Charlie and the Golden Calf

Gouden Kalf
The annual Nederlands Film Festival is going on right now, and since the Stadschouwburg is undergoing renovation, the Gouden Kalf (Golden Calf) statue has been moved to Neude this year. Neude has always been one of the spots for the film festival. Pippo and I used to go check out the setup in years past. This year, the old postkantoor (post office) is also being used for some of the festival events. Charlie and I took a walk over yesterday morning to see the sights.
Gouden Kalf
Nederlands Film Festival
Nederlands Film Festival
While the Gouden Kalf was one of the things I wanted to see on the walk, my main destination was the square behind the Stadhuis. I had seen mentions on Twitter about 3D chalk art and wanted to see it for myself, especially before the festival was over or before the rains came again.

We were fortunate to have come at it from the correct angle, so it was fairly clear to see the image right away. But as we stood there at the official viewing spot, we saw people coming from the opposite direction and actually standing on the piece and not having any idea of what it was. It wasn’t until they got to the viewing spot that they realized.

Here’s Charlie sitting in the viewing spot (though getting distracted):
3D Chalk Art
3D Chalk Art
The piece depicts some of the symbols of Utrecht and the festival, with the Domtoren to the right, the Golden Calf in the center, standing in the Oudegracht, and the Inktpot with the UFO shown on the left, among other items.

As I said, if you come at it from the right angle, it’s easy to see. But when you see it from any other side, you realize how unusual and impressive it is!
Nederlands Film Festival
I’ve seen photos of work like this before, but this was the first I’ve seen in person. Definitely worth seeing, and a nice addition to the decorations around town for the festival.

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Multiplying Nijntjes

Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
The rabbits in Neude are multiplying.

As part of the celebrations of Nijntje/Miffy’s 60th birthday, statues — decorated by a variety of artists — are showing up all over the city. Our Thinker on a Rock rabbit has been joined by a version of Nijntje decorated by Klaas Gubbels. His work, titled Canto Ostinato, is inspired by a painting of his by the same name. He, like Nijntje’s creator, Dick Bruna, works primarily in two dimensional images, although in this case, two two dimensions have been applied to a three- dimensional form.

Hopefully this week I’ll get a chance to show you some of the other Nijntje statues around town. I’m missing a few, but may be able to catch a few this weekend if I’m vewwy vewwy quiet.
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje
Klaas Gubbels Canto Ostinanto Nijntje

The Art of Nature

Trees and Shadows
This little park area is a favorite of mine. As well as being next to the Nieuwegracht, it’s also the home of my beloved Spoetnikkijker statue. It’s also home to some really beautiful trees that are sometimes even more interesting when their branches are bare. They have some fantastic textures and shapes.

On this day, my eye was caught by all the shadows I was seeing everywhere, thanks to the bright sunlight. In particular, I found myself drawn to the shadows of the trees on the modern apartment buildings next to the park.
Trees and ShadowsPlenty of buildings in the Netherlands take advantage of their large side walls to serve as canvases for some attractive and sometimes thought-provoking artwork. In this case, the building seemed a perfect canvas for a bit of art from Mother Nature. The shadow of this one tree in particular was a brilliant bit of graphic art with strong lines and swirling curves, moving your eye up and around the whole image.

Mother Nature is definitely an artist to keep an eye on.
Trees and Shadows

Castellum Lights

A Flamingo in Utrecht
The Domplein — the square in the heart of the city where you will find the Domtoren and the cathedral — has a long history. The square was originally the site of the Castellum Trajectum, the Roman fortress established nearly 2000 years ago to protect the northern border of the Roman Empire. The sign in the picture above marks where one of the entrance gates to the fortress was to be found.

In fact, they have found the foundations for the old fortress and you can see some visual depictions of what the fortress would have looked like through various apps now available. I think you also get to learn and see a bit more on the DomUnder tour (which I haven’t had a chance to take yet).

