Born: January 23, 1950 in Hunsel, Netherlands
Died: September 29, 2013 in Leuven, Belgium
It was June 1982 when I first met Yvonne Joris at my eponymous gallery in Philadelphia. Within minutes, I fell under her enthusiastic spell and passion for the arts. She was accompanied by Evert van Straaten, who eventually became the director (now retired) of the Kröller-Müller Museum, in Otterlo. Before I knew it, I had become the central depot for their planned exhibition of American pottery, which opened in 1983, Who’s Afraid of American Pottery? That title in itself should have prepared me for what was to come. From that moment on, until her untimely death, it was a journey into the unexpected!
Joris retired as director of the Stedelijk Museum in 's-Hertogenbosch in 2010, having led the museum since 1988, when it was initially known as Museum Het Kruithuis. She oversaw its renovation, expansion, and multiple moves through many challenging years. The museum was transformed from a regionally known collection of ceramics to an internationally renowned collection of contemporary art, artist’s ceramics, and jewelry. More than 5000 works dating from the past 50 to 60 years were acquired. A unique museum for the Netherlands was created- a unique museum for the world!
Yvonne’s interests were broad. Her dynamic personality made the impossible an attainable goal time and again. In addition to studio works, she responded to innovative design, especially Memphis, Droog, and Gijs Bakker’s project of Jewelry editions by artists-" Chi ha paura...?" (now CHP) She built extraordinary collections for the museum and curated groundbreaking exhibitions, which included Jewels of Mind and Mentality: Dutch Jewelry Design 1950–2000 (2000) and Private Passions: Artists Jewelry of the 20th Century (2009). The latter was her final exhibition. Can we forget the unique installation of a floating circle of cases in the midst of a dark room? The audience was offered spot flashlights so they could intimately examine each work. As one looked at the works by Calder, Fontana, Picasso, Meret Oppenheim, among others, one began to wonder how the budget of this museum could support these acquisitions. Her innovative manner of raising funds was legendary, as was her will to obtain work. It was not unusual for her to travel 12 hours by car to consider a work in a private collection. Like Thelma and Louise, we once drove to Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, to look at a buried Salvador Dali brooch in a sea of costume jewelry, and then raced 100 miles to Princeton, New Jersey, to negotiate not jewelry but ceramic acquisitions of Ken Price, Robert Arneson, and Ron Nagle.