With a portfolio of radical living spaces, and awe-inspiring commercial buildings, it is no wonder that Rotterdam is leading the way in contemporary design. With its majestic skyline and dynamic inhabitants, this ever-expanding metropolis is two steps ahead of any competition in terms of town planning.
As a diverse and inclusive place to live, it is also the home of numerous international design firms, and ART Rotterdam, which comes to town every February. The entire city gets involved with pop up events and it coincides with the photography fair Haute Photographie and OBJECT.
The main exhibition takes place in UNESCO World Heritage awarded Van Nelle Factory, which is the ideal industrial backdrop for contemporary art. Providing an open, airy feel with it’s huge windows, and streamlined shape it represents the pinnacle of the Nieuwe Bouwen, or Dutch Functionalism. Offering a blank canvas, the old tea and tobacco warehouse is a niche gallery, where interested buyers and dealers can enjoy plenty of space to explore the art. Christened “the most beautiful spectacle of the modern age” by Le Corbusierin 1932, it was built between 1925 and 1931 and designed by J.A. Brinkman and L.C. van der Vlugt. Untouched since its completion the building is a unique example of the International Style of modern architecture, comparable to the famous Bauhaus school which is based on Russian constructivism.
Even though it hasn’t been in use as a factory since the 60s, the Van Nelle building hosts numerous cultural events and has been home to ART Rotterdam since 2014. The open plan floor space offers an opportunity for more than 103 renowned international galleries to showcase works. Along with projections, performances, immersive works and other innovative designs. The ‘Main Gallery’ houses established artists and you can enjoy ‘Prospects & Concepts’ ‘Communities’, ‘New Art’ and ‘Intersections’ which are themed to celebrate emerging artists. CitizenM, the hotel chain with art in its DNA, has been a partner of ART Rotterdam for years and took ownership of the video art section, which was renamed ‘CitizenM Projections’.
ART Rotterdam also supports young artists (who studied in the Netherlands) as they compete for the coveted NN Art Award and a €10,000 prize. Participating galleries nominate one of their artists who demonstrate authentic and innovative craftsmanship. The jury then narrows this down to four nominees who explain their work via the Instagram videos and the weekly GalleryViewer podcast. The winner is announced at the show’s opening ceremony. This year, the prize went to Venezuelan-Dutch artist Ana Navas from tegenboschvanvreden, who makes art that is inspired by the Google Image results that a search for “contemporary painting”. One of her works consists of a pedestal of 13 cm (with her footprints on top), as she is 13cm below the Dutch average height of women. Her work is on sale at tegenboschvanvreden, and the NN Group will also purchase a work for their corporate collection.
For more practical purchases, pop along to OBJECT, which showcases cutting edge contemporary design; with over 100 designers showcasing conceptual furniture, art, architecture and fashion. The fair focuses on inspiring interior design, lighting, large furniture and affordable accessories, where the designers are present so you can discuss their work in person. Taking place in the industrial HAKA building, which is an experience in itself, the ticket includes a visit to the iconic Euromast, the highest building of the Netherlands where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top platform of the tower.
Unsurprisingly, the city focuses on the latest technology too, and this is represented by artistic experimentation led by the organisation WORM. The TEC ART festival showcased its fifth edition, with a theme of Quantum Supremacy, and took over the streets of central Rotterdam. Examining the connection and interaction between design, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology and human enhancements, the mind-boggling show used video, audio, 3D and machinery to represent robotics in all forms. Presented in various locations, including WORM HQ and V2 Lab, it provided an insight into this fascinating industry.
In contrast, the representation of truth is explored at Haute Photographie, which takes place over five days. With over 50 participating artists, as well as this year’s six Haute Talents, artists have been chosen for their ability to explore the truth of photography, and justify how fabricated and altered images might actually be a gateway to a new truth. The show is centered around a group exhibition, and brings together almost 100 artists from more than a dozen international galleries. This boutique art fair features established artists, alongside experimental pieces by exciting new talents is a unique meeting point for artists, curators, collectors, and anyone with a genuine love for photography.
ART Rotterdam will take place across the city on 4th – 7th February 2021. For more information, check the websites.