Don Quijote

Witte de With opens its first season under the direction of Nicolaus Schafhausen with two exhibitions: the first solo exhibition in the Netherlands of Mathias Poledna and the thematic group exhibition Don Quijote. Featuring twenty-two international artists, the exhibition presents artworks across a range of media, all of which put idealism and irrationality to the test.

Four hundred years after it was written, Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quijote de la Mancha continues to exert a strong influence on our imagination, whether we have read the book or not. Its wandering “knight” and his faithful servant Sancho Panza are ingrained in our collective cultural memory, and their idealistic quest has been used as a metaphor for many journeys since, both physical and imaginary.

Just like the story that inspired it, this exhibition contains a vast array of intense human relationships, passionate anecdotes, personal struggles, tragicomic failures and devastating self-destruction. The exhibition takes a renewed look at Cervantes’ tale, retelling it in a contemporary voice. The figure of Don Quijote reminds us that idealism will eventually be grounded by practicality and that the realisation of insane visions will always be restricted by the pragmatic world in which we live.

Don Quijote presents works ranging from surreal musical performances to humble wooden sculptures, from contemporary figurative painting to the mapping of vanished routes through Rotterdam, from mini manufactured bio-systems to life-size puppets. Michael Beutler constructs a topography in the gallery space that acts as a stage set for the exhibition, emphasising its theatricality and bringing together the many works in a weird and wonderful landscape.

A prelude to future group shows, Don Quijote refers on a deeper level to Witte de With’s current phase of self-assessment and the re-examination of the institution’s role. For, if we see Don Quijote‘s idealistic battles as an analogy for the struggles faced by contemporary art institutions, we may spot a new set of windmills on today’s cultural horizon.

Participating artists: Michael Beutler, Johanna Billing, Manon de Boer, Gerard Byrne, Ryan Gander, Tue Greenfort, William Hunt, Sven Johne, Jesper Just, Annette Kelm, David Lieske, Damian Moppett, Chris Moukarbel, Ivan Navarro, Christopher Orr, Pablo Pijnappel, Mark Raidpere, Hannah Rickards, Markus Schinwald, Anj Smith, Kostis Velonis, Richard T. Walker.

The exhibition Don Quijote is curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen and Sophie von Olfers.


Friday 28 April
3 p.m. Press conference followed by drinks with the artists and curators
6 p.m. Opening night featuring a performance by William Hunt
11 p.m. After-party with DJs Roeland 303 & David Lieske at De Unie, Mauritsweg 52, Rotterdam

Film screenings at Lantaren/Venster
Films start at 7:30 p.m.
11 May Lost in La Mancha, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (2002)
25 May Resonating Surfaces, Manon de Boer(2005) and Homme à Femmes (Michel Debrane), Gerard Byrne (2004)
1 June President Mir Qanbar, Mohammad Shirvani (2005)
Location: Gouvernestraat 133, Rotterdam.

Wednesday 31 May, 8 p.m.
Can small battles change the world?, event for students at Witte de With. For more information, call or mail Belinda Hak, 010 4110144, [email protected].

Saturday, 5 August, 10 p.m.
Going quixotic!, an open-ended, summer-night concoction of films (featuring Kenneth Anger) at Witte de With to mark the end of the exhibition.



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Due to exhibition installations our second floor and MELLY bookstore and cantina are closed until the opening on 9 June 6–8pm! Meanwhile, you can visit our 84 STEPS exhibition on the third floor for free.