In memoriam: Jan van Munster (1939-2024) 


On May 29, the artist Jan van Munster, who became internationally known as a sculptor, installation and light artist, died. At the beginning of his career, Van Munster mainly worked with stone, wood, bronze and glass. Over the course of the 70s, the use of light became more important and the notion of 'energy' became increasingly central to his work. For example, he used magnetic energy, sound and radiation. Van Munster has a rich oeuvre, in which his light sculptures are particularly characteristic. He tried to get to the essence through recurring themes such as geometry. 

Van Munster had a strong bond with Rotterdam, partly because he studied at the Rotterdam Art Academy from 1955 to 1957 and became a teacher in 1973. In 1981, Van Munster was commissioned by the then director Hein van Haaren to create a work of art based on the percentage scheme of the conversion into the Academy of Visual Arts (now Willem de Kooning Academy). This neon light line, which seems to cut through the facade, creates a nice contrast with the existing architecture: a former bank building designed by architect Kropholler, which survived the bombing in 1940.

Van Munster made the 24 meter long roof for the roof of the Rotterdam Theater by architect Wim Quist Energy line (1988). This accentuates and enlivens – especially after sunset – the austere building. The light beam at a height of 36 meters appears to be in precarious balance, but in reality it is rock solid. Jan van Munster commented about this: “Just as that beam on the edge of the abyss balances, so everyone who is involved in making theater in a good way always lounges on the dangerous border between falling and staying afloat.” With the colors red and blue, Van Munster refers to two sides of the theater: red for the warm plush and blue for the modern experiment.  

In Van Munster's oeuvre the so-called IK-works occupy an important place, they can be found in various Dutch, but also foreign cities. In 1995 BKOR installed one on the Binnenrotte IKstatue by Van Munster. The Laurenskwartier Manifestation was completed with the shiny black-granite statue. When it was opened, Van Munster's statue was still on a ship on its way from India, where it was carved and ground. Van Munster has designed the letters in such a way that it is possible to sit on them. He came up with the idea for a sitting sculpture when he was walking around the square and saw someone sitting awkwardly on a pile of stones. The seat offered by the artist is a lot better and the black polished granite also retains the heat of the sun. The effect was that IK offered a wonderfully heated seat until well after sunset. Due to the redevelopment of the Binnenrotte, this had to be done IK move from that location. Since last year, BKOR has been working on a new location for the iconic statue.

Photo: BKOR archive

Publication date: 19 / 06 / 2024