“Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?”: Studio Vollaerszwart Dresses the Hague in “De Stijl”

One of my most popular posts in terms of search engine traffic is “De Stijl” (literally “The Style”) from March 21, 2016 – based on the movement founded in Amsterdam in 1917 by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), two pioneers of abstract art.

De Stijl has a distinctive pattern – blocks of primary colours randomly situated amid a strict geometry of verticals and horizontals. We find it on walls or furniture or curtains or clothes, all over the world today. And that is precisely the purpose of the whole enterprise.

Mondrian Lookalike by User “Husky”, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

Originally a publication, De Stijl was, in large part, a reaction to the devastation of World War I. Artists associated with the movement aimed to develop a universal language of art that could transcend different geographic and temporal boundaries and appeal to a broad, cross-cultural international audience. Pure abstraction symbolising peace and harmony was reached only through minimal essentials of line and shade.

De Stijl dresses by Yves Saint Laurent (1966), by User “Erich Koch”, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

Recently, to mark its centenary, Rotterdam-based Studio Vollaerszwart took De Stijl to the next level by turning an entire Dutch metropolis in its colours. All of the Hague became a giant canvas for a city-dressing campaign called “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?”

Roads, stations, apartments, offices, even the City Hall got a Mondrian makeover. The Hague City Council decided to honour the artist as Gemeentemuseum has no less than 300 of his paintings in its possession. The compositions of De Stijl went particularly well with the clean white buildings erected by the American architect Richard Meier in the city.

Vollaerszwart was founded in 1991 by Madje Vollaers and Pascal Zwart as a studio for interdisciplinary design and visual communication. It explores the interaction between architecture, sculpture, couture and culture, and over the past two decades has worked on several prominent projects dedicated to the transformation and enhancement of public spaces.

Links: Website (vollaerszwart.com) | Facebook (www.facebook.com/vollaerszwart)

Images used with permission.