Big Art 2020. Lon Godin. Photographer: Almicheal Fraay.

#ASK: Anne van der Zwaag

For the #ASK column, we ask an interesting Rotterdammer in the field of art, design & architecture four questions. This week, we interviewed Anne van der Zwaag: curator, publicist and director of design fair OBJECT and the art fair BIG ART. She has curated major exhibitions for, among others, the Fotomuseum and the Kunsthal, and more recently the Zuiderzee Museum.

Big Art, 2019. Robbert de Goede. Photographer: Almicheal Fraay.

What do you like most about organising Object?
One of the nicest aspects is the contact with the designers and artists, so effectively: the makers themselves. The energy and creativity that emanates from them is incredibly inspiring. Many of the participants have also become my friends — I consider them to be part of an ever-growing family. In addition, it is always special to see the surprise in our audience. Every year, we show a tantalising mix of well-known names and young talents, working in various creative disciplines, from furniture and fashion to light installations and more autonomous unique items. Personally, I do not think in terms of putting people in boxes and I always work in a multidisciplinary manner. I am more concerned with a certain mentality, which then leads to surprising manifestations. Like an artist who designs furniture, a fashion designer who makes interior products, an architect who creates clothing, that is what’s exciting to me

You lived on Samoa as a child, do you think this has changed your view of art and design?
Absolutely. You are open to all kinds of flavours, smells and colours from a very young age. Traveling stimulates the senses, especially when it concerns non-Western cultures. I am always very impressed by the degree of creativity and craftsmanship, the dedication and virtuosity you encounter, but also the handling of materials. At home I have a tiny wooden stool that my parents brought from Cameroon when we moved to the Netherlands. It is less than eight inches tall and does not require a single nail, but it is so well – and beautifully – made that an elephant could sit on it, as my father would always say. There is a lot to learn from both sides. The Mondriaan Fund and the Stimuleringsfonds have various exchange programs that are very interesting for artists and designers, as well as curators. I have also worked with the DOEN Foundation in this regard and I hope to do so again in the future.

OBJECT, 2020, Alexandra Izeboud. Photographer: Almichael Fraay.

You argue for a closer cooperation between creatives, designers, architects and artists on the one hand, and the world of producers, project and product development on the other. In what ways do you think beautiful things can arise like this?
In my view, the interaction between art and commerce, culture and business is crucial for both blood groups. I often advise creatives to work in business for a while so that you learn about marketing, sales and business development in practice. Conversely, creatives are indispensable when it comes to change and innovation within a company. The trick is to learn to understand each other and to really appreciate creativity. For this you need intermediaries and bridge builders, who can cross over to both worlds and who can initiate such a collaboration, but also serve as a guide guide or help to consolidate it. That road is of course not without obstacles, but fortunately, it is happening more and more often, and with success.

Which design presentation at OBJECT should we not miss this year, and who is your favorite designer at the moment?
Those are two impossible questions haha. I feel that all participants that we select for OBJECT are interesting, good or innovative. I like that in this edition, we welcome all new labels and designers. Wild Animals, for example, is participating for the first time, just like the Van Vrienden label and the Kukka brand. But there are also many upcoming talents that we have selected for the next edition, who all graduated last year — so really fresh off the press. It is extra important for them to participate, because they have hardly had a podium yet. I am also looking forward to the presentation of 13 young designers from the University of Applied Sciences in Trier, who will present a group show with us that I am very curious about. I don’t have a real favourite designer because I know so many good people, but I particularly like Lisa Konno’s work. She also participates in the theme exhibition Must See, that I have put together in the Zuiderzee Museum that – I hope – will open soon!