Van Waveren
An Overwhelming Family History

Dec. 12, 2015 – March 13, 2016 This exhibition has ended
Van Waveren family album, Ben van Waveren on motorcycle
In collaboration with the film and documentary producer Wim van der Aar, the Kunsthal Rotterdam presents an exhibition on the rise and fall of the eccentric Dutch Van Waveren family. When in 1996 Van der Aar found a box of audiotapes on the Waterlooplein flea market containing sixty hours of the most bizarre telephone conversations, he set out to discover where they had come from. His trail led him to Guido van Waveren, a member of a famous family of bulb growers from Heemstede. This marked the start of a large-scale investigation of a family with a story.

The real Van Waveren family

Wim van der Aar built up a sizeable archive, was invited to make a documentary ‘De Van Waveren Tapes’ by the VPRO in 2012, followed by the stage production ‘Van Waveren. De ondergang van een Hollandse familie’ in the Ro Theatre in 2015.
The Kunsthal is presenting the third part of his investigation. The photo exhibition with over 60 original and enlarged family snapshots focuses on Ben van Waveren (1928), a cousin of Guido and son of the rather controversial Frank van Waveren. The Kunsthal finally gives visitors the opportunity to see the real Van Waveren family.

The history of the Van Waverens changed course in 1930 when the head of the family, the successful bulb grower Theodoor van Waveren, drew up his will and left his bulb empire, that extended from Heemstede to the remote corners of the Soviet Union and the United States, to his four sons Tup, Tom, Frank and Erlo. This legacy forced the sons to continue his enterprise with plenty of ambition and bravura. However, the Second World War was just around the corner and it was not long before parts of the holding that they had formed went bankrupt.

Lost possessions

The snapshots from Ben van Waveren’s family albums present a picture of a very well-off family. His father Frank continued his grandfather Theodoor’s pea company in East Germany, and his Jewish mother Celestine took care that the family did not lack anything. When Hitler’s Führererlass decreed that anyone who left the country would lose their rights and possessions, as well as prohibiting the holding of a majority of votes in foreign capital (like the Van Waveren holding), Ben’s life changed drastically. Although Frank managed to hold on to some of his capital during the war, he lost his wife and company. When he died, his second wife Gerda went off with the money. It took Ben van Waveren seventeen years to recuperate his father’s confiscated property.


Van Waveren family album, 1934
Van Waveren family album, 1949