Art fairs are the perfect excuse to visit a city. Because, let's face it, those big cluttered pavilions can only be exciting for so many hours. Rotterdam - considered the gateway to Europe with its large port and bustling industry - is one of those cities you discover little by little, usually with the pretext of visiting this or that art venue. And, despite the spectacularly unattractive city center, the resulting picture portrays a place that, if unevenly fascinating, does have its perks when it comes to art. It's true that most of them concentrate in the hip Witte de With area, but exhibitions like those at the Submarine Wharf or last year's Melanchotopia (predictably signed WDW) are a good chance to see different areas of this historic and bittersweet Dutch town in a new light. And of course there is ART Rotterdam along with its collateral events, which brings a much needed cultural crush to the winter landscape of this vibrant city. Here's a short guide to the some of the most appealing possibilities during the fair week.
First of all, this year there are a couple of side fairs. If you went to Rotterdam in 2011 chances are you've been to OBJECT Rotterdam, the fair's design-oriented cousin. This year a third event opens up, the RawArtFair, focusing on younger art and offering a “fresh” and “completely revisited” art fair experience. Often “young” is a cool way to say “cheap”, but we'll wait and see. If you're really fired up about new talents, you might also want to pay a visit to Ongekend Young Masters, exhibiting affordable pieces by freshly graduated artists. After so much art, the nightlife awaits. Whether it's a cozy dinner in old Delfshaven or the super slam of a Friday-night DJ set at the Rotterdamse Schouwburg the evening debrief will get you ready for the next must-do.
(Pieke Bergmans (Rotterdam Design Prize nominee 2011), From the Sky, Installation from Groninger Museum, with Light Bulbs on view. Photo: Mirjam Bleeker. Courtesy of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.)
Since, after all, art fairs are about selling and buying stuff, here's a couple more events collectors will appreciate. The first is the Wild Book Market, a successful and obviously book-related sale taking place at Het Wilde Weten, a former Franciscan nunnery turned artist studios. The collective will present their projects and launch a special publication, so there are plenty of reasons to show up. Book worms might also dig the PrintRoom, another go-to event for paper fetishists. For the occasion the space will showcase publications by Leipzig-based Lubok Verlag, a collection of art prints.
Unfortunately, one of the main side events at Art Rotterdam this year has very sad undertones. The new MK Award, which will be presented during the fair, is in fact a response to the untimely death of Emmo Grofsmid and Karmin Kartowikromo, co-owners of MKgalerie Rotterdam/Berlin who tragically deceased in a car crash last year. To launch the initiative, several artists from the gallery's roster have contributed with a series of prints, all collected into the MK Edition, a luxurious volume that will be available at the fair. On the side, a pop-up art show will be open to the public at Re:Rotterdam at Boompjes 60-68, in another riverside area just a couple of bridges away from ART Rotterdam's venue. (More on the MK Award by Andrea Alessi below.)
(Nina Boas, performance, 2009 in Hommes, courtesy of Hommes. Nina Boas is showing at Re:Rotterdam with drawings and a performance on Saturday Feb 11 at 7pm)
Boompjes 60-68 is also the spot where the Rotterdam Gallery Tour starts. But perhaps a cooler way to check art venues off your list at a breakneck pace is the Art Rotterdam “fietstocht,” or Rotterdam ByCycle. Taking place on Saturday, the initiative tours you around the city, alternately visiting art venues and enjoying the ride. And if you get hungry, Rotterdam-Art-Adventure-Food is a promising way to match your cultural and papillary taste.
Given the rigidity of the Dutch weather, in case you wish to spend some more time indoors – without giving up the inspirational lure of art – sneak into one of Guds Söner's performances at SKVR Beeldfabriek, which is pretty close to the fair. Tickets are cheap and you can buy them here.
As an international postgraduate center of studies and research, the Piet Zwart Institute (part of the Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam) couldn't miss the chance to participate in the fair-related excitement, so they're having a yet-to-be-specified event at their Plaza (Karel Doormanhoff, 45) on Saturday evening. An art-inspired, alcohol-fueled hangout in the core of the city is the perfect peak to a day trip.
(Scarlett Hooft Graafland, My White Knight, 2011-2012, C-print, 60 x 75 cm, 100 x 125 cm or 125 x 150 cm. Courtesy Vous Etes Ici. A solo show of Graafland's work will be showing at Vous Etes Ici at Art Rotterdam. Read more about her work in ArtSlant's interview here.)
Finally, the ultimate perk for the art-obsessed! In case you're staying overnight, Hotel Rotterdam is providing you with the opportunity to sleep in an artist studio, so you can actually Wake Up in Art – such is the inspiring title to the initiative. The price is feasible, breakfast is included, so why not give it a try? In my experience artists often like to work and sleep in different places because the smell of paint can be quite asphyxiating, but I'm sure the guys at Hotel Rotterdam have that under control.
It's too much to see everything, but there is enough to have a good time.
See you in Rotterdam!
(top image: Anouk Kruithof, at Galerie Adler, 2011. Courtesy of Art Rotterdam. Read ArtSlant's interview with Anouk Kruithof here)