Art and commerce join forces to create cultural cluster
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Art and commerce join forces to create cultural cluster
Rotterdam’s M4H (Merwe-Vierhavens) area has a 120-year history. It started off as part of the greater Rotterdam port and for years boasted one of the world’s largest fruit terminals. Some buildings are currently recognised as industrial heritage.

ROTTERDAM.- BRUTUS breaks the mould of art as a gentrification accelerator. Artist Joep van Lieshout (Atelier Van Lieshout) and project developer RED Company have joined forces to build a large-scale cultural cluster with residential units, offices and services in Rotterdam’s up and coming M4H port area. Their cooperation heralds a new model for urban renewal that does not automatically push out creatives once neighbourhoods upgrade.

BRUTUS combines culture, living and working in an area with 120 years of industrial history. At its heart lies a cultural cluster measuring at least 7,000 square metres (75,000 ft2). This will house a museum, exhibition spaces, a publicly accessible art depot, an art education unit, workshops, studios and working/living spaces for artists. The outdoor area will feature an open air cinema, a theatre and a sculpture garden.

BRUTUS will be crowned by three apartment blocks with a combined total of 750 residential units. The 140, 90 and 55-metre high structures echo Van Lieshout’s functionalist artworks and will be designed by Atelier Van Lieshout in cooperation with architectural firm Powerhouse Company. The new complex consists of numerous structures connected by staircases, ramps and hallways. The complex’s name refers to brutalism, an expressive architectural style from the 1950s and 1960s with an air of no-nonsense honesty and the promise of a utopian community. Brutus suits the unpolished context of Rotterdam’s port environment perfectly.

Art and commerce are equal partners in this project. Creatives will not be enlisted as temporary place makers to lay the groundwork for commercial development. BRUTUS will house the exhibition spaces of AVL Mundo Foundation and Atelier Van Lieshout’s large workshop, where a transparent facade will allow visitors to watch art production live. Moreover, the complex offers artists’ studios ensuring a lasting creative presence in the M4H area, which has made a name for itself as a makers’ quarter since the late 1980s.

The creation of BRUTUS will be financed by artist Joep van Lieshout and RED Company with Redwood Capital Investments and NIBC Investment Partners as financial partners.

BRUTUS will combine urban renewal and museum architecture in a unique Gesamtkunstwerk for this rapidly developing area in Rotterdam. For Van Lieshout himself, the creation of BRUTUS means he can continue to produce and display his full body of work, an ongoing visual saga spanning over 35 years at a single location. In the 2,250 square meter section called The Maze, installations, sculptures, objects and machines occupy a labyrinthine collection of tunnels, staircases, hallways, recesses and ‘artistic traps’, offering new insights into the meaning and impact of AVL’s work.

The 1,350 square meter ExpoBrutus will be exclusively for independently curated solo exhibitions both by internationally renowned artists and emerging talent. The focus will be on large-scale work and immersive installations, the type of presentation that has become less common in museums due to costs and risk-averse programming. At ExpoBrutus artists will be invited to excel and exhibit on a giant scale.

Rotterdam and BRUTUS are a perfect match. The port city has a long history of industrialist-patrons endowing museums; the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum being a prime example. BRUTUS adds to this tradition fuelled by a constructive marriage of art and entrepreneurship. The complex is situated at the heart of M4H, an area the size of Rotterdam’s city centre and over time will develop into its creative hub and driving force. An international trailblazer for the creative 21st century.

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