Flexible and rich in contrast
The Kunsthal is a ‘magic box’ with a flexible programme that reveals unexpected connections within the fields of visual art, culture, design and an ability to react to current events. Over the past year, numerous different target groups encountered each other in the Kunsthal’s entrance area: ‘outsider artists’, photography aficionados, fashionistas, art lovers, Rotterdam residents, students, talented young people and so on and so forth. Once again the Kunsthal returned to its original function: a Palais des Festivals with a constant supply of new things to explore.
The start of the new year was celebrated with the ‘Greenchoice Warm Sweater Day’ in connection to the exhibition ‘Knitwear. From Chanel to Westwood’. A number of initiatives such as Granny’s Finest, Ja Wol and World of Warmth gave workshops to the public and gave them a chance to knit. The Keith Haring exhibition entered its last week and, as part of Art Rotterdam, a debate about Soviet Design took place.
The combination of large, international exhibitions with national or regional projects and the cross-fertilization between light-hearted and more in-depth themes provide the dynamics that are unique to the Kunsthal. The simultaneous programming of the photographic experiments of Philippe Halsmans and the personal environment of unconventional ‘outsider artists’ in ‘The Museum of Everything’ demonstrated the power of creativity. And visitors arriving for the Peter Lindbergh exhibition were pleasantly surprised by the innovative African designs. At the same time, lovers of design were deeply impressed by Lindbergh’s profoundly humane black and white portraits of supermodels and other celebrities.
In-depth exploration and social commitment
Outsider art – ‘art outside of the boundaries of the regular art circuit’ – is receiving more and more attention within the art world and the Kunsthal picked up on this with the exhibition ‘The Museum of Everything’. A few weeks prior to the opening of the Outsider Art Museum at the Hermitage Amsterdam, the Kunsthal presented a major retrospective of hundreds of independent and non-academic artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. During this same period, visitors were also able to explore the photographic experiments of Philippe Halsmans who mainly became famous for his collaborations with Salvador Dalí and Alfred Hitchcock, and his ‘jumpology’ photographs. Over three hundred photographs that had never been shown before, including contact prints, vintage prints and original photo montages, showed Halsmans’ constant search for photographic (im)possibilities. The various cabinets in the exhibition all had a participatory and educational goal and welcomed a large number of visitors.
The Kunsthal as a laboratory for the public
All you can Art & Summer School
In the run-up to the summer, the Kunsthal was actively recruiting motivated young talent, aged between 14 and 24, at various schools. This resulted in a Summer School, held in a studio that was part of the exhibition ‘All you can Art’ where 32 talented young people received tuition and coaching by artists according to the traditional master and apprentice teaching method. Between 12 July and 19 August they worked at the Kunsthal under the inspired leadership of David Bade, Tirzo Martha and the IBB team, IBB graduates and guest artists such as Ronald Cornelissen, Marieke Zwart and Machteld Solinger. They were taught a variety of techniques in the fields of engraving, drawing and making portraits, followed lessons in art history and culture theory, gained experience in working at specific locations and took part in the Summer Carnival where they won the artistic award. The online report about the Summer School is available on our website.
The Kunsthal as a platform
Because of its extensive experience in making and presenting high-quality exhibitions, the Kunsthal has an important responsibility with regard to making extraordinary (inter)national collections accessible to a wide audience. It often functions as a platform for various museums, artists, private collectors, foundations and (social or cultural) institutions. In 2016, the Kunsthal continued to successfully perform this duty and tackled a broad range of subjects.
‘Fatal Art’, about the Dutch sculptress Sara de Swart was an exquisite fin-de-siècle exhibition that not only disclosed De Swarts’ own work, but also her collection. Thanks to art historian Jaap Versteegh’s extensive research, as well as art-historically important loans from private collections and museums, the exhibition succeeded in familiarizing the public with the relatively unknown Sara de Swart.
In 2016 a lot of attention was given to private collections in the Netherlands. ‘Bloodywood’, for instance, presented Mandy Elsas’ unique collection of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. This collection of 750 posters, which he accumulated during his many visits to Ghana, has since become a historically important resource and has been recorded in an extensive publication. In 250 prints and a variety of attributes, the exhibition ‘Quacks and Tooth-pullers. Dentistry in prints’ showed how dentistry was perceived between 1470 and 1870. The extensive publication ‘Tandheelkunde in de prentkunst’ (Dentistry in Print Art) by Dr Gert Schade served as the leitmotiv for the exhibition that offered a lively and hilarious image of dentistry at that time.
A historical overview of objects made from Bakelite and related materials also found a platform at the Kunsthal on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Amsterdam Bakelite Collection. Disclosing this hidden private collection with designs by twenty five prominent designers, among whom Philippe Starck, Friso Kramer and Isamu Noguchi, was certainly well worth the effort.
On the occasion of the North Sea Jazz Festival, the unpolished jazz images of photographer Pieter Boersma were given a platform at the Kunsthal. With an eye for the background, Boersma’s exhibition ‘Drumming’ put the drummer in the spotlight.
Reacting to current events
The Kunsthal also creates opportunities for reacting to current events, for instance by preparing a presentation about ‘The Swan of Rotterdam’ in a short period of time. This exhibition highlighted the 20-year old Erasmus Bridge and was compiled in collaboration with architect Ben van Berkel and UN Studio and together with the public on the basis of contributions such as valuable photographs, souvenirs, stories and unique objects. The 25th anniversary of BoekieBoekie, the Dutch literary magazine for children, and platform for writers, illustrators and children, was celebrated with the festive presentation of its anniversary issue, the 100th edition of BoekieBoekie, and an exhibition.
On a regular basis last-minute projects that are thematically sympathetic and would fit in well with the Kunsthal’s programme, are brought to our attention. An example of this is the exhibition ‘Drawn from life’ with courtroom drawings by the 86-year old Chris Roodbeen from Rotterdam. Roodbeen, who is still active as a courtroom artist, has seen the interiors of many courts of law and his drawings convey over half a century of legal history. ‘Beelder… by J.A. Deelder’ also fitted into this series of exhibitions that each have a distinctive character of their own, relate to a specific target group and are often mediagenic.