Art lovers from all around the world are coming to Rotterdam this week. A unique and exciting opportunity to visit a wide variety of art fairs and breathtaking exhibitions awaits there. Art Rotterdam Week is simply a must for anyone willing to experience the vibes of the city entirely revolving around contemporary art and culture.
Well-known for its futuristic architecture, innovative design scene and the immensely important role that art plays for its dwellers, Rotterdam boasts dozens of first-rate museums, excellent galleries and independent exhibition venues. Still, the annual Art Rotterdam Week is a highly anticipated event that brings together the most extraordinary offerings you can imagine. Walking around the city is an utterly enjoyable experience as there is always something fabulous waiting for you round the corner. And if you happen to be short of time or get tired during the art stroll, a free shuttle bus will take you on a tour between the most important venues. To help you plan your time in Rotterdam, we selected the top ten events and places.
A. Art Rotterdam
It comes as no surprise that Art Rotterdam is one of the world’s leading art fairs. Centred around the newest developments in contemporary art, the fair focuses on young artists, their bold and experimental approaches to art making and the connection with the city. The 18th edition will once again immerse art lovers into the best of the contemporary art practice effectively combining business and pleasure. For an increasing number of attendees, Art Rotterdam is an attractive alternative within the international field of art fairs. Fancy meeting some art world celebrities? Hans Ulrich Obrist will have a public event on Thursday. Bored with typical fair booths? Art Rotterdam boasts also an Open Air Section with sculptures and installation in public spaces, experimental Intersections or immersive Projections, among many others. Looking for a bite to eat? There is even a pop-up sushi restaurant between the main booths.
Over 80 international galleries participate in Art Rotterdam this year. While all of them present high-quality works, a few stand out from the crowd. For sure, it’s worth checking out Ron Mandos from Amsterdam. The gallery is showing “Data Error” paintings by Konrad Wyrebek, a Polish-Birtish artist living and working in London. “Data Error” are a series of large format abstract paintings and video-paintings using images captured from television, film, and print that represent contemporary lifestyle and culture. Each image is pixelated through a succession of digital compressions with deliberate settings causing corruption of data in transfer between different softwares and devices. Wyrebek is also exhibiting his very first “Data Error” sculpture. Corrupted by technology and addressing contemporary canons of beauty, his works provoke discussion on the chaotic and complex DNA of our digital age.
Artlead, in turn, is not a typical gallery but a curated online marketplace designed to help you discover and collect works by today’s best artists. The team of art aficionados collaborate with carefully selected museums, art institutions, publishers and galleries across Europe to bring the best collection of artworks and editions. Although Artlead is known mostly for its online presence, at the fair you will have a chance to meet their representatives in person. Passionate about revealing the hidden gems of contemporary art, they will be introducing attendees to works by Bas van den Hurk, Thomas Hirschhorn, Paulina Ołowska, David Claerbout, Wilhelm Sasnal, Jakub Julian Ziółkowski, or Lawerence Weiner, to name but a few.
If you are on a quest for something less ephemeral, direct your steps to Copperfield’s booth filled with an exhilarating array of works by Tom Dale. Known for exploring ideas around the preposterous and absurd, the artist uses sculptures and film to make explicit the inherent contradictions of the grand gestures of culture and society. Copperfield also represents Ewa Axelrad, whose works will be put on view at Art Brussels in April.
The Revestijn Gallery, representing a range of international artists, including Mariken Wessls, Freudenthal/Verhagen, Mark Nettenbreijers, and Paweł Bownik, is exhibiting at the main section of the fair. Photographs they present will definitely catch your eye. In Bownik’s “Disassembly,” a compelling series from 2014, flowers play the main role. The artist disassembles them into parts using DIY tools and then reassembles in possibly unchanged form. For (de)construction purposes the photographer uses scissors, adhesive tapes, ropes, and glues, precisely measuring the distances between the leaves. The final results, informed by the still-life tradition, are delivered on large format prints that perfectly fit Bownik’s intellectual approach to photography.
Plan your time at Art Rotterdam well as there are many more galleries presenting tempting offerings. The fair will also spoil you with its unique location, the former Van Nelle Factory which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Listed as one of the most prominent industrial monument in the Netherlands, the buildings boast mesmerising architecture that serves as a perfect setting for contemporary art. Remember to walk around the buildings, too, as there is a stunning array of works on view in open space. The installations have been created on the occasion of Art Rotterdam by Bruno Zhu, Loek Grootjans, Anne de Vries, or Kevin Bauer, among others.
