5 The New Institute

Z-Files # 11: Street Art - Now & Beyond

In no city in the Netherlands can you find as many murals as in Rotterdam. Before the war, advertising paintings were a defining feature of the city. The paintings of companies have now been replaced by bus shelters and temporary posters. Nowadays, images on the street are often made by street art artists, who show their own signature. Since graffiti first appeared in the streets, this art form has also evolved and accepted further. The eleventh edition of the Z-Files is about this development from an illegal activity to a much-loved and even commercialized art form. Do artists still use graffiti to claim the streets and raise social issues? Or has street art turned into (profitable) decoration? And what is the future of street art?


Siebe Thissen (head BKOR of the CBK Rotterdam) introduces the evening; in 2007 he wrote the book 'Mooi van ver', about mural art in Rotterdam. Moderator Léon van Geest presents the evening at the Nieuwe Instituut. Designer Rens Muis wrote a book about graffiti in Rotterdam and reads a column about graffiti from then, now and later. Then Van Geest talks to Dave Vanderheijden; he talks about the Rewriters project, a new art route in Rotterdam based on street art (graffiti and street art). Van Geest also speaks with the Rotterdam collective OPPERCLAES: What developments do they see in contemporary street art? What's next? The duo Haas & Hahn became known for their project Favela Painting, which they realized in Rio de Janeiro. Van Geest talks to them about this use of street art: What can Rotterdam learn from their combination of street art and community building? Visual artist Onno Poiesz has roots in graffiti culture and often realizes art projects in public space. Van Geest talks to him about the difference, whether or not present, between art with a major and minor K, and about the future of graffiti.


Léon van Geest is the moderator for Z-Files #11, and more often acts as a moderator in the field of culture and urban development. He is trained as an Industrial Designer at TU Delft. Van Geest is director of the Rotterdam Roof Days, committee member at the RRKC for the culture plan 2017-2020, board member at Stichting Singeldingen and chairman of the Supervisory Committee in the Rotterdam City Prison.

Dave Vanderheijden is the director of HipHop in je Smoel; founded in 1999 by a group of enthusiastic hip hop lovers with the aim of reporting on the national and international hip hop scene. Since then HIJS has developed into an important player in Dutch hip hop. Vanderheijden is currently working on the Rewriters project, a new art route in Rotterdam based on street art.

Rens Muis is a designer and one of the founders of the Rotterdam design agency 75B. This agency initially worked for young cultural initiatives such as Showroom Mama, Waterfront and Passionate, and is now responsible for the identity of, among others, Codarts University of the Arts, Mondriaan Fund, International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Van Abbemuseum. In 2007 he wrote the book Graffiti in Rotterdam together with Wessel Wessels.

Opperclaes was founded by Bruce Tsai-Meu-Chong and Linda van der Vleuten. Their gallery space is located at Claes de Vrieselaan in Rotterdam. Tsai-Meu-Chong and Van Vleuten have backgrounds in graphic design, illustration and event planning. In 2010 they founded Opperclaes to offer a stage to young creatives from different disciplines. One of their recent project is Opperclaes Extra Large; a series of murals on the end façade of the Hofbogen.

The duo Haas & Hahn consists of artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. Koolhaas graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven with the discipline Graphic Design. He has been a freelance audio-visual designer and illustrator since graduation. Urhahn has worked as a journalist, copywriter and art director and has set up several companies in the event industry and television production. They started their collaboration in 2005: After a visit to Brazil, they later returned to work with the youth there to create large works of art on the walls of slums; Favela Painting.

Onno Poiesz is a visual artist. He works with ceramics, terrazzo and concrete, among other things. With this he designs shapes that are not often seen in this material. He also made De Schaduw, a sculpture by a German Heinkel at the Museum '40 '45 NU. He recently added a large mural to a building on Heer Bokelweg, just behind Hofplein.

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Photo: 'Praca Cantao, panorama' (2010), Courtesy of Haas & Hahn


Z-Files, Art and the City is a series of programs by SIR and BKOR (Visual Arts & Public Space) in which art, public space and the city are discussed by means of lectures, interviews, workshops and excursions. This program highlights the special collection of artworks in the public space of Rotterdam and examines current developments with regard to art and the city. SIR and BKOR are programs of the CBK Rotterdam.