February is a cold time of year to visit anywhere in the northern hemisphere but a VIP invitation received by The Collective to visit Art Rotterdam was not going to be passed by, whatever the weather. Although not all of us were able to go, it was the first time that a sizeable number of us made the trip. Kicking off a season of European art festivals Art Rotterdam is now well known for the opportunity it offers to see young emerging artists with over 100 galleries occupying the vast Van Nellefabriek building, an impressive Unesco World Heritage site set in a bleak landscape on the outskirts of Rotterdam.
There was a perceptible excitement and energy inside the Fair and although there was a good proportion of commercial galleries mixed with not-for-profits, there was not the same sense of wealthy collectors and cash machines that you find in some of the more established Art Fairs. This was largely about new visual art, new talent and ideas and it felt good to be there as an individual and as a “Collective”. I enjoyed being surrounded by the sounds of Dutch, Belgian and French to name a few, although English was always an option when you needed something!
Exhibits included video projections, installations, sculptures as well as the more traditional painting, drawing, print and photography. The deeper you went in to the fair the more interesting it seemed to get, and it was easy to forget your way back through the labyrinth of walk ways, spaces and ideas to our various meeting points. What really struck me was how busy it was on a working day – the constant throng of people testimony to the popularity of this fair, the commitment and engagement with art and new talent. Yet you never felt overwhelmed by it or crowded out by it, as each gallery space offered its own intimacy.
Certainly time to experience an audio sculpture in the RAM Foundation stall where you could hear moving stories told by migrants while you sat on the sculpture, or some virtual reality in the new projects section where you could exchange your body for the opposite gender in a parallel world.
As a Collective, a purchase is always a shared decision, and approval for a purchase must come from more than one household or the buying panel. Did we come away empty handed? Of course not. A piece by artists Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson who together with British writer and philosopher Nina Power “deconstructed “the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and reconstructed parts of it through a provocative art work and powerful commentary called the “Partial Declaration of Human Wrongs“. Given the current global political upheavals and the huge migration and displacement of people across Europe, it could not be more poignant and thought provoking.
Example: Article 3:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
of person. The police will let you know when
and where these rights are operative.
Living and working in Rotterdam and Berlin the artists compiled thirty articles for this art work that represent the injustices that exist, despite the “right” that is being proclaimed.
Rotterdam is a wonderful city, a mix of old, new, different architectural eras mixed in with canals, barges and bicycles. And if we hadn’t had enough of walking during the day at the Fair, there was still time to visit the spectacular Boijman’s Museum in the heart of Rotterdam where the opening of Ugo Rondinone’s show was taking place by night. An intriguing piece consisting of forty-five life-size clown sculptures was displayed across the expanse of the 1500m2 gallery floor to mimic, sit with, walk around, absorb and be entertained by in a way that only a gallery allows….
and only experience can tell….
Collectively called “Vocabulary of Solitude” the clowns describe a solitary and contemplative day at home. And yet the experience of seeing them seemed a far cry from that description.
Thank you to Art Rotterdam for providing so much pleasure at the Fair.