This is my first time in Rotterdam and from the UK it’s easy as pie to get here. I fly from Norwich to Amsterdam Schipol with KLM and the flight time is just 35mins. I walk down an escalator, straight onto an Intercity train (about £12) and after another 35mins I’m in the museum district at the heart of Rotterdam.
The first thing that I notice from wandering around Rotterdam is it’s striking, modern architecture. It was bombed heavily in WW2 and pretty much only the ‘Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk’ church remained intact in the centre of the city after the blitz. The prevailing clean slate began a re-energisation of the cities landscape into something that is visually dynamic and exciting and that vision still continues to this day.
Rotterdam’s brand new ‘Market Hall’ is the most futuristic fruit and vegetable market on the planet (see above), while another building, the ‘De Rotterdam’ (top right) has shape-shifting contours that defy convention and gravity. Its towers reach up over 150m from the ground making it the tallest building in the Netherlands. When the sun goes down the graceful Erasmus Bridge comes alive and throws a majestic glow across the Nieuwe Maas River.
Over the last few years, Art Rotterdam has grown into one of the top 5 Art Fairs in the world attracting artists, galleries, Art collectors and lovers to the Dutch city in ever increasing numbers. There is so much going on during the Art Fair that to even scratch the surface of the large number of shows and happenings over the 3 days is difficult, but here is a round up of some of the highlights of this years event.
Get on the bus
The Art Fair is spread out all over Rotterdam so to get to all the sites there are a number of free retro coaches that drive along the circuit, stopping at each of the main destinations along the way. If all goes to plan you shouldn’t have to wait for more than 20mins for a lift to the next one.
Van Nelle Fabrick
Now a certified UNESCO Heritage site and the spiritual home of the weeks activities; Van Nelle Fabrick, the huge ex-Coffee and Tobacco warehouse is brimming with installations, sculptures, photography, projections and paintings and the queue to get in bristles with expectant excitement. They are not disappointed and it is easy to spend hours engrossed within the creativity, 50% of which comes from outside of Holland.
My favourite piece is by Céleste Boursier; a circular blue pool on which float white porcelain bowls of different sizes. A gentle wave disperses the bowls on their own individual journeys; like people, occasionally they clink together and resonate, it’s part zen, part never ending story, hypnotic and beautiful.
Atelier Van Lieshout
The renowned Dutch artist has a huge warehouse along the Art Fair route, it’s a hive of activity; we jump off outside and his assistants are making metal casts and mulled wine.
We get a peek behind the scenes, but the star of his show is ‘Blast Furnace’ an 11 metre high steel installation. If I’m honest it’s not my personal taste, but rather like another of Van Lieshout works (a huge penis and testicles) the fascination lies in the the core systems that shape our world.
OBJECT – Object SS Rotterdam
Just off the Art trail and accessible via a free shuttle service (in a very nice Range Rover Evoque), the SS Rotterdam is home to OBJECT – Odyssee, La Fontaine, Hotelkamers, Trossendek and the Glass Enclosed Promanade. The ‘Grand Dame’ as it’s also known sailed across the Atlantic for over 40 years before beginning a new life as a Hotel in 2010. It’s rich history is still evident during Art Week and the perfect setting to showcase the modern new designs of jewellery, furniture and home-furnishings that range from the practical (a fold-up canoe) to the ridiculously fantastic (a cut glass hat / crash helmet).
It’s majestically eclectic and you’re never quite sure what each new corner will bring (or where it will lead to). I love ‘Treasure Island’, a wooden table by Noelle Mulder. It has a surface that can be molded into abstract landscapes; evolving over time until a handle wipes the slate clean for a fresh start. Ingenious and actually very practical too.
One of the many artistic spaces in Rotterdam, and yes it was originally a Garage. Garage Rotterdam now hosts regular group shows from mainly Dutch artists with a loose connecting theme. I caught the end of “Order and Chaos” and enjoyed a fantastic vegetarian meal by Master Chef Laurence van Bergelik that included such delights as Crispy baked plenta, tallegio cheese, slowly cooked salsify in buttermilk, kale and chicory with saffron. A new artist to look out for is Carlijn Voorneveld, I loved her photo in the exhibition, great too was Gijs Assman’s horse and, er, cough.. butt-plug (incidentally done before Paul MacCarthy’s in the town (see on the next page).