The wallpaper is making a comeback at Art Rotterdam

While the first visitors to Art Rotterdam pass by on Wednesday afternoon, Jurjen Galema is preparing for a transformation. Sitting on a stool, the visual artist paints his face. He is still wearing sloppy pants and plastic slippers with a large ALDI logo on his nose. But before long, Galema strolls through the art fair in a black wig, a colorful dress and pumps like his alter ego Lola Lasagne. As the drag queen, he wants to draw attention to the large, soft sculptures at his nightclub La Lola, with which he interprets stories of gender, identity and addiction. One of the sculptures is Father Bjørna grinning bear with a gold earring and a heart-shaped ‘father’ tattoo on his buttocks.

Inez (van Lamsweerde) & Vinoodh (Matadin) (1963 and 1961): Gentlewoman2011 (portrait of American artist Cindy Sherman) at The Ravestijn Gallery.

Galema is one of the young artists on prospects, an exhibition curated by the Mondriaan Fund, which is one of the many attractive side dishes from Art Rotterdam for the tenth time in a row. This year, 88 new artists will present themselves to a large audience in the Van Nelle factory’s distribution center and dispatch building.

In addition to 30-year-old Galema, there are a striking number of other artists who display works of art made from textiles. Walls and rugs, but also works of art made from clothes, recycled yarn and rope waste. Art Rotterdam, by far the most important Dutch fair for modern and contemporary art, thus confirms what has been clear for some time: The Wallpaper is experiencing a comeback.

It also appears from the offer at the main fair. More than ten of the more than one hundred participating galleries offer textile art for sale. The Lumen Travo stand probably houses the fair’s largest tapestry: a 3.5 by 6 meter large work of glittering yarn by the African artist Otobong Nkanga, which is also on display at the Venice Biennale.

Stand during the press screening of Art Rotterdam.
Photo ANP / Jeroen Jumelet

Art dealer Willem Baars (“Textile is hip”) has a fifty-year-old collection of works of art found by Krijn Giezen. Gallery M. Simon’s wickerwork of painted linen by Nazif Lopulissa. Design gallery Vivid shows the well-known sofa bed by Martin Visser in a new coat: with a long-haired upholstery fabric dyed in flower power colors by designer Richard Hutten. Rarely is furniture so cute.

At Koch & Bos, the visitor walks across a floor covering with a large print of a young mother with her baby on her arm, part of the installation The work of love by Sarah Maple. In addition to the cloth, this installation consists of 650 edited screenshots representing the same number of breastfeeds over a period of three months. Raising a child is seen as a woman’s job. While she, according to Maple, speaks in a small accompanying publication, it is an underpaid and underrated job: hard work!

At the Paris Gallery Binome there are large tapestries with underwater scenes by the Frenchman Laurence Aëgerter. Like most other tapestries at the fair, they were made in TextielLab, the workshop at TextielMuseum in Tilburg. Aëgerter explains his work. She does not follow a fashion trend, she says: “I have been making textiles for twenty years. I paint with wires. ”

She is looking for innovation in the tradition, says Aëgerter. She has transformed underwater images of swimmers at coral reefs into blankets with a computer-controlled tissue. Using materials like lurex and fluorescent yarn, her tapestries look different during the day than at night, she explains.

Sheila Hicks (1934): Diaspora2022 (different types of textiles) at EenWerk.

Sheila Hicks

A special feature of Art Rotterdam is that a stand is dedicated to one of the modern masters of textile art: the American Sheila Hicks, who lives in Paris. The now 88-year-old artist has been known since the 1960s for her innovative and experimental fabrics, with which she has blurred the boundaries between art, architecture and design.

Gallery owner Julius Vermeulen from EenWerk in Amsterdam went to Paris and got a dozen works by Hicks. That his wife, the graphic designer Irma Boom, drew a large book by Hicks in 2006, and that they therefore knew each other, must have helped, says Vermeulden. The weaves, sometimes in beige or white and sometimes in bold colors, will undoubtedly belong to Art Rotterdam’s most precious works of art with prices up to 160,000 euros. “Her work really is not getting cheaper,” Vermeulen reassures a visitor.

Art Rotterdam† Until 19/5 from 11-19 at the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam. Tickets for 22.50 euros are only available online. Reservations via: An exhibition catalog is available at

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