Yvonne Joris (1950-2013)

Article  /  HistoryBehind the Scenes
Published: 08.10.2013
Yvonne Joris (1950-2013).
Liesbeth den Besten
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Edited at:
Exhibition Private Passion, 2009.
Exhibition Private Passion, 2009

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She was one of the first museum officials who recognized the importance of the new movements in ceramics and jewellery and made it the museum’s core focus.
The 29th of September 2013 Yvonne Joris died, age 63.

From 1988 - 2009 Yvonne Joris was the director of the Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch (until 2003 Museum Het Kruithuis), the Netherlands. She was one of the first museum officials who recognized the importance of the new movements in ceramics and jewellery and made it the museum’s core focus. As a person and director she was unconditional and passionate – perhaps not always an easy person to cooperate with but someone who knew exactly what she wanted and how she wanted it. This way she laid the foundation for a remarkable and unique collection of jewellery and ceramics by fine artists, by buying on the international market; she had a talent for finding fundings. She was able to acquire unique ceramics and jewellery pieces by Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, Georges Braque, Lucio Fontana, Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray – to name just a few.

Yvonne Joris also organized an impressive list of remarkable exhibitions in the museum, which was initially housed in a 17th century military building, Het Kruithuis. An early important exhibition was Beauty is a Story (1991). This exhibition, comprising 13 artists from different countries, offered a completely new perspective on jewelry by focusing on the narrative. It was her hope to set a new standard, away from the ‘puritan northern’ attitude. This exhibition also introduced some North American jewelry in the Netherlands: work by Rebecca Batal, Kim Overstreet & Robin Kranitzky and by Joyce Scott – it was work that attracted a lot of attention in newspaper articles. In 1993 she organized Broken Lines, a retrospective of Emmy van Leersum (1930-1984), one of the pioneers of Dutch contemporary jewellery, accompanied by an impressive monograph – one of the first ever to appear in the field of contemporary jewellery. The exhibition traveled to different countries. Yvonne Joris had a keen eye for new and special projects. In an early stage she adopted and supported the new brand ‘Chi ha Paura…?’ by Gijs Bakker, an ongoing project with the aim ‘to bring artistic impulses and technical innovation to serially produced jewellery.’ Therefore the museum owns all jewellery prototypes and products, that have been created by ‘Chi ha Paura…?’ since 1996 to the present day, among them unique designs by Marc Newson, Marcel Wanders, Wieki Somers, Ron Arad, Martí Guixé, Konstantin Grcic, Campana Brothers, and Studio Job, as well as Gijs Bakker, Ted Noten, Katja Prins, Peter Skubic, Lin Cheung, Marc Monzo and Warwick Freeman.

Jewels of Mind and Mentality, Dutch Jewelry Design 1950-2000, which traveled to different countries, was a comprehensive exhibition. It was the first survey of Dutch contemporary jewellery and together with the catalogue, confirmed the reputation of the Netherlands as the centre of an innovatory attitude. Yvonne Joris never shun spectacular exhibition design. In 2002, on the occasion of the wedding of Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander with Argentinian Máxima Zorreguieta, the museum organized a design competition ‘A Tiara for Máxima’. An international jury chose Ted Noten’s design as the best. It is a two-part object consisting of a chrome plated polo helmet and the tiara embedded in it - a protection and crown at the same time. The exhibition design by VollaersZwart involved giant photographs of the 20 nominated tiara’s which were attached under the bridges of the small river Dieze. Exhibition visitors were invited to make a boat tour to see the photos in the city.

Under Yvonne Joris’ lead the museum also started acquiring archives, among them those of Emmy van Leersum, Gijs Bakker, and Marion Herbst. Yvonne Joris was a persistent opponent in a struggle against administrative, financial and housing problems concerning 'her' museum. During her directory the museum had to move twice, while an architectural plan by Borek Sipek failed to pass the city council. During the last 9 years the museum was housed in an abandoned mid twentieth century industrial building; Yvonne Joris commissioned the French designer Matali Crasset to redesign the building, inside and outside, and the museum’s company style. The green and pink colours meant a break-away from the old and dusty buildings the museum was housed in before. A third move was too much however. In 2009 Joris stepped back and passed the museum on to a new director, Renée Pingen, who prepared and guided the last move to a completely new building in the city centre as part of the museum quarter. Her last exhibition Private Passion, artists' jewelry of the 20th century opened in 2009, when she retired. It is proof of an absolutely unique collection of jewelry – no museum in the world owns a collection such as this.

Soon after her retirement she became ill. Yvonne Joris attended the opening of the new Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch in May, in a wheelchair and seriously ill but still militant and critical. She died in a hospital in Leuven, and was remembered in a well-attended service in her museum one week later.

- Liesbeth den Besten