Still, you can get a sense of the size of the fortress due to some installations you’ll see in areas around the Domplein. The size starts to sink in when you realize it encompased the whole square and then some. The markers in the ground are bronze-ish metal pieces flush to the ground, with lines drawn in depicting various Roman Empire borders. They’re easy to miss, and even easier to puzzle over if you don’t know the meaning. It took me a few years to finally figure it out.
Hadrian's Wall
However, in the evening, they at least become a bit harder to miss. As part of the Trajectum Lumen displays, they light up and emit a watery mist every 15 minutes or so. The marker on Domstraat is pretty impressive, the way it lights up along one of the buildings and has the cathedral behind it.
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
There’s another by the Academiegebouw, which I managed to capture once, years ago.
Roman Fortress
More recently, I finally caught the one on Servetstraat, in front of the Domtoren. It’s a cosy little street with a nice mix of shops and restaurants, all in the towering shadow of the Domtoren. Standing along any of the old fortress borders, it’s impossible not to look around and think of all the history this one small section of Utrecht has seen and experienced. And now we all become a little part of that long history.
Castellum Trajectum

Variations on a Theme: Trajectum Lumen

ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
ganzenmarkt tunnel
I’ve written before about the Trajectum Lumen light art installations to be found throughout the city. From simple to grandiose, they put the spotlight on Utrecht’s rich history. One of my favorites is the Ganzenmarkt tunnel. The lights are constantly changing colors, creating a psychedelic fairytale landscape that makes me think of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Plus, the tunnel leads down to the Oudegracht, where you get a great view of the Stadhuis, plus some more lights under the Stadhuise bridge. During a past visit, this was one of the color sequences, though the shifts from one color to the next are more gradual.

If you’re visiting Utrecht or thinking about visiting Utrecht and are looking for things to do, a walk through the city, enjoying the lights, should definitely be on your list. The lights begin at dusk and go until midnight, 365 days of the year, so you can check them out whenever you like. It’s a nice way to cap off an evening.

Tank Man

During the summer of 2013, the Call of the Mall art event took place in the Hoog Catharijne shopping center here in Utrecht. A variety of art works in multiple mediums were placed throughout the mall. The Celestial Tea Pot, which still stands on the roof of part of the mall, was and is a popular piece, but there was one piece that really created a lot of interest, at times blocking much of the walkway in which it was placed.

Tank Man, a lifelike sculpture by Fernando Sánchez Castillo, refers to the unknown man who stood down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 after the Chinese military had come in to shut down protests. Although a few names were bandied about at the time, it seems that there is no reliable information about the man’s identity and fate.
Tank ManAlthough we don’t know what became of the man dubbed Tank Man, we do know what happened to the statue. It was purchased by the Centraal Museum, where it now has a home. I never got to see it while it was on display in the mall, but I did finally get to see it on my most recent visit to the museum. It’s a powerful piece when you stop and think about what this man did, especially at that particularly violent and repressive moment in time.

The video footage and photos that made it out of China are hard to forget. The close-up photos like the one by photographer Jeff Widener are staggering, but it was one I saw a few days ago that really made me think more deeply about it all than I have in many years. The wider angle shows the scope of what this man was up against. To see the tiny figure of the the man standing against at least 20 tanks just on the road, not to mention the numerous other grouped tanks in the background is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. It’s hard not to put yourself in his shoes and wonder if you would have been able to take such a stand. I think being able to come face to “face” with the Tank Man via the statue is what helps to make it such a powerful piece, because you do suddenly find yourself face to face with your thoughts about what you’d be willing to stand up for and against.
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Pretty Vacant

Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
You’ve got to love an art installation that calls to mind both the Sex Pistols and medieval architecture. The installation titled Pretty Vacant, by Amsterdam-based Rietveld Landscape, was in one of the chapels at the Centraal Museum. However, because I am woefully behind on this blog post, the exhibit is no longer there. I won’t tell you how far behind I am on it. I am the queen of procrastination.

