The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, an independent college of fine arts and design, has been home to a close-knit community of students from all over the world for the past 50 years. Students and teachers work together here to create a learning environment where theory and practice coincide, giving rise to unexpected ideas. The academy hones the skills of talented young artists to enable them to work independently in the field of fine arts or design.
Glass has always played an important role at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. The glass department was founded in 1969 by Sybren Valkema, who coined the term “free glass” to distinguish glass designed and made by artists from what Americans call “studio glass”. Thanks to his pioneering work, the worlds of teaching and art have been able to cross-fertilise one another. The glass department at the Rietveld Academie takes a strongly conceptual approach, viewing glass as a sculptural material for contemporary art. The department’s new name is telling in this respect: “The Large Glass”, borrowed from the title of a work dating to 1915–1923 in which the artist Marcel Duchamp used glass for the first time in a conceptual artwork.
The students hence do not see themselves as glass artists but rather as fine artists who happen to work with glass. They are encouraged to work freely and to explore the possibilities offered by the material, challenging it and pushing it to its limits. Technique is a tool here rather than an end in itself. Nevertheless, basic skills are taught throughout the course of study: art theory, conceptual thinking, hot and cold glass techniques (blowing, casting, grinding, sandblasting, mould-making, etc.). The focus is on each student’s own individual artistic approach and on teaching the practical and theoretical knowledge required to be an artist.
With our latest exhibition we congratulate the academy on its 50th anniversary and present exceptionally freeform objects, wall pieces and installations by eleven young graduates. These recent works are accompanied by numerous pieces from the collection of the Glasmuseum Lette, the only institution in the German-speaking world to present an extraordinary cross-section of works produced by the glass department at the Rietveld Academie. The exhibition thus functions as a satellite show for the anniversary year, conveying the development of glass art over the past 50 years at academy.
Jens Pfeifer, who has been head of the glass department there since 2011, graciously invited us to undertake this project. Thanks to his initiative we are also able to demonstrate to our own audience the potential displayed today by the Rietveld Academie!
Mirre Yayla Séur, When Memory Enters, a Midwife as a Metaphor (The Pretense of Presence), 2018 (Photo Kit Séur)
Katrien Van Liefferinge, „…Blood, Sweat, and Tears“, 2017 (Photo Katrien Van Liefferinge)
Marie De Bruyn, The process and its object, 2011 (Photo Marie De Bruyn)
Jenny Ritzenhoff, Lover 11 – 127 #reconstruction 1, 2017 (Photo Jenny Ritzenhoff)
Geir Nustad, Street view – Mother, son, soldier, 2014 (Photo Geir Nustad)
Jens Pfeifer, Bohemian cut 1, 2013 (Photo Jens Pfeifer)
Gareth Noel Williams, Deep in my own world, 2001 – Collection Glasmuseum Lette (Photo Ron Zijlstra)
Richard Meitner, Jumbo Lights, 2003 – Collection Glasmuseum Lette (Photo Ron Zijlstra)
Mieke Groot, o.T., 2003 – Collection Glasmuseum Lette (Photo Ron Zijlstra)