The Dutch curator of KM21 (formerly known as GEM) and Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Yasmijn Jarram explores the relevance of contemporary art and its relation to society in her standout exhibitions. We meet Yasmijn to take a behind the scenes tour at the museum and learn more about her process.
"I want to show that contemporary art is not disconnected from our daily lives and the times we are living in," says Yasmijn Jarram, curator of contemporary art at both Kunstmuseum Den Haag and their sister gallery, KM21. After working as a curator for Garage Rotterdam, Nest in The Hague and 21rozendaal in Enschede, Yasmijn joined the palace of the arts in 2018, with a focus on "highlighting contemporary artists who relate to the world in a very personal and imaginative manner and engage you in a very direct way," she explains. "The artworks I am drawn to are kind of like music," she goes on, "where you don't have to indulge yourself in texts to make something of it, it captures your attention in an instinctive way."
Home to Dutch Parliament, the royal family and the U.N's International Court of Justice, The Hague is rarely lauded for its creative arts but Yasmijn believes that is changing. "There is a very interesting arts academy here. It used to be that once artists graduated from the academy they moved to Amsterdam or abroad, but in the last few years there has been a shift," she says. "With art initiatives and a rich, experimental climate, many contemporary artists are opting to remain in the city. My goal at KM21 is to connect with the local scene. It can be harder to do that at the larger, prestigious institutions like Kunstmuseum Den Haag but KM21 is smaller with more possibilities to engage," says Yasmijn. "I think it's really important to include everyone and by doing that I hope to bring an experimental yet critical programme, which feels accessible for whoever is interested to dive in."
KM21 shows Dutch and international contemporary art including video installations, painting, sculpture, film and photography. Recent shows curated by Yasmijn have included the works of British artist Emma Talbot whose body of work explores human existence as a dreamlike, occasionally oppressive experience. "Emma's work is strongly politically charged and she translates all her concerns into her drawings, sculptures and sound. A significant line in her work reads another world is possible' and I think that sentiment runs through all of the work I've done from writing to curating," says Yasmijn. "It can be interpreted politically or spiritually or psychologically but this offering of a new perspective and an alternative reality really defines what I try to do."
A recent show earlier this year with German artist Kati Heck explored identity and metamorphosis - the transition of one thing to another. The familiar is blended with the absurd like a fever dream and Heck offers no certainties, leaving the audience to their own imagined thoughts. Kati Heck's work offers many layers, explains Yasmijn. "It has relevance so it relates to the discourse artistically, but people love seeing this kind of colourful, figurative painting and that's also legitimate for me. With these layers, I hope there is something in it for everyone."
The most recent show at KM21 which runs into spring 2021 is with the South African artist Lisa Brice, her first museum exhibition in the Netherlands. "Her work addresses the notion of female nudes throughout art history. She kind of echoes iconic compositions from, Manet, Picasso, Vallotton - paintings that were obviously painted by white male artists and represented the male gaze - and she lifts the women portrayed in those iconic paintings and places them in a new context where they are really on their own terms."
What Yasmijn provides at both KM21 and Kunstmuseum den Haag are exhibitions which spark curiosity by offering a new perspective for the viewer in an energised way. If there's anyone who can let us think in new ways about our time and the world around us, it's artists.
Interview by Andie Cusick.
Photographs by Amber Zeekaf.
Yasmijn wears the TOAST Silk Velvet PJ Jumpsuit, available online.