Tea for Two(thousand)

The Teapot
The western side of town is a mess of construction and renovation these days. As well as the construction of the new concert hall, the train station and the mall are in the process of being renovated. They’re also turning a road, which used to be part of the canal that ringed the city, back into a canal. As you can see, it’s a jumble of concrete, rebar, and who knows what else.

Yet if you look a little closer at all the construction, you’re likely to notice something a bit unusual.
The Teapot
It’s hard not to suddenly feel like the world’s gone a bit topsy-turvy and that perhaps you’ve ended up at the Mad Tea Party after imbibing something that makes you small. You may still be a bit mad, but at least you’re not seeing things. That is, indeed, a giant teapot on the roof of the Hoog Catharijne shopping center.

Why is a 7-meter-tall teapot standing on the roof of the mall? It’s part of a public art initiative titled Call of the Mall and is organized by the Foundation for Art in the Station Area in collaboration with the Municipality of Utrecht. The exhibition, which officially opens on 20 June, will feature 25 works of art placed throughout the mall and train station. Some are indoors, some are outdoors, and some are performances and presentations.

The Celestial Teapot by Lily van der Stokker represents the small, intimate aspects of daily life juxtaposed against the architectural destruction and aggressive consumerism. An interesting piece that was installed this week (unfortunately only a day after I was there) is a representation of the iconic man who stood in front of the tanks at Tienanmen Square. A thought-provoking piece when considered in the light of trying to make a stand against rampant capitalism and development, particularly with the current situation in Turkey.

The goal of the exhibition seems to be a collection of international works of art that reflect the times we live in, politically, emotionally, economically, and structurally. The location — the Hoog Catharijne, Europe’s largest indoor shopping center — is an interesting site for the exhibit.

When it was first constructed 40 years ago, it was considered innovative and exciting, but eventually came to be thought of by many as a massive eyesore. As the Call of the Mall website says, you either love it or hate it. The past 40 years have certainly seen a shift in thinking. Rather than closing off more canals and making them into roads, canals are being reopened while cars are being pushed further out of the city center. Progress means something different, in many ways, to what it once meant.

Hopefully these works of art will contribute to the discussion about what roles art and commerce should play in the future and how they can co-exist for the betterment of all. I like that amid all the rubble, there are these works of art of all sizes that can stop and make you think or simply just smile. After all, is a bit more beauty in the world such a bad thing?

You can read more about the whole project (in Dutch and English) at the official Call of the Mall website, which includes information on other works of art that will be on display.
The Teapot

13 thoughts on “Tea for Two(thousand)

  1. Interesting post and an interesting art project. It reminds me of the giant UFO sitting on the “Inktpot” building. Utrecht seems to have a taste for unusual art, it pops up everywhere! As for Hoog Catherijne, I can see how once the mall was seen as something exciting and modern. Now, thankfully, people are reconsidering our seemingly endless consumerism (though the plan for shops opening on Sundays still went ahead…). Never knew it was the biggest indoor mall in Europe btw. The biggest and the ugliest for that matter, I for one wouldn’t care if they decided to get rid of the whole thing. Anyway, nice post.

    • The UFO is still my favorite, but it’s fun to have the teapot hanging out on a roof now, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve seen video of the opening of the Hoog Catharijne and I can understand how it was seen as the way forward. Just a shame that it became outdated so quickly. Hopefully the new construction will last a bit longer!

    • It is nice to have these little surprises that put a smile on your face, especially when they’re creative as they often are here in Utrecht.

  2. I love the teapot! I alos love Hoog Catherijne mall. They broke ground on it just aroudn the time we returned to Holland from Australia, and it was done a year or two later. I went to school in Bilthoven, and some of my friends hung out at Hoog Catherijne, the den of iniquity, or at least of drug dealers, according to my parents and grandparents. So I never got to hang out there with my friends. But I did go shopping there with my mother a lot, and later by myself. Either way, it was a part of my life in Holland. Getting off the train and buying a broodje filet americain, browsing through Xenos. I saw My Fair Lady there with my grandfather when I was 14. Because I wasn’t allowed to go see it with my friends. Because of the drugs. Anyway, yes, it’s ugly from the outside, but I would hate to see it go.

    • I would think the bigger risk would be in getting lost, rather than drug dealers! I still get turned around when I’m there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your personal experience with the place. It adds a whole new dimension.

  3. Pingback: Utrecht โ€“ Part 2 | ghoti industries

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