The exhibition 'Ballads' by Sarkis (Istanbul, 1938) closed on 30 September after a successful summer. In 4 months 13.000 art, culture, music and architecture lovers visited the exhibition in the former Submarine Wharf in the Port of Rotterdam. The Submarine Wharf is a project by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Port of Rotterdam.
Sarkis (1938) was born in Istanbul and has lived in Paris since the 1960s. His installation ‘Ballads’ is inspired by the seventeenth-century church interiors of Pieter Saenredam (1597-1665). Using large sculptural objects, coloured light and music, Sarkis has transformed the two halls of the industrial wharf into a unique installation, where the visitor is immersed in a world of mysticism and symbolism. There will be live concerts in the exhibition each Sunday.
An installation full of sound and color
You enter the immense space of the Submarine Wharf via a small door. You can wander through the installation on foot or explore the installation on one of the bicycles covered in white down feathers. The bicycles are arranged under a 16-meter lampshade in which a spotlight rises and falls to the rhythm of the artist’s breathing. The space is filled with the sound of a carillon with 43 bells, suspended from an architectural construction of 18 enormous tree trunks. The carillon plays the work ‘Litany for the Whale’ by avant-garde composer John Cage (1912-1992). The composition, based on the call of two whales, suggests allusions to the history of the wharf, which was once used for building submarines. The connection between the past and present is a recurring them in Sarkis’ work.
The Futuro, a futuristic holiday home from the museum’s collection, has landed in the wharf, providing the setting for Sarkis’ extraordinary films, which explore subtle changes in form and colour. At the end of the exhibition, just before the exit, Sarkis asks you to give something in return for a wonderful experience.
At the entrance to the installation you will receive a complimentary booklet about the artist and the themes explored in ‘Ballads’. The work 'Litany for the whale', played by carillon player Frank Steijns, can be downloaded here.
Satellite exhibition in the museum
To coincide with the installation in Rotterdam’s docklands, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is exhibiting new works by Sarkis. The museum is displaying 96 watercolours by the artist, based on the score of John Cage’s work ‘Ryoanji’. Sarkis has appropriated Cage’s musical notation and interpreted it in a highly personal way. The work is accompanied by a special film about Sarkis and the construction of ‘Ballads’ in the Submarine Wharf. Watch this film on the museum’s online video channel arttube.nl. Beware! The exhibition in the museum is no longer on display!
Sarkis’ work has been exhibited internationally since the early 1970s at the Venice Biennale, the Istanbul Biennial and the Documenta in Kassel. He had a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2011. During the exhibition in the Submarine Wharf Sarkis was also participating in the Paris Triennale. His installation ‘La Frise des trésors de guerre’ (The Frieze of War Trophies) was on display at the Palais de Tokyo.
Live music and more
As part of the exhibition, each Sunday the 43-bell carillon will be played by Frank Steijns. On a few Sundays there will be a special programme in which other musicians will perform together on the carillon. The museum is also organising a jazz concert, a carillon and piano concert, and a carillon and organ concert.
There are free guided tours of the exhibition every Saturday, and monthly combined tours of the exhibition and the surrounding RDM Campus. Specially for children, the museum is organising a puppet show, a children’s workshop and much more.
The Submarine Wharf
The Submarine Wharf is a unique partnership between the Port of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. For five consecutive summers a leading contemporary artist is invited to create a special installation in the Submarine Wharf. The building, constructed in 1937, is similar in size to the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London. The first two exhibitions in the series were devoted to Atelier van Lieshout (2010) and Elmgreen & Dragset (2011). The Submarine Wharf is one of the Port of Rotterdam’s initiatives to bring a broader public in contact with the harbour and to improve the quality of the docklands. The Submarine Wharf is part of the RDM Campus at Heijplaat. This early-twentieth-century industrial heritage site is currently being redeveloped for education, culture and innovative businesses. Please find more information on RDM Campus here.