Large and solid blue and red letters, placed offset left and right on a cover in the famous brown-paper look: a massive nod in the direction of Willem Sandberg on the front of The Stedelijk Museum and the Second World War. A bit too massive, thought some panel members. Do we always have to keep bringing up Sandberg’s legacy, people wondered. In this case, however, that decision by designers Studio Ron van Roon is certainly not inappropriate. This book is about the way many artists and collectors taking refuge from the Nazis entrusted their art to the Stedelijk. In a purpose-built bunker in the dunes, director David Roëll and curator Willem Sandberg kept watch over more than five hundred collections – while the museum itself remained open throughout the years of the occupation.
It’s a highly practical book, lying well in the hand, in addition to which the trove of information is extremely easy to access. Take for example the table of contents with the photo for each chapter, and then allow yourself to be taken by the hand. The designer knows when he needs to enlarge a photo but he equally knows when to pull back. Interrupted by a timeline and helpful footers for each chapter, it is impossible to lose your way in this book.
Right down to the list of footnotes one is struck by the attention to detail. Little has been left to chance. In addition it all looks very varied, without losing track of the grid. The only niggle is that sewing the sections of thirty-two pages is not exactly conducive to lying open flat. In the end, the fact that we had seen other publications of this sort didn’t turn out to be a problem for the panel, who gradually arrived at a consensus on this carefully constructed book. The Stedelijk Museum and the Second World War is an exhibition catalogue that fulfils its public function with dignity and feeling for tradition.