Kunstinstituut Melly will be the new name of the institute formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. The new name will come into effect on 27 January 2021.
The contemporary art institution is founded in 1990 and located on the Witte de Withstraat.
On 14 June 2017 a group of cultural professionals, artists and activists published an Open letter to the insitution. Their letter openly challenged the center for dealing with an art project on decolonization without having regarded, to begin with, the institution’s namesake. The namesake refers to the street, named after a seventeenth century Dutch naval officer of the VOC and WIC, Witte Corneliszoon de With. Not only did this lead to a breakthrough in an ongoing debate about the process of decolonization in the Netherlands, but the criticism also made the center aware of the need to strengthen work on the issues surrounding representation. In the face of this predicament, on 7 September 2017, we vowed to make a name change. On 27 June 2020, they withdrawled their thirty-year-old name “Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art”.
Name refers to accountability, vulnerability and responsiveness
Director Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy says that, “the institution’s renaming responds to the claims raised by the larger decolonial movement in such a way that the new name, even by evocation, cannot disregard this moment. In this sense, our ongoing project Melly has come to stand for a work culture that fosters public engagement, deep listening, and collective learning.
It is a name that refers to accountability, vulnerability and responsiveness, and ensures that we continue to develop into an increasingly hospitable and intrepid cultural institution.”
Melly, female “anti-hero”
The name “Melly” originally refers to the artwork “Melly Shum Hates Her Job” (1990) by Canadian artist Ken Lum, permanently installed on the facade. This work of art has acquired iconic status locally and was replaced at a wide public request. “Melly” has come to represent a working-class female “anti-hero” as well as a new relationship between the institution, the street, the city and its communities.
This happens in Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu), a Rotterdam working-class neighborhood in the top five of the poorest postcode areas in the Netherlands. This district will be the testing ground for the energy transition by installing a new heat network and removing all households from the gas.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen works here with local residents, community workers, artists and policymakers on an imaginary scenario of an inclusive, energy-neutral neighborhood.
According to the artist Melle Smets, one of the participants and member of the Human Power Plant collective, when planning the Rotterdam energy transition, too little is said about the interests of the residents and what the transition will yield for people who have less to spend. In other words: “an inevitable task such as the energy transition can also offer opportunities to build an inclusive and resilient city and living environment”, says Smets.
Many different groups with very diverse backgrounds live in BoTu. Together these groups have very diverse knowledge about how we deal with energy. How we make it, use it and save it. The Human Power Plant team collects this knowledge under the leadership of Beekhuizenbindt and as a source of inspiration for a climate-neutral future, without fossil fuels. For example, many elderly people live in BoTu, who have already gone through two energy transitions: the hunger winter in WW2 and the switch from coal to gas around 1968. BoTu has also always been a migrant neighborhood. This is an international think tank about energy tips. For example, how did your family cook in the mountains of Eritrea, Morocco, Cape Verde or other parts of the world? The Zelfregiehuis Delfshaven also organizes workshops with the neighborhood children (who are adults when the neighborhood is energy neutral) to imagine a fossil-free BoTu from their own fantasy. The project is captured by photographer Florian Braakman, also a resident of BoTu. Thamar Kemperman creates participatory theater, Bakery de Goedkoop builds the first prototype for a communal fire, Wewatt supplies two human power plants to generate electricity.
What is the future scenario then?
Melle Smets: “Local residents draw energy from local sources, solar and wind energy. Household tasks are organized jointly. The squares in the neighborhood are equipped with public kitchens, canteens, bathhouses, washrooms and toilets. This has reduced energy consumption enormously and the general well-being has increased spectacularly ”.
The progress of the BoTu scenario / HOUSE OF THE FUTURE can be followed on: www.huisvandetoekomst.org
100 photos are shown and the images all have iconic value, due to their social and artistic significance. Together they tell the story of photography in the Netherlands, from its beginnings to the present day (1841-2021): the highlights, innovations, and great steps photographers made, from the invention of the photograph to the developments of the early 21st century. A hall of 2,000 m2 has been added to the museum especially for the Gallery of Honour. Each photograph is presented with information on its background, the reason for its inclusion, and details on what makes the image so extraordinary.
The photographs and photographers which have been granted a place in the Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography are to be announced at the opening in January 2021. You will of course read that at the end of January, in a subsequent article here on the website.