The blue foam is actually the remnants from another work that the group did for the 2010 Venice architecture bienale. That was an exploration of the amount of available space within the Netherlands. With the Pretty Vacant installation, the way it is placed within the chapel, it becomes self-referential to the medieval windows within the chapel, with the shapes calling to mind stained glass patterns.The city shapes combine to both obscure the view, as well as create a new, alternative view of the Dutch landscape.

The structure makes use of both positive and negative space to block light and filter it, creating an atmospheric setting within the former chapel. The chapel itself is divided into two levels. The installation begins on the second level and rises to the top, however it can also be viewed towering over anyone standing below on the lower level.
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
I saw it from different levels on different visits. The first visit was when I saw it from the ground level. Around a year later, I saw it again from the upper level. The ground level is almost overwhelming with the height and solidity of the wall of blue. On the upper level, I found it more peaceful and contemplative, particularly with the light coming through the chapel’s side windows. The upper level was vacant except for the blue foam, allowing visitors to sit or stand and contemplate the piece with out any other real distractions. I’m glad I managed to stumble across that level and experience the work for myself.
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
Rietveld Landscape's Pretty Vacant
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Celebrating Nijntje (Miffy)

Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
While friends were visiting in November, I finally got around to seeing the dick bruna huis. Admission is included in your ticket to the Centraal Museum (which is across the street from the dick bruna house), but I had never gotten around to visiting in the past. Who is Dick Bruna, you’re possibly asking. Bruna is the creator of Nijntje, AKA Miffy, the illustrated rabbit who is celebrating her 60th birthday this year, with some festivities taking place as far away as Japan. As the Alphaville song goes, she’s “big in Japan”. Bruna is an Utrechter famous for his work as an illustrator, writer, and graphic designer, with work for all ages.

Although I didn’t grow up reading the Nijntje books, I have been aware of her for a number of years. Someone in the office building across the street from my office in New York even had a couple of Nijntje posters up in their window, so I often found myself looking at the adorable little rabbit while I tried to find inspiration for my own work. However, having neither a childhood connection to the books, nor children of my own, the dick bruna house was never high on my list of places to visit. It was always one of those things I figured I’d get around to eventually. Fortunately, having visitors is a great way to see those sites you otherwise put off.

As it turns out, it was announced just last week that the dick bruna house is going to be renovated and renamed as the Nijntje Museum, with the full focus being on the famous little rabbit. Work starts in early July and will likely run through December.

As it is, the site is already primarily focused on Nijntje, with walls full of the various books in a babel of languages, interactive play areas, and a large golden statue of Nijntje. It is definitely geared more toward children, but visually it’s still an interesting place and certainly worth a quick browse if you’ve already purchased admission to the Centraal Museum. I’m glad I did finally visit. If nothing else, I ended up with a great selection of postcard versions of some of Bruna’s book cover illustrations that I really love.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
The towering wall (one of three) full of the various Nijntje and friends stories, translated into numerous languages.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Beneath the books are a few listening stations and cute little seats for children to sit down and read and listen to the books.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
It’s not all Nijntje, though. There are also photos of Dick Bruna at work, as well as a few photos of Bruna with the king and queen, riding his bike in front of the Domtoren, and standing in front of the Rietveld-Schröder House.
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum
The interior is a great mix of white walls to show off the works, as well as kaleidoscopes of color in some of the rooms and passageways. And there’s always the golden Nijntje if you want a touch of glam …
Dick Bruna Huis/Nijntje Museum

Domtoren as Fietstoren

Fietstoren Fietstoren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been kerstmarkt (Christmas Market) weekend here in Utrecht, with markets popping up all over town. We hit them all, except the one at Mariaplaats, including the newest one at the Domplein. There will be many more photos to come eventually, but for now, I thought I’d share this fantastic version of the Domtoren, made completely out of bicycle parts. They even added in gargoyles made from bicycle parts! Brilliant!

Eventually, I worked my way around to get the perfect shots. Proof that it pays to look at things from every angle!
FietstorenFietstoren