On 26 and 27 September, art lovers can enjoy artistic achievements to their heart’s content. Forty galleries, spread across the whole of Rotterdam, will open their doors for the Great Rotterdam Gallery Weekend, when art lovers can indulge in the work of no fewer than 300 artists.
Piet de Jonge is the driving force behind this initiative. Having organised countless exhibitions and projects as the former modern-art curator at the Boijmans van Beuningen museum, he knows the Rotterdam art scene like nobody else.
Piet highlighted the connecting power of art during the Charlois Speciaal art festival in 2016 and 2018. This year, he’s gone for a larger-scale approach, and galleries across the whole of Rotterdam will be open to visitors: ‘Rotterdam has an amazing cultural climate. The Willem de Kooning Academy and the masters degree course at the Piet Zwart Institute guarantee a very active and diverse art scene; really a scene of international standing. Students come from all over the world to study in Rotterdam, and afterwards they go back to their countries as ambassadors for the city, which is an asset of incalculable value’.
Piet explains: ‘With the Great Rotterdam Gallery Weekend, I want to increase the visibility of this massively creative city and show the public at large how many splendid works of art are being produced here’.
Piet has succeeded in uniting the Rotterdam art world in record time: ‘In late July, I received the green light for the finance from the Stichting Droom & Daad, and in August I started working on the organisation, together with producer Carly Rutten. The trickiest thing was that there is no really comprehensive database of the names and contact details of all Rotterdam-based artists. After all, artists are bound to come and go, so for starters we mapped out the art collectives. We obtained the contact details for various locations where artists are collaborating through SKAR, who provide workshops and galleries for the creative industry, and we sent out a mailing to these addresses’.
The fact that 300 artists reacted positively to the initiative only goes to show that there is a need among artists to enhance their visibility within the city: ‘I was really taken by surprise when I received the enthusiastic reactions. The artists, each and every one of them, are really thrilled to be able to show their work. And the sheer volume of talent present in Rotterdam is astounding. Just to give an example, I was familiar with the work of Van Santen & Bolleurs, a pair of photographers who have realised big campaigns for Viktor and Rolff, KLM and others, but the fact that they are working in Rotterdam was news to me. Sylvia B., Anne Wenzel, Lizan Freijsen and Anuli Croon are some of the other artists who could fill a museum’.
Some 40 workshops will be opening their doors in the weekend of September 26th and 27th. Says Piet: ‘Rotterdam has a long tradition of workshop facilities. Artists are often engaged to infuse new energy into a city quarter and to kindle overall creativity. A creative breeding ground such as De Kroon in Delfshaven, to name just one, is really great. Artists connect with the neighbourhood, introduce art to children and provide a different perspective on life. An alternative world view is of paramount importance’.
However, once artists have turned a residential area into a hip & happening place by introducing their art, situations often occur where they have to make room for new building projects, so during the Gallery Weekend, particular attention will be paid to locations that are listed for demolition. Piet explains: ‘The Gallery Weekend offers the very last chance to visit Kaus Australis. This collective has existed since 1985, and has been housed at the Melanchtonweg in Schiebroek for more than twenty years. This is a very special location where international guest artists would frequently come to work and exhibit. Right now, the artists are literally selling out. After the Gallery Weekend, Kaus Australis will close its doors for good to make room for the new Park Zestienhoven building project’.
‘Yet another example is the Almonde Pension in Almondestraat, situated in the residential area of Agniese. A genuine “Slopera” (Demolition Opera) will be performed in one of the 53 houses to be demolished. It tells the tale of transformation and city innovation. In the residential area of Wielewaal there is also much to be seen and experienced in homes deserted by their original inhabitants’.
Piet hopes that interest will also be aroused among politicians by this demonstration of the sensitive balance and the importance of the cultural “humus layer” during the Gallery Weekend. For example, the Wolphaertstraat in Charlois shows how art can also be embedded sustainably in a residential area: ‘Here, artists – working with the housing association – have realised a situation in which houses are being renovated and permanent communal spaces are being created where artists and residents can organise activities together. That is incredibly stimulating’.
The Great Rotterdam Gallery Weekend will coincide with the gala opening of the new Boijmans van Beuningen depot. Was this planned deliberately? Piet smiles: ‘To my mind, this is a perfect combination; you can visit an empty depot and some full galleries’. Piet has no worries about the offer being too extensive: ‘Quite the contrary, it is fantastic that all the residential areas of Rotterdam will be joining in. It’s just like the International Film Festival; you simply cannot see all the movies – you just have to make a choice’.
To help you making your choice, we have produced an interactive map of Rotterdam pinpointing all the participating galleries: www.grootrotterdamsatelierweekend.nl So you can map out your own route with just a few clicks. Or even easier: make a reservation for one of the guided tours. Piet has yet another tip for anyone who intends to embark on a creative quest across Rotterdam: ‘Go through the tunnel for a change and get to know the other side of the city’.
Go to www.grootrotterdamsatelierweekend.nl for all participating galleries plus further information. Follow the event on Instagram for the latest ins and outs: https://www.instagram.com/grootrotterdamsatelierweekend/
Text by: Elles de Bruin-Rook
Anna Ramsair, Oranjeboomstraat 109
Tim Mastik, Ruivenstraat 39