Rupert Parker goes to Holland to investigate the weird and the wonderful at Art Rotterdam Week.
Rotterdam is perhaps less well known than its neighbour, Amsterdam, but for the art lover, it’s an essential destination. Of course Amsterdam is known for its famous heavy hitters like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum alone delivers an unparalleled journey through 800 years of Dutch art and history. While that city looks backward, Rotterdam has its eye on the future. Rather than lament the destruction of most the centre in WW2, the planners responded to the challenge of building a brand new city by creating an iconic skyline, embracing the shockingly new.
Every February, Rotterdam stages art and design fairs, as part of its Art Rotterdam Week. It’s a great way of getting an overview of what’s happening in the wacky world of contemporary art. The Van Nelle Factory, built to process tobacco, tea and coffee at the end of the 1920’s, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, makes a fitting place for Art Rotterdam. Over seventy leading galleries show the latest developments in the field of contemporary art and there’s a video and film section, as well as more experimental “happenings”.
Another famous icon is the retired cruise ship the SS Rotterdam, now a luxury hotel. The interior is all elegant 1950’s style and is the venue for Object Rotterdam, with over 75 established and upcoming designers on show. Below decks, in the old engine rooms, is a spectacular exhibition of 100 years of Dutch chairs and the indoor swimming pool now comes furnished, without the water of course.
In a large warehouse, in the harbour area, Atelier Van Lieshout´s workshop, AVL-Mundo has a sculpture park outside, with hot Glühwein on tap. Inside there’s an installation composed of a labyrinth of raw, industrial, interactive artworks. Daily events feature spectacular live performances, including huge weights descending from the ceiling crushing supermarket trolleys. It’s not for the faint hearted
Although Art Rotterdam has now finished, don’t despair. Throughout the year there are always a number of new exhibitions well worth a visit. What’s even better is that most of them are grouped closely together in the Museumpark, one of the city’s most popular outdoor spaces. Within its grounds you’ll find the Dutch Architectural Institute, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Chabot Museum, the Kunsthal, the Villa Sonneveld and the Natural History Museum. My advice is to purchase a combination ticket and visit them all.
Human/Digital: a symbiotic love affair Digital, Post Internet and Virtual Reality Art from the Hugo Brown Family Collection.
9 February to 2 April 2017
Human/Digital presents the work of artists on the cutting edge of digital art from the collection of Hugo, Carla and Mark Brown. Over thirty pieces including photography, video art, websites and installations by 25 different national and international artists are on display. Giant screens host video projections and the artworks in this exhibition concern the digital world and how we relate to it. Whilst you’re here pop upstairs to see their extensive collection of Bakelite objects.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Mad About Surrealism
11 February to 28 May 2017
Mad About Surrealism is an unprecedented overview of Surrealism, bringing together over 300 masterpieces by artists including Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Max Ernst. The exhibits come from the collections of four legendary private collectors: the British aristocratic poet Edward James (1907-1984), British artist Roland Penrose (1900-1984), British collector Gabrielle Keiller (1908-1995) and the German entrepreneurs Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch. Don’t miss two examples of Dali’s famous Lobster Telephone.
Netherlands Photo Museum
28 January to 17 May 2017
The Photo Museum joins the debate on Europe, with an exhibition by photographers Nico Bick and Otto Snoek who’ve set out to record aspects of contemporary Europe. Bick has systematically documented the interior of every parliament in the European Union, while Snoek has mingled with the crowds in European cities in order to photograph ordinary people on public occasions. The museum adds an extra dimension to the exhibition by showing French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s renowned 1955 photo series The Europeans. This is worth the price of admission alone.
Tell me more about Art Rotterdam Week
The next Art Rotterdam Week takes place in early February 2018.
Rotterdam Info has information about the city.
Holland has information about the country.
The nhow Rotterdam makes a comfortable base near the cruise terminal.