During the launch of Art route Hoogvliet, which took place on May 24, 2023 in Art Studio Hoogvliet, art historian Sandra Smets talked about the special collection of artworks in Hoogvliet. This essay is a written translation of her lecture, in which she makes connections between the works of Dick Elffers, Gust Romijn, Chris Elffers and Bob Bonies. The art route along sixteen statues is here download.

When asked which of the former sub-municipalities in Rotterdam have enough art for their own art route, Hoogvliet is the most logical answer. After all, here it saysthe anteaterCalder's. That is a sculpture that you would expect to find in major museums such as the MoMA in New York or Center Pompidou in Paris, but instead it is located on the corner of Aveling and Venkelweg in Hoogvliet. Center Pompidou will close soon for renovations, but Hoogvliet will always remain open.

Calder is an international name from the art history books. Yet that is not necessarily the only work of art with which Hoogvliet can be associated. At least as characteristic, there is a relative newcomer, namely the ceramic relief by Dick Elffers. That is perhaps even more unique than Calder's image. Elffers was a versatile artist who painted and designed posters and more, but who also made a monumental facade sculpture for a rubber factory in Pernis that was unveiled in 1960. It is a work that still clearly demonstrates the high artisanal quality that characterized monumental art at the time. It has now hung outside for more than sixty years, in all weathers, and the colors are still so bright that it does not seem as if they have faded even slightly. When the facade relief moved to Hoogvliet ten years ago, it became a colorful eye-catcher in the shopping centre. Presumably it was much more colorful and striking in Pernis at the time. That factory site of an oil company at a time when there were no environmental requirements, would have looked nothing like this harmony of man and nature as depicted by Elffers here, with an ox, a cat, a bird, a fish and a snake .

And these are not the only museum artists from whom Hoogvliet has works of art. For example, a very atypical ceramic mural by Jan Schoonhoven, known for his white geometric grids of repeating rectangles and squares, hangs on a wall on the Berkelmanspad. That is what this work of art is here, on a small blind facade, almost a polar opposite. The shape is different, just like the material, color and content: based on cave drawings of prehistoric hunting scenes. It's amazing that Schoonhoven made such a work, and it's even more amazing that it can be found here. If you walk down the street in Hoogvliet, you suddenly see this scene between a parking lot and a nursery, unexpected in every way.

What is also special is that this work of art is in pretty good company in Hoogvliet, in the sense that there are more works of art about such a primeval world. This also applies, of course, to the relief by Elffers, which is even literally called that (The primordial world of the animal compared to the synthetic world), and there are more. Gust Romijn made in 1965 The infinite house, a statue that does indeed look like a house and that you can sit in, inspired by the houses of the Flintstones. This dolmen-like construction is appropriately situated on the edge of the Ruigeplaatbos forest, because he wanted to show that a relationship between living and nature is an achievable goal. There is another related sculpture by Romijn in Rotterdam, which stood for a long time in a park in Zuid and has since been relocated at the entrance to the Erasmus MC. In the early XNUMXs, Romijn lived in America and returned to the Netherlands for a few assignments, especially these two sculptures. They were therefore not just images, but statements. The artwork in the Ruigeplaatbos became a fluid structure because Romijn, like other artists, was angry about how cities were built: boring, functional, grey, unimaginative. This image was therefore intended as a counter-reaction to show that things could be done differently, images that are hospitable and organic, intended to crawl into and seek shelter. Art, in short, against the dehumanization of the world.

Also related to this Growth community by Chris Elffers from 1971, which is located in the shopping center in Hoogvliet. It is a free form that seems to expand in all directions and from which it is not really possible to measure anything else, because it is everything, or could represent everything. This, too, has been compared to a pre-worldly being, from an imaginary prehistoric age. This lush bronze sculpture should be sturdy enough to climb on: the Kralingse sculptor Elffers has made an effort to make this bulging strange shape strong enough. He started with chicken wire, covered it with clay, then applied a layer of plaster, then a layer of wax, then plaster again, melted the wax and filled the voids with bronze. The bulges can, according to the title, grow into so much more, as Hoogvliet was growing considerably at the time and the youth would also do that. Unintentionally, the sculpture was nicknamed 'Klim-op' for clambering children and is affectionately referred to as the 'Double rhinoceros', 'Failed dino' or 'Giant hedgehog'.

These few images on the theme of nature and the primeval world form an interesting ensemble and at the same time are only a small part of the range that Hoogvliet has. Because there are also images that go in a completely different direction, that are strict and geometric, that do want to participate in the architecture. Like it statue by Bert Meinen from 1983 for the former fire station: sleek abstract posts of stainless steel with a piece of fire brigade red. The 1980s were clearly a different era and you can see that in the equally sleek statue by Bob Bonies for the police station, from 1988. This appeared at a time of functional and impersonal architecture, accompanied by a functional-looking art. A powerful vertical sculpture as the centerpiece of the space, but designed for the accompanying police station. Bonies had a staircase and architectural elements return in the seven-metre-high work of art.

Police stations in Rotterdam were remarkably often given strict, geometric-looking art and the requirements were also strict. Bonies was told the statue should be low maintenance, not encourage climbing and falling, and stand out so people can easily find the police station. The fact that this so matter-of-fact work of art was also popularly nicknamed the 'yes-man', seems to be a sign that it has really become accepted, something that is not self-evident for this kind of abstract environmental art.

And there are more nicknames, often also mentioned on the roadmap presented by BKOR and SIR. This shows how much interesting can be found in the public space of Hoogvliet and how many connections can be drawn between those works of art, making this collection clearly a time document. It tells about the history of Hoogvliet and about the ideas that lived at the time it was built. This makes it not only art history, but also reflects a solidified urban history.

Sandra Smets is an art historian and journalist.