Art Rotterdam Week 2018, Netherlands

Rupert Parker visits Rotterdam to discover what’s happening in the world of art, design and photography

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Art Rotterdam Week happens every February and the 19th edition comes bigger and better than ever. The main event, Art Rotterdam takes over the entire ground floor of the iconic 1920’s Van Nelle Factory, and overspills into tents outside. 75 national and international galleries display the work of established and upcoming artists and they’re all for sale, There are also film and video screenings and an area called Intersections where you can see performance and installation art.

Another disused factory, the Haka building on the Vierhavensstraat, is the venue for Object Rotterdam. Unique furniture, interior designs, light objects and architectural installations from more than a hundred national and international, designers are on display. The distressed walls of the former factory form a fitting backdrop to display the edgy interior design and spreads across four floors. It’s particularly stunning at dusk when outside glows blue through the huge windows.

If photography is your thing then the Nederlands Fotomuseum stages Haute Photographie over four days. Around 77 photographers are on show, including established masters of the art, plus six new Dutch talents, fresh out of art school. Large booths with black walls, show vintage photographs from 12 galleries including stunning works by Lisette Model and William Klein.

TEC ART transforms the spaces of downtown Rotterdam venues WORM and V2 into what’s called an “interactive antropocene playground”. The spaces are packed with installations, robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual realities. Artists involved include Floris Kaayk, Frederik de Wilde, Maartje Dijkstra, Daniela de Paulis and Saygin Soher. I particularly enjoy the performance by Philip Vermeulen, in the basement, which involves sequentially shooting tennis balls at wooden baffles, computer controlled to create an extraordinary rhythm track.

Although Art Rotterdam is now over until next year, there’s still plenty to see in the city. Throughout the year there are always a number of new exhibitions well worth a visit, most grouped closely together in the Museumpark, doing exactly what it says. 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. Purchase a combination ticket and visit them all, although you may need more than a day.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The museum has around 145,000 pieces in its collection but can only show 8% at any one time. They’re building a new arts depot in the grounds which will allow the public a glimpse behind the scenes and see some of the works in storage. The iconic structure, like a huge glass gasometer, will be 40m high and opens in 2020,

BABEL: Old Masters Back from Japan

3 February to 21 May 2018
Ninety early old masters from the low countries were recently shown in Tokyo and Osaka, including The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and they’re now on show here. The Japanese were fascinated by Bruegel’s painting and thought it a depiction of a really building, rather than something from a biblical story. So much so that famous Manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo created his own version which is now on display. There’s also a rather brilliant 3D short film where they’ve animated the people and animals in the painting and the camera flies into and around the building. Don’t miss the scale model built entirely out of Lego.

Major Art, the XL collection from the fifties onwards

10 February to 29 April 2018
The Bodon wing of the museum has a huge gallery space and guest conservator Carel Blotkamp has selected fifty of the largest works from the museum’s collection. She starts in the 1950’s and includes Driftwood Circle by Richard Long, Notung by Anselm Kiefer and D’red Dwarf, B’lack Hole, 2010 by Jim Shaw. Seeing these enormous works, some 5 metres high and 6 metres wide, displayed in the same space is almost overwhelming. Don’t miss Francis Bacon’s Man in Blue I.

Sensory Spaces 13, nothing is what it seems

3 February to 27 May 2018
British artist Anne Hardy is known for large-scale installations where objects, light, colour and sound all come together. Her latest for Sensory Spaces 13 is inspired by what she calls “spaces in between”, like traffic islands, in London and Rotterdam. You enter the installation on an orange carpet, sprinkled with discarded CO2 soda siphon sparklets and discarded drink cans painted pink to match the walls. There’s a soundscape recorded on location, and she’s designed the space so it slowly changes. It’s a surprisingly comforting experience.

Netherlands Photo Museum
Unwired; what’s life without digital connections?

20 Jan – 6 May 2018
Jacqueline Hassink roamed the world in search of rare ‘white spots’ – places where there is no digital connectivity. Her large format photographs show remote primeval forests on the Japanese island of Yakushima, the Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Ocean and mountains in Iceland among other destination. She contrasts these tranquil landscapes with portraits of people glued to their smart phones on public transport.

The next Art Rotterdam Week takes place in early February 2019.

Rotterdam Info has information about the city.

Holland has information about the country.

The nhow Rotterdam makes a comfortable base near the photo musuem.

Eurostar will have two direct trains daily to Rotterdam, starting in April with a journey time of 3 hours. Departures will be at 08.31 and 17.31 and start from £35 one-way on sale from 20 February.