Vermeer’s iconic images hit street fashion and surf boards

New Amsterdam Surf Association collection with Rijksmuseum
New Amsterdam Surf Association/Rijksmuseum collection

The Rijksmuseum and New Amsterdam Surf Association have launched a collection of surf wear and boards inspired by the 17th century Dutch master painter.

Based on the sell-out exhibition of 28 of Vermeer’s 37 extant paintings, which runs until June, the new collection is intended to broaden access to the artist.

Paul Zeper, founder of the streetwear brand ‘made by surfers’, used a Rijksstudio tool to select famous imagery from the paintings to create prints and patterns on a series of clothes and boards. The collection was launched on Thursday night at the Rijksmuseum with a private viewing of the Vermeer show.

Zeper told Dutch News that he had previously taken inspiration from classic artworks. ‘If find it interesting to change the perception of art through clothing,’ he said. ‘I like Vermeer’s knowingness, the tension, the way he uses basic, daily scenes but you don’t know what’s going on. A letter might mean a wedding; little things are loaded. In this collection we took elements [of the paintings] and made them stronger.’

Surfboards: New Amsterdam Surf Association and Rijksmuseum

New Amsterdam Surf Association makes streetwear but is also intended to be worn by Dutch surfer types. ‘We aren’t bikini babes,’ said Alex Jaspers, head of commerce. ‘Our season is October to February in Wijk aan Zee. In the summer there are no waves. Our collection must be wearable, warm, and it’s also for people who want to go out in the city.

‘After we made a piece inspired by The Threatened Swan, the Rijksmuseum came to us and said it would be nice to do something with Vermeer – to make a crazy collection combining our community of 20 to 40 year olds and their community.’

The collection, New Amsterdam X Rijksmuseum, includes t-shirts starting at €65, a €190 embroidered cardigan in the style of The Milkmaid and a €90 silk scarf representing Vermeer’s early Delft painting ‘The Little Street’, with a surfboard in the picture. Three €1,200 surfboards recreate parts of famous paintings including The Love Letter. Meanwhile the form and colour of a €220 blue, denim jacket is inspired by Vermeer’s ‘Woman Reading a Letter’

Now or never: Vermeer exhibition

The Rijksmuseum has followed in the footsteps of other historic museums in seeking to work with contemporary brands. In 2020, fashion brand The Daily Paper partnered with the Van Gogh museum for a collection inspired by his work.

However, the Rijksmuseum said that the collaboration was less about commercialising its collection than staying relevant for a younger, more diverse audience.

‘This partnership isn’t only about walking in the footsteps of Vermeer, but the continuing importance of old masters,’ said Tamar van Riessen, junior curator of 17th century Dutch painting at the launch. ‘The function of the museum isn’t only to hang paintings, but to connect and tell new stories, keeping old art alive for new generations.

‘With this kind of partnership, we can reach new audiences. A fantastic surfboard is about redefining Vermeer with a change of canvas…even if I can’t surf!’

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