The Hague is a unique city for living through the summer as if there is no tomorrow (because this is a strong probability, referring to the summer). The Hague municipality plans on more stable perspectives, fitting in all kinds of outdoor activities like concerts, markets, games, etc. This year we even had the hockey world cup happening in the Kyocera stadium on the outskirts of The Hague and support acts around a big screen in the centre of the city. Some of us though manage to stay tuned to the arty stuff for families; a very special category of event.
I have marked up 3 routes full of art that you can enjoy with your kids, each one appointed to a specific weather situation. But before you start reading the routes, bare a little note about kids growing up in The Hague.
A common thing in The Hague: with the first nice days we take the kids and run to the beach. They grow up digging holes in the sand that the tide erases within minutes, flying kites that often sink into the sea never to be seen again; very much the go-with-the-flow idea and don’t-expect-more-than-the-possible-but-make-the-best-of-what-is-offered. The summer activities add to the fame of Dutch children as the happiest kids in Europe; art makes also part of this joyful living.
Art in The Hague – Route 1: on a miserable day
It is raining and you’re wondering how to bury that feeling of misery and desperation. Without second thought, go to the Gemeentemuseum, walk through the standards of modern art not forgetting the room with Constant’s utopias; kids love the models. Then walk down to the Wonderkamers. These rooms might seem incomprehensible (and awfully dark) at first sight, will give hours of entertainment to your kids (warning: they do stay dark). They have been upgraded with a whole programme-search-game, a super interactive one, that can be run with a tablet; each kid gets the tablet at the helpdesk, at the beginning of the journey. The suggested age is 10+ but younger kids of 7+ can do it with your assistance; I’ve tested it. Before starting, we all watch a ten meter wide projection an introduction presented by the director of the museum, Benno Tempel. Here I must state my admiration to this characteristic of Dutchiness that allows people with high positions to behave as pure entertainers without any restraint; honest thumbs up to that, however theme for socio-political discussion. Benno stays with us during the game and up till the end.
The director of the Gemeentemuseum giving instructions for the art quest
… and helping with the art quest assignments in the Wonderkamers
For kids up to five years old (my guess) there is this tiny exhibition on Little Red Riding Hood with all the elements of the story in 3D representation to look at but also little costumes to dress up and a little bed to run around and play with; for the Dutch speaking kids, there is an audio and for everyone a drawing table. This runs until 9 July, ground floor, room 33 next to the museum’s café.
Art in The Hague – Route 2: on an indecisive day
It is a summery day but not quite; you are actually wearing jackets and socks and carry an umbrella in your bag; you’d rather spend a day in the centre, close to sheltered options. This is the perfect moment to take a walk at the Lange Voorhout and the exhibition “Grandeur”. As you suspect from the title, it is about works from France; young French sculptors spread their super sized works in the promenade under the trees. The “grandeur” has here more significance as size indeed; its old meaning in connection to ideas, beliefs or collective achievements does not really digest into today’s art. Children will be impressed to see an even more super sized world (with a bit of twisted dreamery for the grown-ups): raw wool climbing the trees, a plastic inflated moon, a wooden horse on a boat on a canon, some wooden mattresses, a wrongly assembled house, a set of garden table and chairs for giants, etc.
raw wool climbing the trees…
“Grandeur” at its starting point in Lange Voorhout
There is space enough to run or cycle between the works without knocking anything down; but, no touching nor climbing allowed I’m afraid. Finishing this walk you will be standing with the Escher museum in front of you; if your kids are older than ten you might want to continue your arty day. Younger kids won’t really enjoy Escher’s mind games and the museum is a bit stuffy. Well, you might also settle with a little ice-cream. Then, after that, comes the moment to decide which way to take; still looking at the Escher museum entrance, if you turn left you will walk past Hotel des Indes and down the Denneweg with its posh shops. Unless you want to buy expensive children’s clothes, I would suggest that you turn right, direction Plein. “Het Plein”, occupied while writing this article by the hockey village, hosts all kinds of music events and when not it has space for the kids to run around the statue of Willem van Oranje; this is your chance to have a coffee while keeping an eye on them.
For the “die hards” (or for another cultured day), the brand new Mauritshuis will finally open its doors on Friday 27 June; only for that day it will be open and free for the public from 20:00 to midnight. Some of its recent adventures were described in an earlier article: The only Dutch winter this year: art on the ice
Last polishing of the Mauritshuis
Art in The Hague – Route 3: on a sunny day
It is sunny and warm. Why would you want to miss a second by looking at art? Because this route will bring you to Scheveningen, the busy coast of The Hague and thus provide you with a full outing. Right on the promenade there is the Beelden aan Zee museum, somewhat hidden in the dunes. This is a space exclusively for sculpture, more spacious than you think when you first enter.
The “Grandeur” exhibition continues here with the main space devoted to Henri Laurens, the sculptor that walked aside Picasso and Braque in the heroic years of cubism. In this room you must keep the kids next to you; the museum attendants will point out in every cough how fragile these works are; they do not look fragile at all, but ok. Walk further in the building and the feeling becomes more loose; walk up on the roof and you’ll be free to touch the sculptures (when no one is looking). The building itself is astonishing in its simplicity.
On the roof of the Beelden aan Zee museum
Yet, if you get there but decide not to enter, there is an equally astonishing complex of sculptures outside, from its entrance on to the boulevard. The bronze sculptures are freely accessible (and touchable) twenty-four hours per day in ‘SprookjesBeelden aan Zee’. American sculptor Tom Otterness, inspired by fairy tales and legends about the sea, created 23 groups of sculptures of which the largest – the Herring eater (inspired by the Dutch, I presume)– reaches more than twelve meters into the sky. After that shot of art, you are free to choose where to hang out: on the sand or on a chair, the sea is right in front, so relax!
The Herring eater by sculptor Tom Otterness