In Constant Motion - Richard Serra’s ‘Waxing Arcs’

Richard Serra, Waxing Arcs, 2014. Photo: Nieuwe Beelden Makers.

press release

In Constant Motion - Richard Serra’s ‘Waxing Arcs’
21 October 2014

This autumn visitors will be immersed in projections, audio and moving images that reveal the hidden story behind ‘Waxing Arcs’. A 13-minute multimedia presentation about this work by Richard Serra is being shown in the street-side gallery.

‘Waxing Arcs’ by Richard Serra (b. San Francisco, 1939) is composed of two rusty steel arcs in an otherwise empty gallery. It is one of the most striking works of art in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen collection, but at the same time it is one of the least understood. A multimedia presentation, a symposium and a film programme offer the visitor insight into the history of this eye-catching work. Curator Saskia van Kampen-Prein spent a year carrying out preparatory research for the exhibition. This served as the basis for an exceptional multimedia presentation that she developed in association with IJsfontein, a project that was supported by the Mondriaan Fund and the BankGiro Loterij.

In a state of flux
The multimedia presentation considers the way in which works of art change over time.
Serra created this work in 1980 for his solo exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Shortly thereafter, the museum acquired the work with the support of the Fonds W. van Rede. Through his precise positioning of the arcs in the gallery, Serra wanted the public to experience the space in a different way. Over subsequent years the museum’s architecture, including the gallery for which Serra originally created the work, has been substantially altered on several occasions. At one point this gallery served as the museum’s entrance foyer. In addition, the original staircase between the arcs was replaced by a sloping walkway, the ceiling was raised and the tiled floor was replaced by concrete. Even the work itself has been modified: on Serra’s request, the original arcs have been replaced by new arcs with different dimensions. This second version is a metre or so higher and half a centimetre thicker than the original work, and is therefore better attuned to the gallery’s new dimensions. The current space is twice as large as the gallery was in 1980 and is occasionally used to display other works of art.

Saskia van Kampen-Prein, curator: “With this exhibition we are keen to show that the appearance and meaning of works of art are not fixed, but that they change. Employing multimedia techniques allows us to project all the changes to the work and the building to actual size in the gallery. This mode of presentation also fits well with the artist’s desire to leave the space around the work as empty as possible. After each showing, the work of art can be appreciated in its full glory in an empty exhibition space. This allows visitors to experience the work as Serra intended, armed with the knowledge they have gained from the multimedia presentation.”

Mondriaan Fund: “It is the film fragments in the presentation that capture Serra’s ideas and the history of this work most arrestingly. 'In Constant Motion' therefore dovetails well with the importance that the Mondriaan Fund attaches to inspiring presentations which afford the work greater visibility.''

BankGiro Loterij: “With the support of the participants in the BankGiro Loterij – the culture lottery of the Netherlands - we are keen to contribute to making the collection accessible.”

On 14 November 2014, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is hosting a symposium in association with the Stichting Behoud Moderne Kunst (SBMK, the Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art) to cast light on several Serra works owned by Dutch museums. The speakers are restorers and curators who work at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Kröller-Müller Museum, the Bonnefanten Museum (in association with Maastricht University), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, SBMK and freelance art historian Jan van Adrichem.

There are seven site-specific works by Serra in Dutch collections, as well as a number of early works that use rubber and neon, drawings and films. Besides ‘Waxing Arcs’, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has seven films, five videos and four drawings by Serra in its collection.