Birgit Donker, director of the Nederlands Fotomuseum:
‘The Gallery of Honour of Dutch Photography is an ode to photography in the Netherlands and to the many photographers who – through their innovative insight – have made this medium what it is today. Photography has undergone a radical development both in technology and social function. The photographs here tell many stories, at the same time showing how there are many different perspectives. I’m certain the public will love these iconic images. This exhibition confirms the significance of the Nederlands Fotomuseum as a national museum with international appeal, firmly anchored in Rotterdam.’
Enormous photography developments; from daguerreotypes to digital
The photographs in the Gallery of Honour come from various collections: firstly, from the rich collection of the Nederlands Fotomuseum itself, but there are also important loans from the Rijksmuseum, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Amsterdam Museum, Amsterdam City Archives, and the private collections of photographers or their descendants. The gallery begins with the earliest examples of photographic images, the so-called daguerreotypes, and goes on to showcase the work of dozens of photographers who pushed the boundaries of photography, crossing from black and white to colour, and then on to the digital age.
The selection of photographs in the Gallery of Honour was made by a committee consisting of five members: Frits Gierstberg, curator Nederlands Fotomuseum (chair), Khalid Amakran, photographer, Mattie Boom, photography curator, Rijksmuseum, Loes van Harrevelt, curator, Nederlands Fotomuseum Collections, Kevin Osepa, photographer, secretary: Guinevere Ras, junior curator and diversity and inclusion specialist.
Birgit Donker, director of the Nederlands Fotomuseum, gave them the following assignment: to select photographs which together would offer an overview of Dutch photography between 1841 and 2021. The committee’s selection criteria would be based on a work’s artistic and social relevance, innovation, and diversity of perspective.
Selection from many thousands of photographs
Particular attention was paid to photographs which played – and play – a meaningful role in the development of Dutch photography. The committee was also asked to come up with an overview that would be accessible to a wide audience but also surprising for aficionados, that would be chronologically distributed as evenly as possible, that would be inclusive with different perspectives, and that would mainly, but not exclusively, come from the collection of the Nederlands Fotomuseum. The committee met five times over a period of several months to make the selection from many thousands of photographs.
99 + 1
The Gallery of Honour consists of 100 iconic works, which includes one empty frame. That blank space symbolizes the photograph which – consciously or unconsciously – was discarded or overlooked or unknown or not (yet) appreciated. The public are therefore invited to suggest the ‘unknown photograph’ themselves, a discussion that the Gallery of Honour welcomes. Based on the ‘unknown photograph’, the Nederlands Fotomuseum is also developing a programme with lectures and debates on ‘blank spots’ in the history of photography, new perspectives and diverse opinions.
During the upcoming Rotterdam Art Week, TNC will be relocated again in the former indoor parking garage of the Spaanse Kubus on Vlaardingweg.
But what was the ambition when they started in 2016? How are they now, early November 2020, during the partial lockdown? How do they work and what can we expect next edition?
With what ambition did you start The New Current?
In 2015 I graduated from ArtEZ, in Fine Art. I knew Yvonne de Jong, graduated from the Willem de Kooning academy in 2014 and founder of Root Gallery in Rotterdam; a gallery and exhibition space for young artists. We shared the opinion that there are so many beautiful places in Rotterdam where you can show art. And that there are so many recently graduated artists with beautiful installations but without exhibition space. Because without a gallery it becomes difficult as an artist to show your work. With that in mind we started The New Current in 2016.
So you offer young artists a stage, or do you offer them even more?
The New Current is indeed a Rotterdam based platform for artists at the start of their career. We produce a yearly thematic exhibition solely with works of artists that graduated no longer than five years ago. With an additional program around network expansion, entry to the market and professional development, The New Current responds to the current situation within the art market. The domination of large galleries and art fairs creates a difficult position for starting artists who want to enter it. With the additional demise of smaller art spaces that focus on experimental presentations, it’s becoming even more challenging for young talents to develop, present and prove themselves. With The New Current we want to offer young and promising artists a new, much needed platform.
Your first presentation during the Rotterdam Art Week was in 2019, in the Cruise Terminal, on the Wilhelminakade. Now the exhibition takes place for the second time in the Spanish Polder. Better?
Our very first presentation in 2016 took place in Kralingen, during Kunstroute Kralingen-Crooswijk, with 200m2. In 2019 we participated for the first time in the Art Week, which was indeed in the Cruise Terminal, with a joint presentation of 800m2. A nice place, but now – in the former parking garage in the Spanish cube – we have a lot more space at our disposal; about 2000 meters. And that literally provides space for the installations. We can therefore say to artists: “think big”. The space in the former parking garage therefore suits us perfectly.
