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Marlies Eyck-Voncken
Heerlen, 8 April 1938 – Wijlre, 28 September 2023 
On Thursday 28 September, to our great sadness, Marlies Eyck passed away. Together with her husband Jo, she made buitenplaats Kasteel Wijlre into the unique place for contemporary art, nature, heritage and architecture that it has become.

Even after Jo’s passing, in November 2021, Marlies made an important contribution to the soul of the estate with her vital, incisive and generous spirit, her unsurpassed hospitality and attentive eye for quality and detail until the very last moment. Working in the garden, her favourite pastime, or busy with the flowers in her orchid greenhouse. Caring and involved in the ups and downs of our volunteers and staff, and generous in welcoming artists (who were not infrequently pampered culinarily while working on an exhibition) and interested visitors to the castle. It will be difficult for all involved in the estate to have to miss her vibrant, warm presence.

Fortunately, Jo and Marlies’ life’s work will be continued. The foundation they set up for this purpose back in 2012 has the mission to maintain and further develop the so-called ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ in Wijlre as a place for art, nature, heritage and architecture. With the support of partners like the Elisabeth Strouven Fund (owner of the estate since 2017) and structural subsidisers like the Province of Limburg and the Municipality of Gulpen-Wittem, the foundation will continue to develop this young public cultural institution in the spirit of Jo and Marlies in the years to come.

Xander Karskens is new executive director of Kasteel Wijlre estate


Xander Karskens has been appointed executive director of Kasteel Wijlre estate. With effect from 1 July 2022, he succeeds Brigitte Bloksma, who since 2015 has led the transition of the private enterprise of art collectors Jo and Marlies Eyck into a public institution.

As executive director, Xander Karskens will be ultimately responsible for the estate’s artistic content and its business and financial policy. Karskens is an inspired curator and committed director who has a solid track record in the cultural sector and an extensive international network in contemporary art. Xander Karskens was previously director of De Ateliers in Amsterdam, curator of contemporary art at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem and artistic director of the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. In 2017, Karskens was curator of Finland’s successful national pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

It is a privilege and a wonderful opportunity to lead this beautiful place into the future. A place where the vision and ideas of Jo and Marlies Eyck have come together in a unique Gesamtkunstwerk of art, nature and architecture. As a public institution where contemporary art, heritage and landscape meet, Kasteel Wijlre offers evident opportunities for continued development in the coming years,” says Karstens.

Kasper Donners, chairman of the supervisory board of Kasteel Wijlre estate, congratulates Xander Karskens on his appointment. “The council is very pleased with the arrival of Xander Karskens as the new executive director. With his arrival, we are convinced that his experience, expertise, and impressive national and international network will guarantee the continuity and unique character of the estate. Under his inspiring and expert leadership, the estate will take a significant next step in its development.”

After two years of adversity due to corona and flood damage to the Hedge House, Karskens starts as the Kasteel Wijlre regains full momentum. The estate is currently showing the “10 leaves” garden route by Milah van Zuilen (1998), in which she gives visitors new perspectives on the Castle Garden and its historic trees. Alongside this route, her presentation at the Koetshuis exhibits the outcomes of her artistic research and fieldwork. From 13 July 2022, “Aether”, a solo exhibition by visual artist Giuseppe Licari (1980, Italy), can be seen. In this exhibition, Licari demonstrates nature’s resilient capacity to survive and endure human intervention. Karskens will present the autumn programme soon after he takes up his duties. Once the restoration of the Hedge House is complete, the art pavilion will once again hold a prominent place in the programme.

On Sunday, 17 July, we say goodbye to Brigitte Bloksma. She began working as the general director of Museum Beelden aan Zee on 1 May 2022. On behalf of the estate, Kasper Donners expressed the organisation’s appreciation. “We owe a great deal of gratitude to Brigitte Bloksma, who has developed the estate into an important cultural institution over seven years. Her expertise, experience and enthusiasm have been crucial in this.”

Xander Karskens. Photo: Gert-Jan van Rooij
Brigitte Bloksma. Photo: Sven Bänziger
After seven years, Brigitte Bloksma says goodbye to Kasteel Wijlre estate


Kasteel Wijlre estate congratulates Brigitte on her new appointment as director of the Beelden aan Zee museum in Scheveningen. From 1 May 2022, she will succeed Jan Teeuwisse, who will retire.
Brigitte Bloksma took up the position of director of the Kasteel Wijlre Estate Foundation in April 2015. She transformed the private initiative of art collectors Jo and Marlies Eyck into a public institution supported by government and private funding.

Over the past seven years, Brigitte has increased the institution’s regional and international visibility and initiated various regional, national and international collaborations with many institutions at home and abroad. Under her professional leadership, the estate presented a versatile exhibition and public programme in the Hedge House, the Coach House and the garden, showcasing work by many renowned artists. In 2017, she initiated and led the transfer of the estate to the Elisabeth Strouven Fund, which focuses on a sustainable future for the estate.

Kasper Donners, Chair of the Supervisory Board: “The Supervisory Board is sad to see Brigitte Bloksma leave but is very grateful for her contribution to the development of Kasteel Wijlre estate. Brigitte played a crucial role in shaping Kasteel Wijlre into what it is today. Therefore, we should like to express our great appreciation and gratitude to her. We wish her every success in her new position.”
Brigitte: “Kasteel Wijlre estate will forever have a warm place in my heart. It was inspiring to develop this beautiful Gesamtkunstwerk into a public and lively place where art, nature and architecture converge so uniquely. It was a privilege to advance the ideas of Jo and Marlies. I will miss the team’s warmth, the changing seasons in the garden, and the collection and thank the family, all colleagues, volunteers, artists, and partners from the public and private domain for their trust and support.”

Brigitte will be available for the estate until the completion of the restored Hedge House next summer. Therefore, Brigitte will start part-time at the Beelden aan Zee museum in May and take up the position full-time in September.


Kasteel Wijlre estate has been severely hit by the recent floods and has to remain closed for the time being. The works of art from the current exhibitions ‘Spirit of Kindergarten’ in the Hedge House and ‘GREY MATTERS’ in the Coach House have been brought to safety. Together with our partners and volunteers, we are doing everything we can to welcome you back as soon as possible.


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