Dutch can be a hard language for visitors to master, which is partly why the Gemeentemuseum, the Hague’s main art venue, announced this week that it will change its name in 2019 to Kunstmuseum Den Haag. “The ‘G’ is a very strange sound for people from abroad,” says Benno Tempel, the director of the more than 150-year-old museum. “The confusion is always something we feel.”
It is not the first Dutch museum to rebrand. In 2010, the Amsterdam Historisch (Historical) Museum became the Amsterdam Museum, and the Letterkundig (Literary) Museum was named the Literatuurmuseum (Literature Museum) in 2016. The Gemeentemuseum too has changed names since its 1866 founding, according to Tempel, from the Museum voor Moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art) to Museum van de Dienst voor Schone Kunst (Museum of Fine Art) to the current Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum) in 1998. “The name never actually functioned properly,” Temple says. “The wish remained to choose a name that makes clearer to the public what to expect [at the museum]: art.”
The new moniker goes into effect next October, when the museum hosts a Monet show. The aim is to raise awareness among foreign visitors of what the Gemeentemuseum has to offer with its 160,000-strong collection, which includes Piet Mondrian’s final painting, Victory Boogie-Woogie (1942-44), among 300 canvases by the artist. While attendance to the museum has doubled in the past 10 to 15 years and three Mondrian shows in 2017 drew 289,000 visitors, Tempel says several marketing surveys revealed room for improvement.
“The collection is international renowned; the name is less known,” Tempel says. “Building on strengths, we are confident that our collection and exhibitions will reach an even broader and larger audience in the future.”