Fons Hof: “Art Rotterdam, a very active little fair”

 Rotterdam  |  25 January 2017  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

Destination the Netherlands for the 18th edition of Art Rotterdam, from 9 to 12 February. An international vision, a European perspective… A meeting with Fons Hof, the fair’s director.

Dedicated to the emerging scene and young contemporary-art talents, Art Rotterdam is welcoming around one hundred Dutch and European galleries. The fair is being held at the Van Nelle factory, a huge modernist-style industrial building, built between 1925 and 1931, today on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The director of Art Rotterdam, Fons Hof, tells Art Media Agency about the specificities of the fair and what’s new for the 2017 edition.

Can you give us the lowdown on Art Rotterdam?

For this 18th edition, we are expecting around one hundred galleries spread between the main section and the New Art section. Art Rotterdam defends the new and emerging contemporary-art scene. While remaining on the European scale, its outlook is international. The selection committee chooses galleries on the basis of their programming and their international approach. These are mainly established in the Netherlands, with foreign participants making up 40 % of the main section, and 20 % of the New Art section. Selection for the New Art section, reserved to galleries which have existed for under seven years, is in the hands of Natasha Hoare, a curator at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. In the workshops of the Van Nelle factory, the Intersection section is welcoming, for the third year, installations and performances by artists or non-commercial structures. For the fifth year, the Mondrian Fund will be presenting the “Prospects & Concepts” exhibition, featuring the work of 66 young artists who received grants from the fund in 2015. The curator is Stijn Huijts, director of the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht. Finally, the selection for the video section, with a dozen chosen this year, is made by a group of curators and collectors.

Do participating galleries change much from year to year?

Dutch galleries which make up the core of the fair are generally present at every edition. Turnover concerns foreign participation more. Some galleries don’t come systematically. Others wish to take part in order to connect with the Dutch or Belgian market. In the New Art section, I’m delighted to see the presence of a number of young Dutch galleries such as Billytown, which opened in 2015, or Cinnamon, registered for the second time this year. This section is also welcoming several young British stands and one French one, a 22.48 m2 gallery.

What can you tell us about the fair’s public?

Last year, we welcomed 26,500 visitors, and we are counting on similar numbers for this edition. It’s a little fair, but a very active one. The public of collectors and professionals is half Dutch, half foreign, with visitors from Belgium, Germany and France. Out of the total visitors, we have around 20 % in people from abroad.

The fair also stands out for its parallel events and its VIP programme. What will be the highlights for collectors?

We have a very rich programme, with gallery openings, exhibitions and specialist fairs on design or photography. For example, there will be the opening of a big surrealism exhibition at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum. The Kunsthal in Rotterdam will be inaugurating the exhibition “Digital: a symbiotic love affair”, and will be presenting the Hugo and Carla Brown collection, “Digital, Post Internet & Virtual Reality Art”. We also regularly welcome groups of collectors, for example the Friends of the Jeu de Paume or of the Palais de Tokyo, who come nearly every year. We offer them dinners, private tours or workshop tours. This year, the Atelier Van Lieshout will open specially throughout the duration of Art Rotterdam.

How do you manage to reach out to a public less familiar with contemporary art?

We are renewing the Citizen M film operation, a film introducing the fair directed by art critic and author Hans den Hartog Jager. This is a way to allow visitors little acquainted with art to have a few bases and to situate the fair in the context of contemporary-art history. The film, lasting about 30 minutes, will be screened at the entrance of the factory, but will also be visible online on our website, a few days before the opening. We will be sending the link to all contacts on our database. This is a way for us to reach out to a wider audience.

Can you give us a scale of the prices of works at Art Rotterdam ?

Even if Art Rotterdam presents a few well-established names on the artistic scene, the fair mainly offers works by young artists. A great majority of the pieces are being offered for under €10,000, and we also offer a selection of affordable works and multiples, between €100 and 2,000. Note that our country’s art scene is characterised by a small group of big collectors and a majority of small buyers.

From an artistic point of view, have you noticed any new trends?

I can observe an interest among artists in film images, and also a return to figurative painting, with a touch of humour. And then – but this has been true for several years – we can note a very multidisciplinary approach to artistic creation. Artists work simultaneously on drawing, painting, installations and videos. I can give the example of Chaïm Van Luit, who we find with a video in the Projections section, and also a light installation in the New Art section.

Can you tell us what’s new in 2017?

For the first time, we’re offering an Open Air section, with ten sculptures or outdoor installations. There will also be a sound piece by Susan Philipsz, and Borzo Gallery will be presenting the work of Ronald de Bloeme, who has produced an impressive eight by three metre panel on elections and the political situation in our country. The artist reworks political billboards that he transforms into a huge abstract work. Amongst other new features, this year, a prize created by an insurance group will be awarded. The NN Group Art Award, to be presented on the day of the fair’s opening, will recognise a young artist trained in one of the big schools in our country. Many artists come from these renowned institutions such as the Rijksakademie and De Ateliers in Amsterdam, the Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht or the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, which draw students from beyond our country. For example, a majority of the Rijksakademie’s students come from abroad. The jury will choose a winner from a shortlist of four nominees. The prize is worth €10,000 and a work by the winner will be purchased to join the collection of the NN group.

To conclude, which artists presented at Art Rotterdam in recent years have emerged on the international scene?

I can name the American Ryan Trecartin, who we presented five years ago, and who has since been shown in big exhibitions, namely at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and the Venice Biennale. There’s also the Colombian Oscar Murillo, recently shown at the fair by London gallery Carlos/Ishikawa. Ever since, Murillo has gone onto a fine international career and the prices of his works have soared.



Art Rotterdam, from 9 to 12 February. Van Nellefabriek, Van Nelleweg 1, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

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