Willem Sandberg was a gifted designer and a pragmatic museum director, a doer who achieved an incredible amount in the art world after 1945 and opened many people’s eyes to contemporary art. He was an idealist who cherished the utopian belief that contemporary art could play a self-evident and meaningful role in society outside of its usual marginal and elitist position. At the same time, he was enough of a realist not to harbour excessively high expectations of the result of his efforts. His belief in the power of art, however, was unwavering. In his work as a director and designer, it was Sandberg’s mission to be powerful, positive, and future-oriented. His typography, to which the lion’s share of this book is devoted, is tangible evidence of this vocation.
This is how author Ad Petersen began his foreword to the French edition of this book. He knew Sandberg well. In the final years of Sandberg’s directorate, Petersen became one of his closest collaborators. Thereafter, from 1963 until Sandberg’s death in 1984, they kept in touch on a more personal basis. His familiarity with the subject culminated in the book Sandberg, een documentaire / a documentary, which he published in 1975 together with Pieter Brattinga and in collaboration with Sandberg.
The original book owes its existence to the initiative of the then 50-year-old Institut Néerlandais in collaboration with publisher Xavier Barral. And, of course, to Ad Petersen and his expert storytelling, based on countless conversations, on joint travels, on their collaboration at the Stedelijk, on mutual sympathy, and on his observations of the exceptional personality that Sandberg was. This book was published by Samsara Books in collaboration with the Ambassade Group in Amsterdam. Many thanks are due to designer Adri Colpaart, who also played an indispensable role in the creation of the book.