Art comes first, Israël, and transforming senses into materiality

Daan van Dartel is the curator of fashion and popular culture at Tropenmuseum. In collaboration with MAFB, she is the co-producer of fashion fest Tropenmuseum 2016. Daan has a strong passion for fashion and books, but she’s also really keen on quiet, lush gardens and the sound of small animals and trees murmuring. Daan is married to her high school love with whom she has a daughter of 12 years.

How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
I started following movements in fashion - since I was 14 years - by spending thousands of euros on magazines. Now I’m on Pinterest and I make mood boards instead. I’ve always had a thing for fabrics and the use of varying techniques, but most of all I had a passion for the stories behind clothes. Creativity and craftsmanship have always intrigued me. After 15 years as a researcher at the Tropenmuseum, I am now the curator of fashion and popular culture. In this job my love for anthropology, museology and fashion all come together, and I feel so blessed by this. 
 

Evening ensemble by Hanae Mori  (1926-), ca. 1965. 
 
The fashion fest is all about awareness. What does awareness means to you? 
Awareness is about knowing who you are and what you can contribute to the world. Awareness is realising that the world is big, that everyone knows nothing and nobody knows anything and learning is forever.
 
What do you find inspiring in fashion, art and design?
The transformation of thoughts and senses into materiality. And that art, fashion and design can arouse such emotions anger, sadness, and joy. 
 
Which designers do you find inspiring?
I like Art Comes First, two men from London who transform existing materials in contemporary design items. I love Dries van Noten who seems to be able to inhale the whole world as a source of inspiration. I love Valentino, who worked with Canadian Métis artist Christi Belcourt to make a beautiful collection for spring 2016, based on her local-based art. And last but not least: Alexander McQueen. No explanation needed: royal!
 
What do you find lacking about the fashion, art and design industry?
It seems that these industries only look at the western history of fashion, art and design, with some exceptions. Luckily, people are getting more aware of this. The Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde and Afrikamuseum hope to add alternative stories to that with their inspiring collections and exhibitions. 
 
Coat Hameng Kubuwono
 
In what countries have you learned the most about cultural diversity?
Israël because it was just beyond my imagination: The division of The Old City of Jerusalem into four quarters, each its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences; the burnt cars in the streets and the female soldiers with lipstick and high heels. Second, Central America: I’ve learned so much about the differences between village and city and different populations with their own joy and sorrow. But maybe traveling is overrated: I come from a culturally quite diverse extended family myself, and I’ve learned more about cultural diversity from my family than I did by travelling. And due to my work in the museum I’m still learning everyday. There’s so much more to know, that’s one thing I can tell you!
 
How do you raise cultural awareness in your work?
At the museum we’re focusing on developing this awareness by showing certain exhibitions and collections. One of my responsibilities as a curator of fashion and popular culture is to tell additional stories that can contribute to the development of understanding people and humanity. We do for example exhibitions on gender in China, on fashion from Africa, and new ideas on acquiring collections that show the diverse world we live in, make our museum so different to other institutions. 
 
Digital technology and globalization ensure that the creative sector is subject to strong changes. What do these changes look like? 
There will be more attention from creative impulses from all over the world, cross-cultural ideas will mix into new creations. People do not only create work digitally, but also have the means to disperse them to faraway places, and receive input back. Democratisation will take place. Hopefully this will mean more mutual interest and respect and less self-absorption and inward-looking attitudes.