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Boijmans honours gigantic art space: Submarine Wharf
Submarine Wharf. Photo: Thijs de Lange.

ROTTERDAM.- Between 2010 and 2013 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen reconnoitred its borders in Rotterdam’s dockland. The Port of Rotterdam gave the museum the chance to use the 5,000 m2 Submarine Wharf as an open house for talent and new challenges. The museum is honouring this project with a book, recording the layers of history in this unique place.

The lavishly illustrated publication looks back over the four-year Submarine Wharf project with individual essays and splendid images from the four exhibitions. Director Sjarel Ex has written about the creation of the joint venture between the port and the museum and Maartje Berendsen - project manager for art at the Port of Rotterdam Authority for the four exhibitions - has written an essay on the history of the RDM site. There will be an intimate display on the four exhibitions in the museum to coincide with the book’s launch. A combination of photographic documentation, essays and videos paints a picture of the different exhibitions. The videos can also be watched on

Grand Gesture
The ground-breaking joint venture between the Port of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was the basis of a large-scale project that attracted more than 70,000 visitors in its four-year life. ‘A traditional museum building in which magnificent, but fragile collections are held has its limitations - particularly when it comes to programming contemporary art. Artists continually shift their perspective, in space and in time, and are always trying to explore and exploit new materials and techniques,’ said director Sjarel Ex. The shed in the docks was the ideal place for the guest artists to tackle the challenge of the immense space and make grand gestures.

Four Exhibitions
Atelier van Lieshout set the ball rolling with ‘Infernopolis’ - the first time that its radical Cradle to Cradle philosophy could be seen so spectacularly. The Norwegian-Danish duo Elmgreen & Dragset transformed the shed with ‘The One & The Many’ in a theatrical set deprived of daylight, where actors sought interaction with the visitors. Sarkis, the Franco-Armenian artist, was asked to present the third exhibition and made ‘Ballads’. He ‘read’ the shed and made maximum use of the light, the colour and the acoustics. ‘XXXL Painting’, the fourth and final exhibition in 2013, was about painting on a massive scale. The hall was split up into three artists’ studios which were open to the public. Klaas Kloosterboer, Chris Martin and Jim Shaw, who all make very large works, gave their personal visions of painting.

Visionary Entrepreneurship
This joint venture gave Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen the opportunity to realize a groundbreaking international programme. Entrepreneurship is a major tool for making these kinds of exhibitions possible. ‘There is no finer way to link the people of Rotterdam with the port,’ commented Hans Smits, former CEO of the Port of Rotterdam and one of the initiators of the project.

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