This edition of Rotterdam Cultural Histories focuses on the 1980s art scene on and around the Witte de Withstraat. The exhibition presents research material, such as oral histories, as well as historic photographs and documentation of art spaces active during that decade – and just before the opening of Formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in 1990. This documentary-based exhibition is one in several upcoming projects that focuses on an ongoing research into histories of this street since 1871, when it was named Witte de Withstraat.

A street once associated with editorial offices and presses of various newspapers, for a period a destination of allegedly shady night-life; and more recently considered an art quarter, as well as a central destination for hotels, restaurants, cafés and, relatedly, of cultural tourism.

In addition to the city’s existing museums, including Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museum Rotterdam, and the Wereldmuseum, many new institutions arose in short succession during the late 1980s and 1990s: CBK Rotterdam (1982), the Maritime Museum (1986), the Dutch Architecture Institute NAi (1988), Formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (1990), the Kunsthal (1992), V2_Lab for the Unstable Media (1994), Worm (1994), M.a.M.A. (1997), TENT Rotterdam (1999).

The advent of these institutions led to the emergence, in turn, of the area’s being known as the Witte de With Kunstkwartier (‘Witte de With Art Quarter’). An important local collaboration is Kunstblock (‘Art block’), founded in 2013, which is an initiative of CBK, MAMA, TENT, V2_, Formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and WORM. Who were the predecessors of Kunstblock? This exhibition highlights the art initiatives and galleries on the Witte de Withstraat in the 1980s, examining the role they have played in shaping the art climate of today, and, no less, in the founding of our own institution.

This exhibition is curated by Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos and is part of Rotterdam Cultural Histories, a collaborative project between Formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and TENT, both housed in this building. Begun in 2014, this long-term research project focuses on studying these institution's common roots in Rotterdam.