Twenty leading contemporary artists from all over the world were invited by Museum De Lakenhal to share their vision on today’s globalized world. To do so, they exhibited new or existing work that has been inspired by the extensive collections of Leiden’s many museums. The result: a fascinating reflection of actual themes and developments in the world that surrounds us. The exhibition - which includes room-filling installations, video projections, sculptures and more – was hosted in De Meelfabriek in Leiden, an abandoned and imposing industrial complex on the edge of the city.

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Global Imaginations was organised to mark the 440th anniversary of Leiden University and brought art, culture and science together into a single exhibition. Since being founded in 1575, the university has attracted scholars and artefacts from all over the world. These have come together in Leiden to further our understanding of the world around us in all its shapes and forms, to which the city’s diverse collections of ancient artefacts, biological specimens, maps, art and history testify.

But the modern world is changing. The traditional borders that separate the local, the national and the international are quickly fading thanks to the development of the internet and through increasing migration. Meanwhile new scientific discoveries are further enabling us to adapt our own world views. Global Imaginations consisted of works by artists from every corner of the planet, who are all rooted in diverse traditions and cultures, but are simultaneously part of our ‘global village’. They all shared their own perspectives of our planet. To visit the Global Imaginations exhibition was to go on a journey through today’s cosmopolitan world.

Global Imaginations was the result of a collaboration with Leiden University, Museum Volkenkunde and LeidenGlobal*. The exhibition was made possible by De Meelfabriek, the Mondriaan Fonds, Stichting Doen, VSB fonds, Fonds 21, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Cultuurfonds BNG, Stichting Stokroos and Cultuurfonds Leiden.


Among the artists participating in the exhibition, you can find renowned names such as Simryn Gill (1959, Singapore), Mona Hatoum (1952, Lebanon), Jorge & Lucy Orta (1953, Argentina and 1966, England respectively), Tintin Wulia (1972, Indonesia), Raqs Media Collective (an artists’ collective founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, India) and the Ghana ThinkTank, an institute with a global perspective that has been founded in 2006 in Ghana by Christopher Robbins, John Ewing and Matey Odonkor. The Netherlands are represented by Marjolijn Dijkman (1978), Andrea Stultiens (1974) and Femke Herregraven (1982).

Various artists are also developing new work for the Global Imaginations exhibition, for which they have drawn inspiration from Leiden’s many museums. Mark Dion (1961, US) is bringing objects from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center together into a custom cabinet of curiosity, made especially for Global Imaginations. Georges Adéagbo (1942, Benin) has used the extensive collections of Museum De Lakenhal as a starting point for his room-filling installation in De Meelfabriek. Marjolijn Dijkman, meanwhile, is working on sculptures that have been inspired by the collection of the National Museum of World Cultures and will simultaneously present another relevant installation in Museum Boerhaave.

Online publication

To accompany Global Imaginations, an online publication was released through this project’s website. Taking the shape of a series of essays.

Programme of activities

Diverse and extensive activities are organised alongside the exhibition, including an academic symposium, a conference for high school students revolving around the theme of ‘global citizenship’ and a film programme. The latter will be organised in collaboration with the Leiden International Film Festival. Global Imaginations will also be accompanied by complementing presentations, which will be hosted at various locations throughout Leiden, including in the Old Academic Library on the Rapenburg. Parallel exhibitions that add to the themes of Global Imaginations will also be organised in the gallery of the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and at Framer Framed in the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. While headquartered in De Meelfabriek, Global Imaginations will thus be present throughout Leiden and even beyond the city’s borders.

Development of the exhibition

The exposition has been developed by a team of curators consisting of Anke Bangma (curator contemporary art and photography Tropenmuseum, Afrika Museum and Museum Volkenkunde – recently fused together into the National Museum of World Cultures), Meta Knol (director Museum De Lakenhal), Nicole Roepers (curator contemporary art Museum De Lakenhal), Kitty Zijlmans (professor of Art History at Leiden University) and art historian Manon Braat, who also functions as project leader for Global Imaginations.

curatorial statement

Anniversary of Leiden University

In 2015, Leiden University will celebrate its 440th anniversary. To do so, a wide programme of activities has been prepared, including ‘Meetings between Art and Science’ and the prestigious international ‘Humanity in Action’ conference. Global Imaginations will form one of the highlights of the anniversary celebrations. For more information: lustrum.leidenuniv.nl