How do you prepare the exhibition in the current corona period?Normally we go to a variety of graduation exhibitions. We now have a large network of varying committees that nominate young artists, whether recently graduated or not. That network is very nice, very important too. Yvonne and I are both curators of the exhibition; Inger is a project coordinator and provides the structure, which is also very essential.
In recent months, during the corona period, there have been fewer graduation exhibitions, fortunately including those of the Rietveld and HKU. It remains so important to see and experience art. That is why we are so happy that we can present The New Current during the Rotterdam Art Week!
What do you expect from the upcoming Rotterdam Art Week edition?
We are hopeful that we will all be back on the road again in early February, after the current partial lockdown. We are now (November 2020, ed.) still in the middle of the selection procedure of the participating artists. We are again very happy with the level and the artist presentations for the upcoming edition of The New Current.
We can organize TNC completely corona-proof and I actually expect a very good edition, with really art interested visitors. If we can conclude anything at this corona period, it is; that people love to experience art and culture so much. On the other hand, we also see an enormous need among the artists to present their work. There are so many artist projects currently “on hold”, really awful. I expect that festival atmosphere even more than before; artist who together, in positive energy, will create a beautiful presentation! I really hope so because we give it so much to the artists.
Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is the first depot in the world that offers access to a complete collection. The dynamics of the depot are different from those of the museum: no exhibitions are held here, but you can – independently or with a guide – browse through 151,000 works of art. You can also take a look at, for example, conservation and restoration.
Objects are packed, hanging from a scaffold or displayed in a cupboard or displayed in one of the thirteen gigantic glass floating showcases in the atrium. Prints, drawings and photos are kept closed. Visitors can submit requests to view works from these collections. The film and video collection can be consulted in special viewing booths.
Restaurant and roof forest at a height of 35 meters
In the depot, designed by Winy Maas, co-founder of the architectural firm MVRDV, you don’t just get a look behind the scenes of a museum. In addition to the various areas for storage and care, the depot has a restaurant at a height of 35 meters and a rooftop forest, which has recently been awarded a Rooftop Award.
In the depot, works are preserved and displayed according to their climatic requirements, rather than based on art movement or era. There are five different climate zones, suited to works of art produced with different materials: metal, plastic, organic/inorganic, black-and-white and colour photography. The eye-catcher of the design is the atrium with the intersecting stairs and the large glass showcases with works of art. The building has been designed to provide optimal conditions for the art while being as energy-efficient as possible. Sustainable materials are used as much as possible in the construction.
Commercial function depot
In addition to its role as the museum’s engine room, the depot will also have a commercial function. Part of the building can be rented as a storage space for art from private collectors, corporate collections or other museums, which in turn can open these spaces to the public.
Sjarel Ex and Ina Klaassen, directors Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen:
“This is a working building in which the most important consideration is what the building can do: to look after our collection while still being open to the public. Next year the entire collection of Boijmans Van Beuningen will once again be visible on one spot for the first time since 1935. We are convinced that making the collection accessible shows how much we care and how well we take care of it. This is something that the inhabitants of Rotterdam will be proud of; something that they want to see with their own eyes, because they partly own this enormous artistic treasure.”
A few more facts and figures:
• Depot 39.5 metres tall, with a roof terrace at a height of about 35 metres • Building’s diameter: 40 metres at its base expanding to 60 metres at the top, with 15,541 square metres of floor area • Façade: 6,609 square metres of glass, divided into 1,664 mirrors • 5 different climate zones • 4 professional restoration studios • Ground level and six floors for art storage – with a restaurant, roof garden and panoramic view on the 6th floor • Some 1,900 square metres of depot space for rent, intended for private collectors • Depot scheduled to open in the fall of 2021 • Depot opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 – 18:00 • Restaurant opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 – late (kitchen closes at 22:00)
Rotterdam Art Week 2021 | 30 June – 4 July
Due to the extension of lockdown, the Rotterdam Art Week is being postponed until the summer and will now be held from 30 June to 4 July 2021. Art Rotterdam will then too be the heart of this festival dedicated to art, design and architecture enthusiasts. This summer, the city’s art climate will be strengthened and revived with special openings, exhibitions in museums and art institutions, lectures, guided tours, debates, pop-up shows and various fairs.
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.
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!
