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In Memory of Yvonne Joris


Yvonne Joris
Yvonne Joris

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.

In addition to her exhibitions, major publications accompanied her efforts and desire to document her chosen field. In 1991, Yvonne introduced selective examples of American jewelry to her public in an exhibition entitled Beauty Is a Story. Among those exhibited were Kim Overstreet and Robin Kranitzky, Joyce Scott, and Rebecca Batal. Retrospectives of Manfred Bischoff, Üb ersetzen (1993); Daniel Kruger (1994); Broken Lines: Emmy Van Leersum, 1930–1984 (1995); Georg Dobler: Schmuckarbeiten 1980–2000 (2000); and Gijs Bakker and Jewelry (2005) heralded our field. Upon the occasion of the marriage of Dutch Crown Prince Willem, (now King), to Maxima Zorrequieta, Yvonne organized a competition entitled “A Tiara for Maxima” in 2002. Twenty giant photographs of the nominated tiaras were attached to the bridges along a canal. Yvonne’s innovative spirit scheduled boat tours to view the works. Contemporary jewelry became a catalyst for unrealized ideas and traveled the world from the Netherlands!

Yvonne loved the United States, and she and her husband of 42 years Pieter maintained a mobile home, elegantly decorated, where she served culinary delicacies to their visitors. Midwinter and summer vacation months were spent exploring America, free from their demanding, but passionate and professional lives. 

Memories of Yvonne sitting in bed with a glass of wine editing the galleys for one of her publications will never leave me. Our last visit together was August 1, 2013, when I stopped in Amsterdam en route to London. Gijs Bakker and I drove to Huesden for supper. There she was—elegant and in command of herself and her kitchen. Her curiosity piqued as we had just been to the renovated Rijksmuseum. Her interest in her chosen field of jewelry and ceramics never waned. As Yvonne was struggling to hold on to life, reports of artists’ works, exhibitions, lectures, and articles became her daily “meals,” and she metaphorically savored every last syllable as if it were a choice slice of pheasant.  

Upon her retirement, Yvonne was the recipient of the “Ridder In de Order of Orange-Nassau,”- a royal recognition presented on the part of the former Queen Beatrix. Yvonne was not only indefatigable in her quests but a passionate and dedicated friend. After a three-year battle with cancer, Yvonne’s pursuit of extended life has ended. She is survived by her beloved husband Pieter Joris, mother Maria Henckens, five brothers, one sister, and a global community of friends.


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