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A Day Trip to Art Rotterdam

Last week I hopped a ride with two Happy Famous Artists and traveled to Rotterdam where we visited Art Rotterdam, Re:Rotterdam and the studio of Stefan Gross. It was a short and crowded trip. Here are some pictures and quick impressions.

We started off at Re:Rotterdam where it seemed like a magnet pulled us directly towards an installation by Niels Post titled Spamlish. Jeroen Jongeleen, at once elusive and ubiquitous in the Rotterdam Art scene was also promoted at this micro fair, which aimed to provide an outsiders view on the current art fair scene. Let’s face it- an Art Fair is neither an easy place to exhibit or view art and while I like a good youthful uprising, I’m fairly skeptical about the ambitions and motivations of new fairs even if the model can always use an upgrade. Visit an art fair and you’ll find more variety of color, shape, stimulus and consumers then you’re likely to find in your supermarket at rush hour, and galleries make large investments to be there meaning that they need to sell. For them it’s a high risk situation. For the audience, a trade show is a trade show is a trade show and it could be art or vacuum cleaners or cars. Seventy Galleries participated at the 12th annual Art Rotterdam and while you might recognize a brand or a friendly face, be drawn to a color, a form or a bit of empty space, throughout the diverse offerings there was the expected quality that Art Rotterdam has come to be known for. The supermarket sensation was minimal and easily overcome with a couple of glasses from the bar.

Having made the trip from Brussels, I was pleased to see such a strong representation from Belgian galleries. While one of the Antwerp galleries that has caught my eye over the years was, with the exception of a bold work from the sensational Charlotte Schleiffert, depressingly over academic and dryer than a hot bowl of sand, Stella Lohaus Gallery made up for it with an angry aesthetic that cried for attention like a high school girl. I’m not sure the work stands up, but it attracted me nonetheless and that’s victory at an art fair … it is after all a game of attraction. Meessen De Clercq, Hoet Bekaert, Dépendance and Catherine Bastide also lured me, and though I always felt the clock ticking what they mounted on the walls wet my appetite. I plan to visit all these spaces in the coming month for a longer (less crowded) look.

The Torch Gallery has found its tone under its new direction and it was great to see Tinkerbell keeping it both real comfy in her radiant pink slippers while Daan Samson began to win me over. Generally I don’t go for the celebration of style (there is enough glamor out there already), but he nails it with a level of irony and tasty recipe that involves shots of sincerity. I’ll drink to that. Art Babes: Page 3 Pin Ups from the art world as proof that sex appeal sells in almost every situation. I didn’t want it to, but it worked for me. Apparently I’ll drink to that too.



All in all I found it an outstanding fair. I ran into many familiar faces, had brief chats with engaging strangers, drank decent wine and got a bit sauced on all the impulses mashed up at Art Rotterdam 2011. In my eyes the event missed one big thing that the world needs right now: Fun.

Most of the work was impressively sober, reminding me of a cliché film character staring into his glass and telling his neighboring barfly: “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink.” Last years moussey performance from Abner Preis was a massive success for the fair and I was phpaide.com somewhat disappointed that the follow up was an out of shape naked man dancing to recordings. I’m not really sure what this was about. Nudity is no big thing in the Netherlands and both artist and audience were comfortable as he moved awkwardly about on his podium. At one point he got an erection. I wondered if this was on command and part of the act: The art of the instant boner – not unimpressive for a guy of his age. If it wasn’t that than I must be too dumb to get it. As a rule I generally don’t like art that makes me feel dumb. There are enough things in the world capable of that.

By the time that geezer raised his flagpole, he was headed up and we were on our way out. One last drink at the bar, a few laughs with friends and back to Brussels wondering if it was a question of safety that made things at the fair so serious. Is serious a tone that reflects respect for risk management?

This was also a topic that came up on our more intimate visit to the studio of Stefan Gross. As Gross points out: ‘The world is a serious place these days.’ I have to smile when he goes on to say that this is a problem he tackles in his work.

Our visit to his studio was a perfect way to counter balance the fair. Part playground, part laboratory, from the abstract to the figurative, the polymer to the rust, Gross’ project is a socially engaged and spontaneous one and the work in his studio reminded me of a 3d cartoon illustrating characters from a Stefan Lochner painting; whether they are going to heaven or hell doesn’t matter. They show no expression. In Gross’s case, these aren’t people but objects (many of them abandoned toys rescued from flea markets) who remain stoic as they refuse to do anything, but play, right up until the time they are tossed in the bin.

The pragmatics of punk caught up in the politics of play– a method only as sustainable as he is strong and the sort of art that can change your life or at least your view on most of what gets presented at your average trade show.

All pictures by Happy Famous Artists



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