A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Rotterdam: the place to be for art-lovers

I’ve perhaps been a little biased against Rotterdam – every time I’ve been it has been either pouring down, excruciatingly windy or both. However, I’d heard good things about the exhibition Hyperrealism Sculpture at the Kunsthal, which I could get in to for free with my Museumkaart. So on a day of sweltering 27-degree heat, I decided to give Rotterdam another go.

It seemed that everyone had had the same idea as me, as the train to Rotterdam was packed with tourists, including an American couple who spent the entire journey watching the Dutch countryside with awe (and commenting at one point that all Dutch houses looked like ‘tiny farmhouses’ – I guess that says something about the average size of American houses).

Arriving in Rotterdam in any weather, it’s hard not to be impressed by Centraal station. Its grand entrance, all glass and modern angles, juts into the skyline and looks doubly impressive alongside the massive office blocks next door. I set off towards the south of the city, walking along the Westersingel, a pretty 19th-century canal that was, miraculously, not destroyed by the bombing of Rotterdam during WW2. Since then the area around the canal has been improved and upgraded, and you can now wander along a designated culture-route which takes you past sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Joel Shapiro. This sculpture route seemed an ideal precursor to the Kunsthal’s exhibition, though the sculpture I would be seeing there was of another sort entirely.

Walking along the Westersingel

The Kunsthal is located inside the Museumpark, about a 20-25 minute walk from Centraal station – though it’s hard to see it at first, disguised as it is at the very back of the park. The gallery contains five exhibition spaces, and I headed straight to Hal 2, following a steady stream of people who were also curious as to what ‘hyperrealism’ might mean. On first glance inside the hall, it was hard to tell who was a visitor and who was the ‘art’ – the hyperrealist sculptures truly were outstandingly realistic. Though some were more eccentric than others – one of a naked lady appearing out of a banana skill was especially un-real – a lot of them could have truly been real people. The exhibition seemed to place different sculptures in various categories, with a piece of text to introduce them; however, most of the visitors were clearly so intrigued by the sculptures they didn’t waste time reading any kind of introductory text, heading straight towards the art to marvel at it. Overall, considering the uniqueness of the sculptures themselves, this is well worth a visit, even if you don’t have a Museumkaart.

Hyperrealist sculpture.

If you do pay entrance to the gallery, be sure to check out the other exhibitions too! At the moment the Kunsthal has an exhibition about Dutch artist Dick Bruna – famous for the creation of the cartoon rabbit Nijntje/Miffy. Bruna also designed a number of book covers for detective/mystery novels, featuring a little black bear character, and the exhibit lets you see a number of these original covers – a must-see for any aspiring graphic designers!

“We want more little bears!”

Not far from the Kunsthal is another must-see for any avid gallery-goers: the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. This gallery holds an extensive collection of art ranging from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, including contemporary pop-art from Roy Lichtenstein and Yayoi Kusama; works from Dutch masters Rembrandt and Van Gogh; and surrealist paintings from René Magritte and Salvador Dali. Boijmans van Beuningen feels much bigger than the Kunsthal, and it’s easy to get lost in amongst the endless corridors and exhibition spaces. However, if you need a break from the quirky modern art at the Kunsthal, it’s a great place to get a fill of a different kind of art.

Wandering through the gallery spaces in Boijmans.

So if you haven’t already – give Rotterdam a go. With plenty to see and do and only a short 40-minute train journey from Leiden, it’s a great alternative for when you don’t feel like battling the crowds in Amsterdam.

About Abigail@TheLeidener

I graduated from Goldsmiths in July 2016, and just a week later moved to Leiden to start my Masters in American Studies. This was a huge change from living in the bustling metropolis of London for 3 years, but a very welcome change nonetheless! Leiden also seemed the ideal place to study America, considering it was the place the Pilgrims first took residence from England before setting off for America. So far it’s been great meeting a host of other international students from around the world (including many others from the UK) and I look forward to documenting my time here through writing for The Leidener.

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