Jennifer Tee

February 17 2017 to May 21 2017

100,000 dried petals constitute the monumental artwork by the Amsterdam artist Jennifer Tee that can be viewed in the Rijksmuseum from 17 February 2017.

The artwork Tulip Palepai, navigating the river of the world – inspired by the traditional Palepai (ship cloths) of southern Sumatra – depicts two large ships with prow and mast. Tee’s 18-metre-long artwork was commissioned by Amsterdam’s City Council for the new metro entrance hall at Centraal Station. The artwork will be on view, as a photographic reproduction, from 2018.


Tee’s choice for the traditional ship cloth motif stems from the artwork’s intended setting: the gateway to Amsterdam where travellers can at a glance take in the image, or different parts of it on occasion, as they pass by. Over the centuries, the handwoven Palepai or ship cloth was, in accordance with Sumatran custom, hung in the home’s main living room. Such a cloth served as a ceremonial backdrop for weddings, funerals and other rites of passage. The predominant motif is that of a ship full of human and animal figures with a mast that sprouts to form a tree of life. In its entirety, it represents souls on their way to new lives or to the hereafter. These days, this custom has died out.

The tapestry combines the tulip, the world-famous Dutch icon, and the distinctive Palepai motif. In this way, the traditional ship cloth, of which few original examples have survived, is being given a new lease of life. Both tulips and ship cloths have huge personal significance for me. It was a ship that brought my father, together with his parents and sister, from Indonesia to the Netherlands in 1950. My maternal grandfather also went to America by ship each year for his company, trading in tulip bulbs, Jennifer Tee recounts.

tee Tulip Palepai, navigating the river of the world, Jennifer Tee


Tee spent more than two years intensively researching the size, colour and shape of the 30 tulip species used in the Tulip Palepai. This was followed by months of contact with nurseries and the Hortus Bulborum, drying the petals and finally inserting them one by one by hand into the artwork.

Jennifer Tee: This work is deeply rooted in my own art, of late focused on textile works (rugs woven from wool) with geometrical and crystalline designs that use patterns and lines to create the suggestion of inner spaces. Tee lives and works in Amsterdam. She was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and ISCP, New York. Tee was awarded the 2015 Cobra Art Prize.

Tulip Palepai, navigating the river of the world can be seen from 17 February to 21 May 2017 in the Rijksmuseum.