For over twenty-five years, the institution has both engaged with and provoked developments in contemporary art across the world. Since it was first established in 1990, the center has hosted many internationally acclaimed artists their first solo exhibitions, and has introduced numerous non-European artists to the Dutch and European art scenes. Seminal exhibitions by Hélio Oiticica (1992), Ken Lum (1990), Frederick Kiesler (1997), David Lamelas (1997), Manfred Pernice (2000), Meschac Gaba (2001), Yto Barrada (2004), Tris Vonna-Michell (2007), Saâdane Afif (2008), Geoffrey Farmer (2008), Cosima von Bonin (2011), Qiu Zhijie (2012) Alexandre Singh (2012) and AA Bronson (2013) stand as a bold reflection of this commitment.

A rich tradition of commissioning new works, installations, and performances evidences the unique ability of the center’s technical team to closely collaborate with artists to bring to life and present their work. Artists such as Angela Bulloch, Liam Gillick, Mahony, Rita McBride, Paola Pivi, Michael Portnoy, Willem de Rooij, Alexandre Singh, and Xu Zhen and have developed significant bodies of work at the institute, pushing their boundaries by working on a large scale, and exploring new media within their practice.

Each Director of the institution has contributed to forging new definitions of exhibition making. In succession, the directors Chris Dercon from 1990 to 1995, Bartomeu Marí from 1996 to 2001, Catherine David from 2002 to 2004, Hans Maarten van den Brink interim director from May 2004 to April 2006, Nicolaus Schafhausen from 2006 to 2011 and Defne Ayas from 2012 to 2017, were given the opportunity to make their personal mark on the program. In January 2018, Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy became director.

Playing host to great minds the institution has long staged an ambitious and internationally orientated public programs. The purpose is to challenge assumptions and to encourage new interpretations of artistic questions and their social context. With this mission in mind the institute has hosted field-leading thinkers such as Charles Esche, Brian Holmes, Adam Budak, Tim Griffin, Rem Koolhaas, Maria Lind, Suhail Malik, Martha Rosler, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ou Ning, Stefano Baia Curioni, Andrea Phillips, Uwe Fleckner, Sven Lütticken, Markus Miessen, Qiu Zhijie, and Willem Schinkel.

The institution has ensured a lasting footprint internationally in the form of its widely distributed and format defining publications such as the Cahiers series, which traced and expanded a year’s activity at the center, continually referenced collections of discursive programs such as Rotterdam Dialogues, and policy shaping political watersheds such as Super-diversity by Tariq Ramandan. This legacy has been continued in the form of WdW Review, a pioneering digital platform hosting editors across disparate territories, avoiding traditional centers of contemporary art, that seeks to understand how the arts might relate to economic, political and even spiritual happenings.

The institution's illustrious history as an institute at the forefront of contemporary artistic practice will be preserved and made public through an ongoing archiving project, in which artists are invited to cut through our timeline, extracting and re-amalgamating key exhibitions, texts, and artist engagements, in a series of newly commissioned works presented in exhibitions and online.