Pinching Bread from the Bears - Wartime Artis
• September 4 2002 - April 14 2003
This striking and eye-catching exhibition is intended for both children and grown-ups and has been arranged in collaboration with Artis. The exhibition deals with the strange happenings at Artis during the Second World War. We are introduced to the animals and their keepers as well as the visitors, and learn all about the events that took place behind the scenes. What do you do if you're hiding next to the cage of a gorilla called Japie who keeps peeping at you through a hole in the wall? Who stole into the children's farm and killed the pig? What was the director doing in the giraffe house with a loaded gun on the night of 14 July 1941, dressed only in his pyjamas? Embark on a voyage of discovery and meet Charlie the lion who didn't like eating fish, and Sambo the chimpanzee who came to the zoo as a temporary lodger.
Towards the end of the 1930s, Artis was threatened with closure. The number of visitors was declining steadily. A rescue committee was formed to provide money and draw up plans for modernisation. Most of these plans were put into effect after the outbreak of war: the monkey rock, the camel field and the goat rock with the waterfall were all completed at this time. Despite the occupation, things were going well for Artis. Precisely because of the war, more and more people were flocking to Artis in search of harmless amusement. The German occupying forces also had a liking for zoos and often came to visit. But Artis was also not allowed to forget that there was a war on. In the summer of 1941, Allied bombers accidentally firebombed part of the zoo. The fire brigade was afraid to enter the lion gallery and director Sunier stood by with a gun, ready to intervene if necessary. Artis also had to contend with the persecution of Jews. Jewish employees and members of the Board of Directors were forced to give up their jobs, and in 1941 the zoo was 'Forbidden to Jews'. In 1943, a resistance group led by Gerrit van der Veen and Willem Arondéus set fire to the Amsterdam population registry, which was housed in the former Artis concert hall. Artis became a place of refuge for Jews and for young men who had gone into hiding to avoid being sent to work in Germany. They hid in places such as the loft above the predator gallery, the wolf house and the round aviary.
Pinching Bread from the Bears has been specially designed by eight Amsterdam artists: Christina Hallström, Natascha Hesse, Carla Hoekendijk, Dorothée Meddens, Caroline Prisse, Svetlana Tiourina, Riët Wanders and Renée de Zwart. This unusual form of collaboration was made possible by a special grant to the museum by the Kunstenaars & Co Foundation. These women, who usually work as independent artists, have pooled their creative talents to tell an historical story. The result is a unique design, full of new ideas and unusual images. Animal transport cages have been converted into showcases and hideouts. By pulling on lifelike animal tails visitors can discover which kinds of animals were forced by wartime circumstances to find lodgings at Artis. By playing the 'scarcity game', they can learn just how difficult it was to bring so many animals through the 'winter of hunger' safely. Pinching Bread from the Bears is an exhibition full of hands-on experiences, fascinating films, animals and exciting stories. A section of the exhibition is in the zoo itself, just across from the museum.