The Hague Contemporary Art Weekend

Jacquleine de Jong Plankenkoorts 2021 at Dürst Britt & Mayhew

Hot on the heels of the recent Rotterdam Art Week, The Hague’s Contemporary Art Weekend was no less spectacular. With a list of venues as diverse as the work on show, it demonstrated the rich and varied canopy of what is happening on the art scene in Holland at the moment.

Locations varied from small, alternative backstreet galleries to the magnificent Kunstmuseum; from outdoor sites to the amazing space which is the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten – the Royal Academy of Art – which was showing the work of graduating students.

But it wasn’t just new work; there were a lot of established names too.

Bob Bonies has been painting since the 1960 and is unashamedly abstract. The large canvases, full of blocks of brightly coloured geometric shapes, are what they are – colour and form. Bonies’ paintings are at the Kunstmuseum, which I think by now everybody knows was once call the Gemeentemuseum, where we started our exploration of the Contemporary Art Weekend – even though it was only Thursday. Next door, at what was once GEM and is now KM21, and the adjacent Fotomuseum were two shows much more to my liking.

Mickey Yang’s Upaya show takes place in a dark room with moving lights and videos. The room is almost like a fairground haunted house ride as one is led from one work to the next in the gloom. And it’s not all high tech. There are wall paintings, wire frame sculptures and mobile eyeballs hanging from the ceiling. Very immersive. I really liked Popel Coumou’s Paper and Light show at the other end of the building in the Fotomuseum. The mainly large works use paper and . . .err . .  light to create three dimensional pictures which are part representational of rooms, part Op Art and part almost Mondrian. They all worked incredibly well – some big and bold, some small and dainty. I particularly like the small maquettes in a glass case.

We were getting the large events out of the way first and next it was on to the KABK to see the work of over two hundred graduating students. This huge sprawling complex of buildings, just along the road from the central railway station, opened its doors to show the public what goes on inside. The building, which seems like several buildings knocked together with various architectural devices, is a warren of large and small rooms showing complex installations with lots of wires at one extreme to the intricate work of typography students at the other. To help us on our way the show was colour coded so we could find the BAs in Fine Art, Art Science, Graphic Design, Photography etc. and the work of Master degree students in Artistic Research, Art Science, Non Linear Narrative, Industrial Design etc. etc. A lot to take in but well worth the visit to a building that is redolent with art school atmosphere.

Of course, many of the established commercial galleries in The Hague were taking part but the emphasis was very much on alternative galleries as well as a lot of pop-up galleries in various locations around town.

Nest is a unique gallery and was showing a group exhibition of gallery artists in a show called She Spins the Thread, She Measures the Thread, She Cuts the Thread which aimed to expound the meaning of repetition, appreciation and appropriation. Nest was also involved with the gallery 1646 in 500 Poster Locations involving the work of graduate students. There was also the Page Not Found initiative on Binkhorststraat which focuses on artists as publishers and is an extension of the interview we did with David Amarato on ArtsTalk Radio recently – you can listen to that here. For the Art Weekend the gallery Page Not Found was showing a theatrical installation choreographed by Paulina Olowska.

The Grey Space in the Middle looked good but wasn’t ready and nobody to show us around. There is also the new art collective Trixie, recently opened by 16 young artists who turned a sprawling motorbike show room into a space for exhibitions and a labyrinth of studios. Equally incongruous was West Den Haag which had set up shop in the former American Embassy on the Lange Voorhout.

The Beelden Aan Zee gallery in Scheveningen is also part of the event, including in it their current exhibition Façade by Italian sculptor Igor Mitotaj. We did a piece on this for ArtsTalk Radio which can be heard here.

There is more sculpture in the centre of the city where The Hague Council of Children curated a selection of sculpture which was on show in Grote Markt, Spuistraat and Kalvermarkt.

Further along Grote Markt, Prinsegracht was taken over by The Hague Street Art with large scale paintings, video installations and layered paintings by Page 33 and Zesta. Also in Prinsegracht, at the Paard rock venue, a pop-up shop selling pictures was installed by Uit Het Gareel.

This was such a huge event that it was impossible to see everything, even in four days, but I hope we have manage to convey a little of the excitement and innovation that was The Hague’s Contemporary Art Weekend.

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