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Poetic art exhibition in Rotterdam’s docklands

This summer the Submarine Wharf in Rotterdam will play host for the third time to an extraordinary exhibition. At the invitation of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Port of Rotterdam, the Turkish-Armenian artist Sarkis will create a poetic installation measuring almost 5000m2 on the RDM campus.

Sarkis (1938), who was born in Istanbul and currently lives in Paris, is making a poetic installation entitled ‘Ballads’.  Inspired by the church interiors of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Pieter Saenredam, Sarkis will transform the wharf into a sacred meeting place. The format of the space, the special lighting and the sound of a carillon with forty-three bells will create a hallowed atmosphere. The exhibition is curated by Nicolette Gast. Last summer Elmgreen & Dragset staged their installation ‘The One & the Many’ in the Submarine Wharf and in 2010 the space was the setting for a major exhibition of works by Atelier Van Lieshout.

Sarkis’ oeuvre comprises installations in which he combines the atmosphere of Oriental mysticism with Western conceptual art. Time and memory play an important part in his work, which has been exhibited since the early 1970s at the Venice Biennale, Documenta in Kassel and the Istanbul Biennial. He recently had a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. To coincide with the installation in the Submarine Wharf, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will present a satellite exhibition of new work by Sarkis: an interpretation in watercolour on ninety-six sheets of the score of ‘Ryoanji’ by American composer John Cage (1912-1992).

Poetic meeting place
‘Ballads’ is a gesamtkunstwerk combining light, music, video, sculptures, a carillon and a library. Cage’s composition ‘Litany for the Whale’ forms a permanent backdrop to the installation, evoking the form of the submarines once built here. All the elements in Sarkis’ work support the musical narrative, in which the visitor plays a leading role. The exhibition is a total experience of colour and music, which begins the second you enter the Submarine Wharf.

Musical activities
Every Sunday there will be live music on the carillon by Frank Steijns and other musicians. On Saturdays Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will conduct guided tours of the exhibition. In addition there will be a packed programme of activities and events, including combination tours of the RDM Campus, performances and much more.

Submarine Wharf
The Submarine Wharf is a partnership between the Port of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Every summer for five years a leading contemporary artist will make a large installation specially for the space. The wharf, built in 1937, is comparable in size to the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London. The first two exhibitions in the series were by Rotterdam-based Atelier Van Lieshout in 2010 and Scandinavian art duo Elmgreen & Dragset in 2011. The Submarine Wharf is one of the Port of Rotterdam’s initiatives to bring a wider public in contact with the harbour and to improve the quality and experience of the docklands. The Submarine Wharf is part of the former Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) at Heijplaat. This piece of early-twentieth-century industrial heritage is currently being redeveloped as a centre for education, culture and innovative businesses.