When they were building the campus in the 1960s, some people were less enamoured of all those grey buildings.” According to Cora Boele, the curator of EUR’s academic heritage, this is the – surprisingly pragmatic – reason why we can now find so much art in and around the EUR complexes.
A committee headed by Professor Piet Sanders, the founder of EUR’s legal faculty commemorated in the eponymous building, invited artists to add colour to the grey, concrete behemoths on campus. “Indeed, that’s why a large share of the art on campus stems from the late ’60s. At that time, they asked a number of big names to create works for the university.
↑ Untitled, Karel Appel, 1969 – Many visitors probably don’t give a second thought to the tile tableau on the facade of the former H Building. But La Rivière (see photo) is impressed. “That’s what makes it so impressive: the fact that the work integrates with the rest of the building and that everyone takes it for granted. Those bright colours contrast so beautifully with the rock-hard, grey edifice. It’s a one-two punch. I like to think of it as a big flip-off against the surrounding architecture.”
↑ Ogenblikken, Willem Oorebeek, 2015 – It may come as a surprise for many students whiling away the hours in Polak, but the ‘mirror walls’ along the building’s rear walls are actually works of art. “They don’t really come into their own. The art integrates too strongly with the rest of the building for this. I’m not sure if I like it, but it’s pleasant enough. Each time round, the reflection results in a different image. The work interacts very strongly with the lines of the building itself. I would recommend going to the top floor. There’s natural lighting there, which makes for a far more enjoyable viewing experience.”
The required funding was secured via the ‘Fine Arts Percentage Act’, which had been adopted in the mid-20th century. “The law requires around 1 percent of the construction budget for public buildings to be spent on art. This is still the case – although the scheme is occasionally overlooked.” Despite this trend, the new buildings at Woudestein are also full of art. A special committee decides which works are acquired and keeps an eye on the existing collection. “This committee also includes members from outside the university. This way, we can avoid situations where, for example, a dean says ‘I like this sculpture – I’m going to buy it’. The dean is free to do so, but with his or her own money, for his or her own room.”
In other words, there’s more than enough art on campus. But is it actually worth checking out after a long day’s work or study? EM invited the Rotterdam-based artist and expert Gyz La Rivière to compile a list of his favourite works in the University collection. A tour of these highlights elicited feelings of joy, frustration, admiration and amazement.
↑ Rotterdam in keramiek, Piet van Stuyvenberg, 1969 – The artist is a bit miffed about the location of this work, hidden behind a little fence next to the entrance to Erasmus Building: “This is a horrible site. It almost feels as if you’re trespassing when you go over to look at it. It deserves a far better spot – because it’s actually a fine work. In terms of shape and materials, this circle contrasts very nicely with the concrete and the surrounding area. The three red dots indicate where you can find Woudestein, Hoboken and Erasmus’s place of birth. Nice idea.”ven’t observed any impact on the temperature (yet).
↑ Etende mensen, Lucebert, 1969 – La Rivière isn’t very happy with the site, the hallway between the Aula and the Theil Building. “The work was created for a student cafeteria in the Tinbergen Building. Which would suit it far better than this location. Here, you don’t have enough room to actually view it. But you have to see it in the context of when it was made. Those post-war fellows were overwhelmed by everything that was going on. Which is why they painted happy, eating people, for example. It’s a very childlike search for innocence and freedom.” Besides being a major Dutch artist, Lucebert is also a famous poet. “He wrote one of the most famous lines of poetry in Rotterdam: ‘Everything of value is defenceless’. The neon sign was recently put up again at Blaak.”
↑ Zonder Titel, Dick Elffers, 1969 – The artist is silent for a moment when he sees the three white reliefs on the walls of the Theil Building. “Wow. This is very beautiful. Made by the brother of one of the building’s architects. This concept didn’t really work out in Polak earlier – but it works here. The work is an integral part of the building. Wham: that white really comes to the fore. It’s a very solid work. And it doesn’t seem dated at all. This has to be the finest work on campus.”
↑ Tegelwand, Bouke Ylstra, 1969 – The artist is silent for a moment when he sees the three white reliefs on the walls of the Theil Building. “Wow. This is very beautiful. Made by the brother of one of the building’s architects. This concept didn’t really work out in Polak earlier – but it works here. The work is an integral part of the building. Wham: that white really comes to the fore. It’s a very solid work. And it doesn’t seem dated at all. This has to be the finest work on campus.”
↑ Wandreliëf(s), Cor van Kralingen, 1959 – When we go over to Hoboken, in the central hall of Erasmus MC opposite AKO, we find a number of reliefs ‘hidden’ in the planters. “It’s nice that this work is back, because for a long time, you could find it hanging near the main entrance to Dijkzicht Hospital. The reliefs show developments in medical science through the years. It suits the hospital very well. They hardly make this kind of thing anymore, and it’s very different to the other works on display. And a lot more people can enjoy this kind of thing, because it is very representational.” However, the artist does complain again about the site itself. “It would have been a lot better if the work had been presented at a nice location in the hall, and people had been offered a bit more space to view it.”
↑ ‘Coolsingelziekenhuis in de vuurzee’, Louis van Roode, 1961 – “The average person entering the hospital via the main entrance wouldn’t even notice this work. Which is a pity, because it’s very nice. The mosaic work shows the old Coolsingel Hospital, which stood on the present site of the Donner bookstore. There’s nothing left of it besides a little gateway near the spring roll seller’s stand on Lijnbaan.” According to La Rivière, the mosaic is ‘very well made’. “That’s why it deserves a more prominent site.”