now have a voice. The exhibition features new and existing works by ten prominent contemporary artists, including Iris Kensmil, Iriée Zamblé and Charl Landvreugd.

Dutch Masters Revisited

Dutch Masters Revisited is a growing exhibition of photographs curated by Jörgen Tjon a Fong, in which prominent Dutch people of colour put themselves in the place of their seventeenth- and eighteenth-century predecessors. These proud, compelling portraits are made in the style of Rembrandt and his contemporaries. Four new portraits – of Humberto Tan, Jeangu Macrooy, Tania Kross and Daniël Boissevain among others – have been made especially for The Rembrandt House Museum. The photos were made by Cigdem Yuksel and Ahmet Polat (former Laureate Photographer of the Nation) in the Oude Kerk and in The Rembrandt House Museum. Three of the portraits are on display in Rembrandt’s former home; the fourth is part of the exhibition HERE: Black in Rembrandt’s Time.

HERE: Black in Rembrandt’s Time runs from 6 March to 6 September 2020 in The Rembrandt House Museum. The exhibition was the brainchild of guest curators Elmer Kolfin and Stephanie Archangel, the design was by Raul Balai and Brian Elstak. Multi-disciplinary evening programmes in a number of venues accompany this exhibition. WBOOKS is publishing a book and there’s also a zine about contemporary black artists.

This exhibition is made possible in part by Fonds 21, the Mondriaan Fund – the public fund for visual art and cultural heritage, the Nachenius Tjeenk Foundation, the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, the Ten Hagen Fund and VSBfonds. The exhibition has been supported by the Dutch government: an indemnity grant has been provided by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

Note for the press: download the press release. Visit our press page for more information.