B. OBJECT Rotterdam
Do you want to discover items at the forefront of contemporary design? Then, OBJECT Rotterdam is a perfect choice. This year more than 100 designers showcase new works on the cutting edge of design, art, architecture and fashion. The fair focuses on unique furniture, inspiring interior design, striking lighting and architectural installations. What is great about attending the fair is not only the fact that it offers both affordable accessories and large furniture but also a chance to meet and greet the designers in person.
OBJECT Rotterdam takes place in the industrial HAKA building and the ticket includes a visit to the iconic Euromast, the highest building of the Netherlands. You’ll enjoy phenomenal panoramic views of the city from the top platform of the tower. If you still need more encouragement to attend, the fair opened a special design installation up there, too. Have you ever seen an exhibition so high?
C. The Commune
Is your appetite for design innovations still growing? In this case, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the Commune, Rotterdam’s first design community dedicated to social innovation in the city. It is a co-working space located at the heart of the M4H innovation district gathering the best conditions for creative entrepreneurs to start their practice. Even though the Commune is one of the newest addition to Rotterdam’s creative field, it has already been actively participating in the development of the city where culture thrives on each and every level.
D. Tec Art
Are you interested in the relationship between newest technologies and art? If so, take some time to pamper yourself with the 5th edition of Tec Art. Taking place in the vibrant heart of the Rotterdam art district renowned for its dynamic nightlight, Tec Art offers five long days and nights of events and presents outstanding emerging talents. Spread over various locations, including WORM and V2 Lab, Tec Art allows for meetings with young artists and best of graduates exploring the interconnection and interaction between design, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, bio-technology and human enhancements. The events go well beyond the walls and after sunset futuristic patterns will be popping up in the sky with stereoscopic video mapping. Thinking about spending a night out? Tec Art has also planned a techno night. Rest assured that it will be an unforgettable experience, the organisers already praise that the night is going to be “long and hard.”
E. Rotterdam Photo Festival
The city is famous for its modern and contemporary photography scene. Rotterdam Photo is an annual photo manifestation celebrating the wide spectrum of photography as it presents itself in the contemporary image culture. Taking on a different theme each year, current edition of Rotterdam Photo explores the notion of “FAKE / TRUTH.” The festival explores how truthful images actually can be and how fabricated and altered images might actually be a gateway to a new truth. Inspired by the heritage of Rotterdam as a port city the organisers provide the selected photographers with exhibition space in repurposed shipping containers and also use the public space to bring photography outside of the typical white cube. In addition to the exhibitions, Rotterdam Photo organises talks, workshops and a fringe program with music and exhibitions on digital screens in the city.
There are dozens of artists taking part in the festival, including Ulrike Biets, Iris Janssen, Thomas Wrede, Xavier Delory, Ken Kitano, or Matthew Septimus. Among the participants you will also find Anna Witkowska. a Polish-born Amsterdam-based multidisciplinary artist. Through photography and moving images, often accompanied by a minimalistic sound, Witkowska contemplates the transitory quality of time, space and being. She manages to bring time and space together in one image and let the silence and void take over this intriguing alienated world. Through the minimal differences that viewers see and the sound that they hear, the transience of time and existence become more tangible. On the occasion of Rotterdam Photo Anna Witkowska is showing the first works from a series that will later form a book and exhibition.
F. Haute Photographie
Haute Photographie is a new photography fair with a concept unlike any other. Centred around a group exhibition, Haute brings together 67 artists from a dozen of international galleries. The fair features astonishing works by the masters of photography alongside experimental pieces by the youngest and most exciting talents working with the medium today. Strengthened by a fascinating educational programme, created in collaboration with Nederlands Fotomuseum, and a high-quality book market together with Artibooks.com, you can explore and enjoy the many facets of fine art photography. Haute Photographie is a unique meeting point for artists, curators, collectors, and anyone with a genuine love for photography.
G. Nederlands Fotomuseum
There are two amazing exhibitions worth checking out at the Nederlands Fotomuseum. Jacqueline Hassink’s “Unwired,” explores the present-day addiction with mobile devices and confronts it with our inherent need for inner peace. To look into the subject matter, Hassink embarked on a journey searching for “white spots” – places without internet or mobile phone coverage. While roaming the world, the artist also created “iPortrait,” a series of portraits of fellow travellers deeply engaged with their smart phones. The other exhibition brings together highlights from the museum’s collection selected by Charlotte Dumas, a famous photographer who acted as a guest curator this time. Dumas chose to display fifteen photographs that she personally found very touching and inspiring. The works are exhibited alongside personal explanations and form a unique and intimate show that not only gives a sharp image of what drives Dumas as an artist but also sheds new light on the museum’s collection.
H. Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art
Founded in 1990, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art is a public institution that presents a remarkable program of art commissions and exhibitions, educational initiatives and events. It also boasts a longstanding editorial program, which has included exhibition readers and catalogs, as well as online publishing. The Centre has served as a cultural platform for both emerging and established artists, curators, writers and art audiences alike.
Last year, Goshka Macuga and Ahmet Öğüt, two critically engaged artist working in a variety of media, staged an intriguing two-part exhibition at Witte de With. Macuga and Öğüt began an engaging conversation, and through a series of coincidences identified parallel references drawn from their shared social concerns, personal stories, and the ideas driving their art collaborations. The exhibition was a huge success with both artists examining each other’s practices, a process subject to misinformation and misunderstandings along the way, as much as a generosity of ideas, commitment of time, and peer-to-peer play.
For Art Rotterdam Week, Witte de With prepared “Kunsthalle for Music,” a unique musical experience by Ari Benjamin Meyers. The American artist and composer transformed the Centre into a one-of-a-kind concert hall, a contemporary space for the live exhibition of musical works. Don’t hesitate to visit With de With and let your body and senses be guided by an ensemble of eight musicians and performers who aim at experiencing music in a totally new way.
I. Kunsthal Rotterdam
On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, Kunsthal Rotterdam presents a captivating retrospective of Paul Delvaux, one of the leading painters in Belgian art history. With over ninety works on display, the exhibition highlights the opulence of the artist’s oeuvre and the mysterious visual language he developed. Inspired by paintings of his contemporaries including Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, Delvaux combined elements from expressionism, symbolism and surrealism, creating an intensely poetic body of work.
Kunsthal Rotterdam also shows “Prix the Rome Visual Arts 2017,” an exhibition of works especially created on the occasion of this prestigious art prize competition. Participating artists include Melanie Bonajo, Rana Hamadeh, Saskia Noor van Imhoff and Katarina Zdjelar, whose innovative attitude, potential for international growth and the intrinsic complexity of work strongly represent the current Dutch art world.
J. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
What is the largest artwork you have ever seen? Carel Blotkamp, a guest curator at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is pretty sure that pieces on view during Art Rotterdam Week are way bigger. “XL ART: Large-Format Works Since the 1950s” showcases enormous paintings that take up an entire wall along with sculptures and installations that fill whole galleries. The curator has selected fifty works from the museum’s collection, including “Driftwood Circle” by Richard Long, “Notung” by Anselm Kiefer, or “D’red Dwarf, B’lack Hole” by Jim Shaw. The gigantic works, some of them as large as 5 x 10 metres, haven’t been taken out from the storage space for years. Don’t be afraid of colossal art and grasp this rare opportunity to see one of the highlights of this year’s programme!
The Netherlands is such a well-connected country that if the fancy takes you, you can easily pay a visit to a different city for a short art walk and be back in Rotterdam in a matter of minutes. It’s a pure pleasure to take a train knowing that the railway network is 100% powered by wind-generated energy. If you decide to visit Amsterdam, go straight to HE.RO, a newly opened gallery showcasing up-and-coming talents as well as young stars. For its inauguration, the gallery presents an amazing group show featuring works by 16 international artists, including Shezad Dawood, Peter Schuyff, Alesch Vital, and Ewa Axelrad. Embracing uncertainty rather than defined knowledge, the exhibition opens up to the possibility of reading things differently, without claiming representation. Ewa Axelrad’s installation and video attract particular attention as they explore the violence in interpersonal and collective relations, manifesting its presence in everyday object and architectural settings.
Do you wonder why so many people go to The Hague? For lovers of experimental art and seeing the unimaginable happening in front of your eyes a trip to this city is simply a must. As soon as you walk outside the central station, a huge building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shines in all its glory. Inside, “Echo,” an enormous kinetic installation, spins around. The jaw-dropping sculpture, created by Zoro Feigl and Oscar Peters, seems to be taken straight from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” or at least from NASA Research Centre. Working with large-scale kinetic installation, Feigl and Peters are one of today’s most adventurous artist duos. Their installations bend the laws of gravitation, explore the borderlines of durability and bring out the beauty hidden in movements and mechanics. “Infinity,” their huge retrospective, is currently staged at the Electriciteitsfabriek in The Hague, where a number of monumental kinetic installations found a perfect industrial setting to embrace and amaze the viewers.
Written by Marek Wolynski