Karel Appel tile tableau restoration started: ‘Not a single tile should be lost’

Karel Appel Tinbergen
Losmaken van het Karel Appel keramiek
Arie Kers

The colorful tile tableau on the façade of Tinbergen Building, designed by famous Dutch artist Karel Appel (1921-2006), is in need of restoration. To protect the artwork during the renovation of Tinbergen Building, this restoration is not done on site but in a workshop. This week, an expert started carefully detaching the tiles from the façade so they can be transported to the studio. 

Young city dwellers

This unique frieze by Karel Appel is one of his three enormous ceramics and the largest work by Karel Appel, typical of his work from the 1960-1970 period. It consists of a series of brightly coloured drawings and is a portrait gallery of students and young city dwellers. The tile tableau was donated to Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) when Campus Woudestein opened in 1969 and is one of the most prominent works of art in our collection. Years of exposure to various weather conditions have caused the ceramic to weather, so it is now in need of a restoration. 

A huge task

Removing the over 4,000 tiles from the façade is a huge task and it needs to be done very carefully. The tiles are labelled one by one to make sure they will be returned to the right place. The company Van Sabben Tegelwerken, which is removing the coloured tiles, is one of the few in the Netherlands specialised in this work. They cut the tiles off the wall using a unique method, which allows them to guarantee that all the tiles remain whole: "Not a single tile should be lost. Fortunately, there is enough time to carry out the work carefully.". The removal of the tiles is expected to take until the end of June. 

Karel Appel Frieze removal

Back to the origins

The artwork consists of white and coloured tiles. The tiles are carefully removed, transported and stored by specialists to ensure optimal protection.

The coloured tiles are cleaned and restored in a workshop to restore them to their original glory. The white tiles will be made new by Koninklijke Tichelaar. The reason for renewing the white tiles is that they have already been replaced once in the 1980s, but with lower-quality ones. The new, high-quality white tiles better approximate the original artwork.

After the renovation of Tinbergen Building is completed, the restored tableau will be placed back on the façade and campus users will once again be able to enjoy this special work. 

More information

During the restoration of the Karel Appel artwork, we will keep you informed in a series of articles on MyEUR. Do you have questions or want more information? Check the frequently asked questions or email tomorrowscampus@eur.nl

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