Contemporary art has a history too. Under the header Rotterdam Cultural Histories, Witte de With and TENT present a series of small presentations to highlight the treasures that hide in libraries and archives to give glimpses of the lively contemporary art of the past in Rotterdam. These vignettes are presented in a vitrine that was originally made for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and that today can be found in several Rotterdam art institutes.

“With Rotterdam Art News a part – a living part – of Dutch culture looks for contact with foreign countries. The network through which communication takes place within the global village thus acquires another link” wrote then Director of the Rotterdamse Kunst Stichting (RKS) Adriaan van der Staay in 1972 in English in the introduction of the first edition of Rotterdam Art News (R.A.N.).

Initiated by writer and critic Jan Donia and edited in collaboration with curators Gosse Oosterhof and Johannes van der Wolk, the publication R.A.N. sought to bring the new art in Rotterdam way beyond the borders of the city to find like-minded pioneers abroad. Part elaborate newsletter of the city’s art scene, part mail art project in itself, R.A.N. gives a beautiful cross section of the scene of the early 1970s. Twelve issues of R.A.N. were published in total, between 1972 and 1974, a time when both the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Poetry International just realized their first editions, galerie ‘t Venster was showing the new developments in contemporary art, and the art space of the RKS, the Lijnbaancentrum (1970-1982), was rising to international fame because of its highly advanced video colour studio. In these years the Rotterdam art scene was small (some say maximum 70 artists and organizers in total) and tightly knit, with many collaborations and crossovers. In those years fertile seeds were sown for the flourishing and diverse scene of today. The thematic setup of R.A.N. reflects these developments, and its pages present an image of an art scene that is bold, energetic and ready to venture out in to the world.

R.A.N. was the follow up of the semimonthly artist’s book series Atlas voor een Nieuwe Metropool, that Jan Donia edited for the Lijnbaancentrum in 1971/1972. Just like R.A.N., these publications were sent (for free) by mail to several hundred addresses. Unlike R.A.N., this series was not designed to inform about art, but contained art projects in its envelopes, pushing the boundaries of what an artwork could be and how it could be (re)presented. With both projects the RKS proved to be a governmental pioneer in recognizing the possibilities of printed matter for the distribution and production of new forms of art and the discourse surrounding it.

Rotterdam Cultural Histories is a collaborative project between TENT and Witte de With that explores our common roots in Rotterdam and articulates meeting points between both of our programs. Rotterdam Cultural Histories #1: R.A.N. will be followed by a second vignette in 2014.

Rotterdam Cultural Histories #1 was researched and compiled by Annick Kleizen. Advisor for Rotterdam Cultural Histories is Hans Walgenbach. Artist Wim Gijzen collected the full edition of R.A.N. and Atlas voor een nieuwe metropool – in both of which he is represented – and we are grateful that we can show his copies. Many thanks to Jan Donia, Gosse Oosterhof, Johannes van der Wolk, Adriaan van der Staay, and all artists and organizers who shook up the art in Rotterdam and made it evolve into the lively and many-faceted scene that we know today.