Art Zuid Sculpture Biennial 2019

There are always many things going on in Amsterdam and the sheer amount of events can be overwhelming, even for the well-informed local, let alone for a casual visitor. Therefore we at Historical Amsterdam Tours would like to provide you with information and tips on the events that really deserve your attention. Art Zuid is certainly one of those. 

Sculptures in the public space

This outdoor sculpture exhibition is held every two years in the south of Amsterdam. At first hand it might not sound so appealing to everyone, because what can one expect from a number of sculptures being placed on the street for couple of months?

Well, in fact, a lot. When the exhibition had just opened I went to take a look and was truly impressed with what I encountered. Nearly a hundred sculptures and art installations have been placed on the streets of the south of Amsterdam, starting at Museum Square, all the way to Amsterdam South WTC. The focal point of the exhibition is at Apollolaan and Minervalaan, here you’ll see artworks everywhere you look.

Sometimes contemporary art can be daunting and it has the tendency to vex spectators with self-referential, impenetrable pieces that often seem to ridicule the very notion of art itself. I’ll never forget the time I visited a contemporary art museum in Frankfurt with a friend who said to me ‘if this piece of yellow electricity wire, that is hanging from the ceiling, is a piece of art, then I’m done for today.’ We found a sign that indicated that we were indeed looking at something that had been designated as a piece of art – and left.

Enfant terribles in art

Some earlier editions of Art Zuid did have quite a lot of artworks that did not seem to want to involve, nor inspire the viewer. But this year the curators Michiel Romeyn and Jhim Lamoree have done a truly impressive job. Michiel Romeyn is a Dutch actor, comedian and visual artist. He and his friend Jhim Lamoree, who’s an art historian, used to present a television program about art. That this year’s Art Zuid has been curated by people who know a lot about art, are well connected in the art world and have a great sense of humor, becomes obvious when viewing the artworks. 

    “There is no lack of humor at this exhibition

From the whimsical, ridiculous gherkin and sausage sculptures of the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, to the preposterous self-aggrandizing artworks of Flemish enfant terrible Jan Fabre, the giant thumb of César and the dark irony of Wim Delvoye’s Twisted Jesus, there is no lack of humor at this exhibition. But there are also many well crafted, esthetically pleasing artworks from esteemed artists such as Armando, Jaume Plensa, Nic Jonk and even Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol – who’s fabulous lead sculpture La Rivière must not have been easy to insure for an outside event such as this.

I was also impressed by four humanoid bronze figures that were crafted by the Dutch artist Henk Visch. They are like memories of dreams: poetic and melancholic. An interesting look into the future of art is provided by two artworks of the young Flemish sculptor Nick Ervinck, who creates his art with the use of cutting edge digital design and printing technologies.

Thinking of Rodin

When looking at the sculptures of this young Flemish artist and thinking back at all the different styles of art I had seen at Art Zuid, I realized that it’s an exhibition that provides a complete overview of the evolution of sculpting since the late 19th century until today. Modern sculpting began with Auguste Rodin, who started to mass produce sculptures, which is how one of the twenty-two copies of the thinker ended up in the south of Amsterdam. And as an art form, it has adapted to the times with remarkable ease and tenacity and can now be seen in its most contemporary form in the work of artists such as Henk Visch, Wim Delvoye and Nick Ervinck.

All in all: an exhibition that any modern art museum could be jealous of, freely accessible for everyone, at any time of the day, on the streets of Amsterdam Zuid, until September 15 2019. Book your private Art Zuid tour here.

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