What is Witte de With? This internationally-oriented contemporary art institution, based in Rotterdam, has assumed several identities over the years. It is often seen as an authored space, wrought by the personalities and passions of its directors – to date Chris Dercon, Bartomeu Marí, Catherine David, interim director Hans Maarten van den Brink and, most recently, Nicolaus Schafhausen. With the newly appointed director – Defne Ayas – there is renewed speculation about the possibilities of this mercurial space for art.
Encapsulating the multiple potentials of an art institution, 20+ YEARS WITTE DE WITH, is a richly illustrated survey publication that appears in English and Dutch versions. The book includes essays by the Dutch journalist Koen Kleijn, the British scholar and curator Andrew Renton and the Canadian artist Ken Lum – offering distinct hypotheses onto the institution’s past, present and future from three art world agents who have engaged with Witte de With on different levels. These external perspectives are followed by our year-by-year account – in images and texts – of every exhibition, book, education project and public event produced by Witte de With to date. Additionally, there are extensive listings of all staff and board members as well as an index of the over 2000 artists, curators, writers, designers, musicians, activists and more, who have contributed to the institution’s program over the years – names that reveal the sheer extent of talented people who have shaped and have in turn been shaped by Witte de With.
Work on this book begun in a year of jubilant 20th anniversary celebrations and it has been two years in the making. In the intervening period, the stakes of the project have changed, as the current Dutch government’s rhetoric of dismissal and radical funding cuts threaten to undo decades of dynamic cultural development. However, the “+” in our title (added to indicate that the cut-off date of this publication exceeds the 20 year anniversary that occasioned it) can be read as a signal of our confidence in the surplus value of art and – by extension – in Witte de With’s fu