Rotterdam artwork: From memorials and masterpieces to random WTH

Rotterdam is known for its modern art, and you’ll find examples throughout the city.

Some of the works, such as the sculpture Sylvette, by Pablo Picasso, are considered masterpieces.  This piece is one of many portraits that Picasso made in 1954 of Sylvette David, a 19-year-old French woman who caught Picasso’s eye in part because she wore her hair in a ponytail (which can be seen in this sculpture).


Rotterdam Picasso sculpture

Some of the artwork is quite moving.  The statue below, called De Verwoeste Stad (“The Destroyed City”), is a monument to Rotterdam’s devastation during World War II.  The sculptor, Ossip Zadkine, was inspired to complete it when he visited Rotterdam in 1946, when much of the city still lay in ruins.  It depicts an anguished figure, and the hole in its torso represents the heart of the city, which was destroyed by the bombings.


The Destroyed City
The Destroyed City


The large complex below, an explanation of which I could not find in English, appears to be a memorial to destroyed artwork, perhaps from buildings damaged in the war.  Regardless, it was a moving sight.  Dale and I nicknamed it the “orange memorial.”

The "orange" memorial, filled with relics from a time past.
The “orange” memorial, filled with relics from a time past.

from the "orange memorial"


Orange 3


Orange 4


More than a few of Rotterdam’s sculptures are controversial, including Cascade op het Churchillplein by Joep van Lieshout.  According to the Sculpture International Rotterdam website, Cascade represents “the current economic crisis, the exhaustion of raw materials and the bankruptcy of the consumer society.”  It’s one of the most interesting sculptures we saw, and Dale and I loved it.

Rotterdam sculpture 2
Hmm, I wonder where this artist stands regarding our dependence upon oil…


Can you see the piece of art in this picture?  No, it’s not the enormous skeleton hanging in the window of the Natural History Museum…

Kunsthal in reflection of museum window

…it’s this sculpture, of a person standing on the ledge of the Kunstal, which is an eclectic art museum in Museum Park.





Here are a couple of eye-catching pieces:

Rotterdam sculpture 4


Rotterdam sculpture 1

And a funky mural:



And finally…  (warning: this last sculpture might be offensive to some)

Rotterdam sculpture 3

This astonishing piece, by American artist Paul McCarthy, is called Santa Claus, but the locals have nicknamed it “Buttplug Santa” or “the gnome with the butt plug” because of the Christmas tree’s resemblance to a particular sex toy.  This information came straight out of Rotterdam’s tourist information pamphlet, I swear!  (Note: one source I read said it actually is a buttplug and not a Christmas tree. Ah the joys of art interpretation).   The statue has stirred up quite a scandal in Rotterdam and is reviled by many locals. It’s been moved around from location to location since coming to Rotterdam.  Apparently it symbolizes the western world’s obsession with commercialism and instant gratification; personally, I think it’s a sign that Rotterdam is truly a fearless city, not afraid to shake things up!


Here’s a link to the Sculpture International Rotterdam website if you want to see more examples of Rotterdam’s awesome artwork.