Recently Rotterdam placed prominently in a number of travel guides’ 2014 lists – Rough Guides named it eight out of its Top 10 Cities to visit this year, while The New York Times charted it at ten on its 52 Places To Go list. An abnormally warm winter makes February the perfect time to dive into the city’s most exciting month when it comes to contemporary art. The IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) will warm up the public with its selection of global cinema, followed by Art Rotterdam Week, which kicks off on February 5th. With Art Rotterdam, the main art fair in town, the third edition of RAW Art Fair, the TEC Art exhibition, and numerous off-site shows in galleries, pop-ups, and art initiatives, the art week promises to be fun.
One thing is for sure, the art marathon from last year will be less intense, as two big participants, namely Art in the Warehouse and RE:Rotterdam, will not take place, leaving visitors more time to concentrate on the city’s many other events. This comes as a bit of relief to art lovers who won’t be quite so torn between several happenings occurring simultaneously, though the risk still remains. In the end we need not talk about quantity, especially when it comes to art, but rather we should stick to quality.
De Rotterdam and Cruise Terminal; Image courtesy of www.44floors.com
With Art Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ other major fair for contemporary art, off the scene for a couple of years, Rotterdam is the place to see a neat selection of local and international galleries and participating artists. This year Art Rotterdam moved from its former Cruise Terminal location to the historic Van Nellefabriek, located slightly outside the city center. The Cruise Terminal will instead host the third edition of RAW Art Fair. While the second edition of Art at the Warehouse was unexpectedly cancelled, its TEC Art project goes ahead at the Fenix Loods in Katendrecht, which is one of the best locations in town for showing art in a less rigid art fair atmosphere.
Talking about locations, the design fair Object Rotterdam is onto a winner. This year it is hosted in the newly built De Rotterdam buildings by local architect brand Rem Koolhaas. The skyscrapers recently opened to visitors and have been proudly nicknamed the “Manhattan on the Maas”. They consist of a hotel and sold out residential units. Maybe this is a sign that the consumer baskets will be soon filled with luxury goods such as art? The future will tell.
The ticket from Object (a nominal 5 euro) also gives fair-goers the unique opportunity to visit seven apartments decorated by different designers on the building’s 33rd floor. Needless to say, the view is more than spectacular, especially at night when the city shines under your feet. It does indeed have something of a Manhattan-ish feeling.
Get the party started … then move south of the river
On February 5th the art fairs host their openings, which are invitation only. Not invited to an official opening? At 8 P.M. the TEC ART after party takes place at the floating pavilion on the Rijnhaven (10 euro entrance). Art Rotterdam opens to the public on February 6th; once you’ve spent your time at the Van Nellefabriek’s hallmark fair, then it’s time to explore the rest of the city. (Perhaps via the free shuttle bus service taking visitors to and from the Van Nellefabriek and Katendrecht, with many stops in between.)
The Katendrecht area and Kop van Zuid are really worth exploring. Over the past couple of years this part of town has been totally redeveloped and there are always new places to discover. Art fairs and exhibitions aside, there are various cozy restaurants, cafés, the Lantaren Venster cinema, and the Nederlands Fotomuseum. Come on Rotterdamers, it’s just one bridge away from the city center, a mere ten minutes by bike!
Guda Koster, Burberry Man, from Living Sculptures performance series; Courtesy of the artist and RAW Art Fair.
Back to Art Week exclusives. Alongside the more “established” fairs, there are plenty of small-scale initiatives and pop-up exhibitions, which will take place on this side of the river. If we must start with the main events, then you should head to Kop van Zuid for both Object and RAW Art Fair, which are next-door neighbors this year. For sure RAW Art Fair will be less “raw” in terms of location, a characteristic that will be missed. Whereas international galleries make up fifty percent of Art Rotterdam participants, RAW’s accent is on fine art, sculpture, and photography from the Netherlands. Featuring some sixty-seven participating galleries and a live music program at the specially designed event space, the fair might have trouble upholding its alternative stance, doubly difficult considering the Cruise Terminal’s association with Art Rotterdam. Nevertheless, we shall stay alert on the program and what Raw has to offer.
The other kid on the block is the Fenix Loods’ TEC Art show. With an exhibition space of some 3,000 square meters it promises to be an audio-visual adventure with installations, projections, games, and whatever is possible to achieve combining technology and art. Organized by PLANETART, the line up looks intriguing, including various international artists and local art schools and universities.
You’ll find the site-specific exhibition WO MEINE SONNE SCHEINT at different Katendrecht locations all walking distance from one another. For this exhibition, various artists were challenged to leave the comfort of their studios and work in situ. One of the oldest (and now legal) squats in town will open its doors to the public with the exhibition Frames of Thinking, where the organisers will host a discussion about freedom and responsibility in art and the use of places like the Poortgebouw. The GIF exhibition Boys Don’t Cry (curated by yours truly) is also in the neighborhood at designer clothing concept store DAMAGE Playground.
An insider’s appetite
I imagine that while spending a day in this neighborhood, at one point you will get hungry or want to chill over a beer after all the art running. And talking of the art of eating, I cannot miss mentioning that the best pizza in Rotterdam is conveniently located at Katendrecht: Ijsalon Blij. You can get your pizza and homemade ice cream at Brede Hilledijk 269.
(Image on top: Lizan Freijsen, Carpet; Courtesy Object Rotterdam 2014.)