Not typically known for its art so much as its industry, Rotterdam can seem, to the uninitiated, an unlikely art city. But to anyone paying attention, this haven holds its own against historically art-centered neighbors like Amsterdam and Haarlem. One of the best things about Art Rotterdam is that it presents the annual opportunity for the city to bring its exceptional contemporary art scene into focus for visitors both local and global alike. Until last year, no art tour of Rotterdam would have been complete without a trip to MKgalerie, located on Wittedewithstraat, right in the heart of the city’s flourishing art district. When MKgalerie’s beloved owners, Emmo Grofsmid and Karmin Kartowikromo died together in a car crash last summer, the city’s art scene suffered a heartbreaking loss.
These two men were truly loved, and in the wake of their deaths anecdotes about their kindness, ambition, support, cooking, hospitality, and friendship passed through art media and social channels. It seemed everyone had a story to share and wanted to participate in the collective remembrance. Rather than dwelling on the tragedy, friends, coworkers, and former gallery artists almost immediately began working on a way to honor these two figures. The MK Award, a forthcoming annual prize for visual artists, issues from this collective desire to celebrate and remember their legacy.
(Ditty Ketting, in 'MK Edition Blue,' courtesy of the artist and MK Award Foundation.)
The MK Award intends to offer cash and in kind support to promising artists working on special projects, and in doing so, it hopes to fill part of the hole left by Emmo and Karmin’s deaths. In their capacity as gallery owners and art lovers, Emmo and Karmin were known for their openness, support, and strong relationships with artists and the community alike. The award aims to recognize visual artists that “on the one hand are consistently creating an idiosyncratic oeuvre, keeping away from any hypes-of-the-day, but that on the other hand take an active attitude vis-à-vis contemporary issues”. The new MK Award Foundation will be officially announcing the prize at this year’s edition of Art Rotterdam. This announcement will be accompanied by fundraising efforts to grow support for the award, the goal being for the first recipients to be declared at the 2013 installment of Art Rotterdam.
Introducing the new prize, the MK Award Foundation will be presenting the MK Edition, a limited edition set of three portfolios featuring new print work by thirty former MKgalerie artists. Each 40x50cm portfolio comprises work by ten of these artists and will be for sale at the Foundation’s booth at Art Rotterdam. The artist-donated prints represent a cross section of the former gallery’s interests, showcasing diverse artistic practices, which range from colorful pixels to moody black and white photography, minimal abstraction to portraiture. Images of these exclusive artworks can be viewed here along with a list of represented artists.
(Pim Palsgraaf, in 'MK Edition Black,' courtesy of the artist and MK Award Foundation.)
Furthermore, the well-known Rotterdam gallery owner and consultant Tanya Rumpff has curated the MK Award Fundraiser Show, a “pop-up exhibition” uniting 29 former MKgalerie artists at Re:Rotterdam, a satellite art fair hosted at Boompjes 60-68 across the river from Art Rotterdam. A significant amount of the proceeds from this exhibition will go toward funding the future prize and realizing the goals of the MK Award Foundation.
(top image: Hans Wilschut, in 'MK Edition Green,' courtesy of the artist and MK Award Foundation.)