Art fairs can be exhausting – dozens of stands, thousands of pieces of art. It can be easy to overdose – if your feet last that long. Another problem is that at the big art fairs there is often a lot of poor quality art, in fact not art at all, just pictures.
The quality at Art Rotterdam, for a fair of its size, is surprisingly and satisfyingly high. While, of course, not everything was my cup of tea, I was obvious that nearly all of it was Good Art.
After a couple of difficult years and a re-scheduled fair last July it is now back in its familiar time slot at the old Van Nelle factory and is the main event, the focus point, of the annual Rotterdam Art Week.
The iconic Van Nelle building itself is worth a visit in its own right. It is a world-class monument of functionalism and the HAKA (Chambers of Commerce) building dating from 1931 a historical landmark in the Nouvelle Objectivité style.
While a few familiar faces were missing this time there seemed to be far more galleries from outside the Netherlands showing. There are quite a few galleries concentrating on photography which ties in with other exhibitions/events in the Art Week namely Rotterdam Photo XL & Haute Photographie fairs. Kunsthal has an exhibition of photos from the 1920s and 30s by Claude Cahun called Under the Skin which opens on 21st May.
It is difficult and unfair to pick out individual galleries or artists but, as in the last fair in July, one artist really stood out for me. The autobiographical work of Aldo van den Broek on view at Amsterdam’s Gallery Vriend van Bavink is outstanding. His two large greyish paintings on paper dominate the stand and those around it.
There are also a number of booths around the fair showing artists’ videos. I particularly like the one with the pet raven. As well as the fair itself, a lot of other events are tied in with it. There are several Meet the Artist opportunities and several open artists’ studio around the city. You can read our correspondent Gresa Mechili’s report on a visit to one of them here.
Art Rotterdam is one of the top European art fairs. It is large enough to accommodate a good representation of international galleries but compact enough not to make it too exhausting. And if you do need to take the weight of your feet for ten minutes there are plenty of refreshments available, including on the lawn outside. Michael Hasted 19th May 2022