Artists with roots in graffiti culture are given a unique platform on the grounds of the Glasfabriek, the former glass factory in Schiedam. Over 20 years ago, these artists would go out at night with a spray can, leaving their work behind on walls, doors and other places on the frayed edges of the city. Their practice developed as visual artists, as shown in this exhibition curated by design duo Opperclaes, commissioned by the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. Around 30 national and international makers exhibit in various warehouse spaces to produce their work on site

First time in the Netherlands

‘This form of art has never before been seen in the Netherlands on this scale,’ say Linda van der Vleuten and Bruce Tsai-Meu-Chong of Opperclaes. Museum director Anne de Haij adds that the exhibition links to the museum because ‘these artists make abstract work and experiment with the medium in the same way that artists such as Daan van Golden or Sol LeWitt once did, only they make work on large walls instead of canvas.’ The museum reopens at the end of spring 2022. 

Artists in action

On the immense doors and walls of the Glasfabriek warehouses, artists are showing wall and floor paintings, photographs, sculpture and video. The site also offers space for three-dimensional work including a seven-metre-high tower. In a special atelier space, you can also see artists in action, working on murals several metres high during the exhibition. You can even get to work yourself with a brush, spray can and some self-made materials.

Unique location

‘It promises to be a lively and unique spot in Schiedam,’ says De Haij of the Glasfabriek. Between 1853 and 2017, the Schiedam glass factory produced billions of glass containers, and almost every Schiedammer has a family member who once worked there. ‘It’s extra special that people can now walk around the factory site that played such an important role in the history of Schiedam.’

Signature style

Opperclaes chose makers with recognisable styles who mainly work in the abstract. Tsai-Meu-Chong explains that ‘some started as graffiti-makers under a pseudonym and now exhibit as visual artists under their own name, while others presented themselves as visual artists from the beginning. For them, it’s sometimes still a stretch to relate the contemporary art scene.’

Format

Although the artists share a love of graffiti, their work is extremely diverse. There are colourful forms by Hense and Momo, both from the US, alongside black and white work by Yann L’Outsider from France on the outside of a warehouse. Mina Hamada, an American artist who grew up in Tokyo and now lives in Spain, works more figuratively, while Dutch collective High on Type and Tunisian collective ST4 show off their typographic backgrounds with almost calligraphic letter paintings.

Experiment

Other artists experiment with self-made materials such as Daan Botlek from Schiedam, who lives just around the corner from the Glasfabriek. Jeroen Erosie has created a floor painting with line-machines which you may have seen being used for road markings. Jeroen Jongeleen has literally left his own mark on the Glasfabriek grounds after walking for hours in circles to create a path coloured by trampled green glass. You can also see a video of this process in the exhibition.

Atelier

 These works are described as post-graffiti art, a movement developing out of the graffiti scene over the past 20 years. Makers who once left their work on walls, trains or tunnels in city centres found new spaces on deserted sites on the outskirts of the city and developed as artists. They moved into empty factory buildings, using them as studios for experimentation while simultaneously broadening their palette with paint rollers, paper, stickers or video projections.

International network

At the same time, an international network emerged with a strong DIY mentality, creating underground magazines, independently organised exhibitions, international exchanges, and collaborations between artists. All this was facilitated by the rise of the first social media such as Fotolog and Flickr. Opperclaes has been following these artists and their development for quite some time.

Threshold

10 years ago, the duo started a gallery on the Claes de Vrieselaan in Rotterdam for early-career artists, illustrators, graphic designers, film-makers and photographers. Now, Opperclaes works on cultural projects in public spaces, maintaining the same name that refers to the street but also a corruption of ‘upper class’. ‘We use it to refer to the highbrow atmosphere that surrounds the art world,’ says Van der Vleuten. ‘Art is for everyone and we like to lower the threshold.’

New art

This perspective fits perfectly with the Nieuwe kunst (New art) programme, for which the museum has received a four-year government subsidy. De Haij says, ‘We want to broaden the understanding of what contemporary art is. Art is no longer created solely at an academy or in the world of galleries and museums. The Glass-Hard exhibition will show something new to people who already know the museum, and it will hopefully also appeal to audiences who have not yet found their way to us.’

Reopening

The museum reopens in spring 2022 after large-scale renovations of the monumental building by the City of Schiedam, which is taking longer than planned. The museum is still appearing all over town with Stadscocon in Sint Janskerk, Schiedam in Store in the Havenkerk, Buurtplaatjes (neighbourhood pictures) in east Schiedam, and the light projection in the Town Hall at the beginning of 2021. De Haij adds that ‘The Glasfabriek is a place that has been important to many Schiedam residents, and it’s a perfect fit for these artists.’

Selected participants

Antigoon (NL), Mike Ballard (UK), Daan Botlek (NL), David Bruce (FR), Bouke Bruins (NL), Gino Bud Hoiting (NL), Deconstructie (NL), Delta (NL), Brad Downey (US), Eltono (FR), Jeroen Erosie (NL), Will Gates (US), Mina Hamada (ES), Hense (US), High on Type (Guido de Boer, Vincent de Boer and Hans Schuttenbeld, NL), Merijn Hos & Jurriaan Hos (NL), Jeroen Jongeleen (NL), Saïd Kinos (NL), Dominique Latoel (NL), Momo (US), Naamlooozz/Krista Burger (NL), Nuria Mora (ES), Nazif Lopulissa (NL), Yann L’Outsider (FR), Onno Poiesz (NL), Joram Raaijmakers (NL), Ralph Roelse (NL), Marti Sawe (ES), ST4 (TU), Thomas & Jurgen (NL) and Job Wouters (NL).

 

Workshops and Warehouse open call

During the exhibition, visitors can participate in and follow various workshops, and young post-graffiti makers are invited to submit work for the Warehouse open call. Keep an eye on the website for updates.

What you need to know

The grounds of the Glasfabriek Schiedam are situated at Buitenhavenweg 146, against the historic heart of the city and a seven-minute walk from the temporarily closed Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. The Koemarkt tram stops a few minutes’ walk from the Glasfabriek and there is paid parking next to the site. The exhibition opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 to 17:00. Online tickets are available soon, you can also buy a ticket at the entrance.

Cooperation

Opperclaes, DeVrijerVanDongen, Stickit, FFONO, Yets Foundation, De buurtvrouw

With thanks to