Stille, stomme getuigen… (Silent, dumb witnesses..,), A Gallery Named Sue, The Hague

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I was greeted by this lion carrying a sansevieria, made by Ignace Cami, when I visited the exhibition Stille, stomme getuigen… (Silent, Dumb Witnesses…) at A Gallery Named Sue, to write a review for the Villa La Repubblica blog. The exhibition is part of the show Vormidable, also on show at Lange Voorhout (see pictures here) and Museum Beelden aan Zee, with works by Flemish sculptors.

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The works are all very much suited to be shown in the intimate setting of the gallery apartment, like this film installation by Ruben Bellinkx about four turtles who are each tied to a leg of the same table and make the table move, in that way showing a moving sculpture and a special experience of it.

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Jonas Vansteenkiste shows the dangers of the security of dream houses and

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a heap of houses also seem to be fit to light the fire in the hearth.

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Anton Cotteleer (who also showed work in The Hague last year, as you can see here) is well represented in this exhibition, amongst others by this

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goose keeper, or rather goose holder which

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seems to be falling on a table, dashing all hopes for an agreeable decoration.

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An earlier work by Cotteleer is about the dubious kitsch that

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embellishes Flemish lives, which he presents in almost postmodern museum-like way.

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The intimacy of the gallery strongly adds to the appearance of the works and

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even the Karel Appel (a kind of surprise combination the gallery is very good at) on the wall might make you feel at home in an art loving place. But

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next to that colourful painting is a building by Vansteenkiste which seems to be multiplying like a diatom and

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there are two heads on a table by Cotteleer, decorative and colourful like the painting, or

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are they?

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Cami uses two sansevieria leaves for a kind of fossilised crusaders’ sword, mixing typically west-European (or Flemish) heraldry with more petty-bourgeois Flemish symbolism.

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Passing the jackdaw by Dutch artist Noortje Zijlstra (one of the gallery’s artists) i was leaving this very well arranged and somewhat absurdist exhibition

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greeted again by Cami’s failed-heroic Flemish lion and Flemish sansevieria (very Flemish but both deriving from Africa).

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

See more pictures and the full review (in Dutch) here.

Bertus Pieters

Beelden van de Binnenstad (Sculptures of the City centre); Town Hall and City centre, The Hague

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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).

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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).

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Sonja Oudendijk’s Bellevue-toren (Bellevue Tower; 1993) and Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd (Many-Head; 2010).

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All models have a short explanation (in Dutch).

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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

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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

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it starts at the moment with For whom the Bell Tolls (1993)

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by Joost van den Toorn. The title is of course

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Hemingway’s and indeed it’s a tower of resignation,

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maybe even a tower of fate and death.

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Carel Visser’s work, originally made of polystyrene,

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has an unstable appearance which would have worked better

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if the base of the pedestal wasn’t more or less floating. And that’s a problem

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with many other sculptures in the gallery, like Rien Monshouwer’s Beeld, which is constructed from the word BEELD and,

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is used as a piece of street furniture, in this case a dustbin.

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The rigidity with which the statues are placed at a twenty five meter distance of each other,

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sometimes results in a strange situation like here with Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s work (1996). This compulsive repetition

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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

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isn’t that clear enough just by that fact?.

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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,

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has added to the meaning of the sculpture, while

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the sculptures of the Ministry of Defence stand guard from quite another position at the other side of Kalvermarkt.

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Auke de Vries’ untitled sculpture (1994) gives you

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his usual aesthetics of finding harmony in unbalanced components.

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In the definitive version of Emo Verkerk’s Sperwer,

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the sparrow hawk has come down.

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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.

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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?

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Berry Holslag’s Observer is especially suitable for street corners and crossings

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and it does its present job very well. Next to it

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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.

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The new acquisition to the project Vriendinnen (Friends; 2014) by Tony van de Vorst

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has the power to become iconic with its extra pedestal, monumentalising modern day common street life. On the other hand

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you may ask what two strolling people add to all the other strolling people in the street.

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Ingrid Mol’s Binnenstadgoden (Inner City Gods; 2014) is another new acquisition and

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is based on children’s drawings about the theme and

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it is another example of the democratisation of public art.

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In the no-man’s-land in between Spui and Spuiplein,

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sculptures like Eline Vere (2012) by Thom Puckey,

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Maria Roosen’s untitled work,

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Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd,

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David Bade’s Calimero (2011) and

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Anno Dijkstra’s A Last Farewell (2011) are just trying

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not to be obsolete, in spite of their substantive and varying artistic qualities.

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Back to Karel Appel, which shows you the advantages of a non-floating pedestal.

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The other arm of Spui

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is still in limbo as the Amadeus building is not finished yet.

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So the sculptures can only add to the limbo feeling, like Jos Kruit’s work and

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EN/OF (AND/OR; 1993) by Marc Ruygrok,

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the ambiguous nature of its title underscored by its function as a parking spot for bikes.

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I followed the route to Grote Marktstraat which

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doesn’t really make one optimistic about

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its future. Because of the chaos there

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are only three sculptures of the series on show:

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Mannetje met losse ledematen (Little Man with Loose Limbs; 2003) by Tom Claassen, which

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seems to have resigned to the situation,

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Gisteren staat, Morgenstond (Yesterday stands, Tomorrow stood; 2005) by Arjanne van der Spek and

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I Love JR (2007) by André van de Wijdeven. They seem

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to stand there to show you how pieces of street furniture become street weeds, although as such they blossom well.

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Refurbishment of Grote Marktstraat will be finished by the end of the year. Stroom’s website says:

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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,

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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!

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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,

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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.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters