Mikado (1975) André Volten

photo Otto Snoek
About the artwork

“Plastic of pipes decorates Zestienhoven”, is the headline in the NRC Handelsblad of June 26, 1975, and then: “Seen from the air, the Rotterdam airport has been given a striking station building. Although the Rotterdam city council decided four years ago that the Rotterdam airport should be closed, the work of art was nevertheless created on the basis of the percentage regulation that must provide artistic decoration for new buildings. The new station building has been there since 1970 ”. The Amsterdam artist André Volten had been involved in the negotiations about his artwork for ten years by then. Because when Zestienhoven airport still seemed to have a flourishing future, he had made a first design for a series of advertising towers (in line with his 'Communication column' for Central Station). But these were too expensive, and a second design with a smaller set-up was not approved either, because the small airport would attract few advertisers. The discussion about the need for a work of art for an airport that was doomed to close lasted for years (in the early 1970s the airport was losing millions each year). Nevertheless, Volten was given the definitive assignment in 1974, while alderman Jan Riezenkamp still considered the work unnecessary. PvdA councilor Gerrit Schilder, however, saw the object as a memorial that could embellish a new residential area in Zestienhoven in the future (Schilder would later become director of CBK Rotterdam from 1983 - 1989). Volten took this uncertain future into account in his design. He made his design from black pipes, which could be moved without many technical problems. And they would also come into their own in another, spacious place. After years of uncertainty, the approximately 750 employees at the airport were so frustrated by the municipal closure plans that they could not bear any appreciation for the artwork. The tube plastic, which should give an impression of the ascending and descending air traffic in all directions, is more likely to be regarded as an “example of a collapsing airport”, Het Vrije Volk reports on July 3, 1975. “Not impressed by the sleek, shiny metal, one speaks of an untidy heap of tubes and the tube plastic was nicknamed 'Mrs. Van der Louw's knitting needles'. But the airport would continue to exist and change its name to Rotterdam The Hague Airport years later. The work received appreciation and the unofficial title 'Mikado'. It was stored for years during renovation work, restored and in 2016 it was placed back in the water. If you drive to the airport, you will still see this striking landmark.

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About the artist

André Volten (Andijk, 1925 - Amsterdam, 2002) was one of the most important post-war Dutch sculptors. He developed a non-figurative sculpture with a lot of stainless steel. In the 1950s and 1960s, his work was characteristic of new developments in art. He has appeared in, among other places, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and in Duisburg, in group exhibitions and solo. In the public space he made many freestanding sculptures with a geometric design language. He has made seven works of art for Rotterdam. In 1966 he received the important oeuvre prize from the Fund for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.

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