I went to the
town centre city centre to see the small exhibition Beelden van de Binnenstad (Sculptures of the City Centre) in the Atrium of Town Hall. There you can see miniature models of the sculptures which have been made during the last two decades for the gallery, usually called the Sokkelproject (Pedestal Project).
In the first picture you see models of Adam Colton’s untitled work (1996) and Gert Germeraad’s Mansportret (Portrait of a Man; 2002) and in this picture you see Christien Rijnsdorp’s De hef (The Lift Bridge; 2007) and Maria Roosen’s untitled work (2011).
There are thirty five miniature models on show. These ones are models of Rondanini (2005) by André Kruijsen (current curator of the gallery) and The Observer (1996) by Berry Holslag and
here Rien Monshouwer’s Beeld (Vision/Sculpture; 1994). Although the models are all standing next to each other, they don’t really bite each other. They even look a bit like
puppets in a Punch and Judy show. I can’t get rid of that idea seeing these two untitled models of works by Jos Kruit (1997) and by the old and great Carel Visser (1994), or
this couple: Jan Snoeck’s La nostalgie de la lumière totale (The Nostalgia of Total Light; 2000) and Emo Verkerk’s Sperwer (Sparrow hawk; 2005). And again in
Sonja Oudendijk’s Bellevue-toren (Bellevue Tower; 1993) and Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd (Many-Head; 2010).
All models have a short explanation (in Dutch).
De Beeldengalerij van P. Struycken (P. Struycken’s Sculpture Gallery) is the official title of the Pedestal Project as it was initiated by artist Peter Struycken under the auspices of Stroom. The real sculptures
were all made for public space and they can be seen in the city centre in the two axes Kalvermarkt – Grote Marktstraat and Spui. In Kalvermarkt
it starts at the moment with For whom the Bell Tolls (1993)
by Joost van den Toorn. The title is of course
Hemingway’s and indeed it’s a tower of resignation,
maybe even a tower of fate and death.
Carel Visser’s work, originally made of polystyrene,
has an unstable appearance which would have worked better
if the base of the pedestal wasn’t more or less floating. And that’s a problem
with many other sculptures in the gallery, like Rien Monshouwer’s Beeld, which is constructed from the word BEELD and,
is used as a piece of street furniture, in this case a dustbin.
The rigidity with which the statues are placed at a twenty five meter distance of each other,
sometimes results in a strange situation like here with Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s work (1996). This compulsive repetition
denies the individuality of the sculptures, of course defended by the idea that all sculptures have the same pedestal and are part of the same series. But
isn’t that clear enough just by that fact?.
With Sjoerd Buisman’s Phyllotaxis (2002), its use as street furniture works quite well, the bike underlining its way of stacking. The owner of the bike, probably unknowingly,
has added to the meaning of the sculpture, while
the sculptures of the Ministry of Defence stand guard from quite another position at the other side of Kalvermarkt.
Auke de Vries’ untitled sculpture (1994) gives you
his usual aesthetics of finding harmony in unbalanced components.
In the definitive version of Emo Verkerk’s Sperwer,
the sparrow hawk has come down.
The massive and dark volume of Jan van de Pavert’s Ministerie (Ministry; 2000) referring to the former buildings of the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, may remind you of a modern version of Kafka’s Castle.
But what is it doing there next to a road sign? What has it to offer to the passers-by there and what kind of context has its environment on offer to add to the sculpture?
Berry Holslag’s Observer is especially suitable for street corners and crossings
and it does its present job very well. Next to it
is Karel Appel’s Frog with Umbrella (1993/2001) which has been drawn into the project but which is much bigger than the rest and so breaks the monotony of the rest of the series.
The new acquisition to the project Vriendinnen (Friends; 2014) by Tony van de Vorst
has the power to become iconic with its extra pedestal, monumentalising modern day common street life. On the other hand
you may ask what two strolling people add to all the other strolling people in the street.
Ingrid Mol’s Binnenstadgoden (Inner City Gods; 2014) is another new acquisition and
is based on children’s drawings about the theme and
it is another example of the democratisation of public art.
In the no-man’s-land in between Spui and Spuiplein,
sculptures like Eline Vere (2012) by Thom Puckey,
Maria Roosen’s untitled work,
Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd,
David Bade’s Calimero (2011) and
Anno Dijkstra’s A Last Farewell (2011) are just trying
not to be obsolete, in spite of their substantive and varying artistic qualities.
Back to Karel Appel, which shows you the advantages of a non-floating pedestal.
The other arm of Spui
is still in limbo as the Amadeus building is not finished yet.
So the sculptures can only add to the limbo feeling, like Jos Kruit’s work and
EN/OF (AND/OR; 1993) by Marc Ruygrok,
the ambiguous nature of its title underscored by its function as a parking spot for bikes.
I followed the route to Grote Marktstraat which
doesn’t really make one optimistic about
its future. Because of the chaos there
are only three sculptures of the series on show:
Mannetje met losse ledematen (Little Man with Loose Limbs; 2003) by Tom Claassen, which
seems to have resigned to the situation,
Gisteren staat, Morgenstond (Yesterday stands, Tomorrow stood; 2005) by Arjanne van der Spek and
I Love JR (2007) by André van de Wijdeven. They seem
to stand there to show you how pieces of street furniture become street weeds, although as such they blossom well.
Refurbishment of Grote Marktstraat will be finished by the end of the year. Stroom’s website says:
“A luxurious pavement, new street furniture and a special lighting plan will create ‘The international shopping boulevard of the Netherlands’. The Sculpture Gallery of P. Struycken plays an important role (“een cruciale rol”- BP) in that area’s upgraded look (“bij die uitstraling”- BP).” So,
keeping up appearances, that’s what it is all about! Artists who have done their best to make valuable things for public space are just being used to decorate the coop of the strutting peacock of international consumerism. Artists, herewith your works have been declared empty!
Shown in the stupidity of a strict order of twenty five meters distance, all on the same floating pedestal which gives them an idea of instability and unimportance,
they will stand in the way of all these international people who will come all the way to The Hague’s Grote Marktstraat to drink a Starbucks and to spend, spend and spend. But of course dreams never come true.