I’ve had a soft spot for Art Rotterdam ever since the first time I attended. Pausing to drink a coffee (Illy no doubt) and consolidate notes on what I’d so far seen, I looked out one of the former Holland America Line Cruise Terminal’s giant windows to have my tired gaze met by the spectacular Erasmus Bridge. Visitors, this is my advice to you: no matter how disoriented, claustrophobic, or weary you get collecting business cards and taking mnemonic photographs of artwork you are soon to forget, the looming view of the bridge will always sort you out. It’s a lifeline assuring you the world has not been reduced to an expanse of perfect white boxes.
If you’ve ever been to an art fair, even a relatively modest one like Art Rotterdam, you don’t need to ask why there’s need for this mental escape route. Looking at art at an art fair can be more duty than pleasure, even for the staunchest art lover. The chew, savor, and swallow of art consumption is reduced to the most basic inhale, a swift gulp with fingers crossed that some essential vitamins make it into your anemic system.
I understand the need for galleries to diversify, present options for many types of buyers, but this approach doesn’t always make for the most savory viewing. Tastes get muddled, flavors confused. It’s hard to appreciate an unmoored artwork, especially one among many lonely stand-ins for represented artists’ practices. This is all a long way for me to say that I (and I suspect plenty of you) enjoy a good solo presentation at an art fair. I’m always on the look out for a palate cleanser, be it a glimpse of a bridge or some art I can actually sink my teeth into – and perhaps even have the time to digest before the next course arrives.
Art Rotterdam 2013 promises to satisfy my cravings as it brings back its “New Art” section, comprising fifteen solo presentations of young artists from galleries selected by Rotterdam’s own Witte de With, under direction of curator Samuel Saelemakers. Given its prominent placement at the fair’s entrance, it will be hard to miss, and miss the New Art you should not.
Maarten Overdijk, installation view, The perceived height offurniture, December 2012, Walden Affairs, Den Haag; Courtesy of the artist, Walden Affairs, and Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam.
I’m not the only one who values a solo exhibition. Amsterdam-based gallery owner Jeanine Hofland, whose gallery is participating in the New Art section for its second year, describes the benefits of showing a single artist from a gallery point of view. “In this stage of the careers of the artists I work with, it is still very important to present their work in a broader context since not many people are familiar with the work they make. A solo context is the best way to present their practice and give a better idea on the concept of their work.”
Hofland will present the work of Maarten Overdijk, a young Dutch artist who makes somewhat puzzle-like sculptures that can confuse what’s part of the artwork and what’s part of the space. In the unambiguous art fair booth, the gallery will feature four sculptures that will reflect not on the space but on themselves and one another.
Here are some other young talents you should look out for:
Ištvan Išt Huzjan, installation view, Revisiting the 1m2, 2011, Ricou Gallery, Brussels.
Ištvan Išt Huzjan
Brussels-based gallery owner Sébastien Ricou says, “There is something particularly interesting about recreating the energy of one artist's work for display at an art fair.” It raises the possibility of showing “larger and more complex works” like Ištvan Išt Huzjan’s interactive sandbox, Intermediate Spaces. The artist will arrange diverse, often witty text-based works from his studio around this playful earthy centerpiece.
Sinta Werner, Untitled III (Folds Unfold), 2012, Paper and acrylic paint, 36.5 x 45 cm; Courtesy of the artist and Nettie Horn, London.
London gallery Nettie Horn will feature the latest from Sinta Werner, including several series of collages plus a sculptural work. Werner’s architectonic works complicate spatial perception as the artist plays with the expansion and contraction of their dimensions. Werner’s newest collage series, for example, begins with a sheet of paper that has been folded, photographed, printed, and then folded once again.
Nadia Naveau, installation view, A Random Sample, 2012, MuHKA, Antwerp, 500x700x280cm; Courtesy of the artist, Base-Alpha, Antwerp, and MuHKA, Antwerp.
Antwerp’s Base-Alpha Gallery will present Nadia Naveau’s intricate sculptures, which at once bewilder and excite. Her work seems to reject immediate stylistic recognition. Figures dissolve; historical and contemporary references conflate; relaxed organic forms unsettle sharp geometric ones; earthy clay meets slick plastic. There is always something new to see in this artist’s unique oeuvre.
After visiting these galleries, plus the eleven other New Art presentations, pause for a coffee break. See you by the window?
(Image on top: The Erasmus Bridge; photo by the author.)