A Brief History Of Amsterdam's Cobra Museum

| © Franz Conde / Flickr
Tom Coggins

On November 8, 1948, a group of European avant-garde artists signed a manifesto that initiated the cobra movement. These painters were united by their animosity towards the sterile abstraction that had emerged in the wake of world war II and were eager to establish new forms of expression based around free experimentation within art. Their number included Karel Appel, Constant, and Asger Jorn, men that created vivid, playful cobra artworks that shrewdly captured the human psyche.
On the same date in 1995, the Cobra Museum Amstelveen opened its doors. This new building was designed to commemorate the cobra movement’s legacy and ensure that its member’s groundbreaking contributions to the history of art remained a visible part of contemporary culture. The initiative behind the museum in Amsterdam collected an extensive catalogue of paintings, sculptures and documents from cobra’s main contributors in order to create a vast library of work that represented the movement’s unique vision, style and theory.

This collection became a permanent part of the museum and has remained on display since its inauguration. To expand its scope, the museum has continuously held large temporary exhibitions that explore a specific part of cobra’s history and influence. These installations regularly use material drawn from several museums, private collections and contemporary ateliers in order to construct new perspectives on cobra’s output for art lovers from around the world to come and visit.

© FaceMePLS / Flickr

To keep cobra’s spirit alive, the museum decided to establish a biannual award in 2005. This prestigious prize is given to an innovative contemporary artist that is working within the same intellectual horizon as the cobra movement, and its jury selects candidates that use experimental methods to engage with political and social issues. Its winners are invited to present their work at a solo exhibition inside the Cobra Museum and receive €10,000.

Today the Cobra Museum remains an active part of the Dutch and international art world and will be hosting a retrospective of Pierre Alechinsky’s work from October 12. The exhibition will explore the final years of the cobra movement and its impact on Alechinksky’s career.

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