FAKE ME HARD is an expanded exhibition at the interface of art and technology by the makers of ROBOT LOVE & TEC ART. FAKE ME HARD explores the complex reality of the 21st century with futuristic installations by over 40 artists, performances, and debates in the industrial buildings of AVL Mundo, Rotterdam. The corona-proof exhibition about big data, algorithms, artificial intelligence and the role of humans in tomorrow’s society opens during Art Week Rotterdam on June 30.
Marleen van Wijngaarden: “Especially in difficult times, artists have a knack of letting their light shine through the cracks of our existence.”
How did you get into the world of murals?
The first mural I made myself was in TENT. in 2012: it measured 7 x 5 metres. After that, I made a few more. When I started PHK18 in 2013, the predecessor of Murals Inc., I never imagined that murals would become such an important part of the programming, let alone that it would occupy such an important place within my life. Sometimes, Murals would be part of a regular exhibition, but it really got off to a flying start with the exhibition ‘PHK18 #11: ABSTRACT WALL PAINTINGS De Stijl 100 years’ in 2017. An exhibition that was initiated by Jasper van der Graaf, and consisted of fully abstract geometric wall paintings. Five (inter)national stages took part in it. As a result of this show, I started Murals Inc. on January 1, 2018.
What is the most ambitious project that you have undertaken so far? What made this work so special?
That is a difficult choice to make, because every project has its own level of ambition. But I would choose the Kadebrug project in Eindhoven. Murals Inc. had no significant projects to its name yet, but was nevertheless approached by the Municipality of Eindhoven, asking whether we wanted to compete for an assignment: painting a 600 m2 viaduct. Of course we wanted that and in the end, Luuk Bode was offered the assignment. Wow, what a monster job that ended up being. The changing (turbulent) weather, the complex design and a certain inexperience (…) made me reconsider my decision every now and then. But the great thing was, after five weeks it was over and the result was spectacular. We had endured this mega baptism of fire, with a special thanks to Luuk Bode and team Worstenbroodje (Sausage Roll). Incidentally, the ‘Murals Inc. Machine Painting Show’ project, performed during Art Rotterdam 2020, would be a close second. The good news is that in 2022, we will organise a second edition in the form of a small-scale festival.
Do you feel that being an artist yourself makes you better at your job?When I started Murals Inc., I decided to discontinue my professional practice as a visual artist. If you want to act at a good level, it is important to make certain choices. I have devoted myself to producing art for over 25 years, in which highs and lows alternated. I had my studio at the art initiative Duende in Crooswijk in Rotterdam. More than 50 artists had studios in a former school building of 4000 m2, an incredibly inspiring place. The activity program was of a high standard. In addition, we had three guest studios where hundreds of (inter)national artists stayed over the years. In addition to my professional practice, I was the coordinator of this Artist in Residence project for 10 years. After we had to leave the building in 2013, Duende dissolved after being in existence for 30 years. The process that I passed through; the dualistic plodding in my studio, all the exhibitions, exchanges and collaborations on beautiful projects have laid the foundation for my current work.
The fact that I used to be a visual artist, and that I know the ropes, means that I am familiar with the world of an artist. That’s a big plus. Another plus is that I know how difficult it is to make a good work of art, to reach the essence, to always keep going one step further. I like to work with artists who have the courage to take steps in their work when the outcome is uncertain. As a curator, I’m not out to play it safe either. It is not that difficult to create an aesthetically balanced exhibition. In any case, making exhibitions based on the mural offers me many challenges.
Can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming project on the Van Nelle Terrain?
In collaboration with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and CBK Rotterdam, Murals Inc. will make a corona-related wall project at a vaccination site: called Vacc. Art. This wall is located on the Van Nelle Terrain. In the first place, we are there for visitors who are going to get a vaccination. Coming from the art world, we wanted to make a positive contribution to the often difficult process that surrounds a vaccination. And of course, art must remain visible and continue. Especially in difficult times, artists have a knack of letting their light shine through the cracks of our existence.
A super nice side effect is that we remain visible during Art Rotterdam. We try to plan it in such a way that one canvas will be painted during Art Rotterdam. What I’m most looking forward to won’t be much different from other people: we are not made to live in isolation, interactions are the basis of our existence. Rotterdam Art Week promises numerous interactions, and I for one am looking forward to that!
Tip: the exhibition ‘(real) humans’ will be on show during Rotterdam Art Week at the permanent location of Murals Inc.