Art in unexpected places in Holland

1) The Ufo on the Inkwell

In 1999, this strange, extra-terrestrial object landed on the headquarters of railway manager ProRail. The artwork was part of Panorama 2000, an art event, which was devised by Sjarel Ex, the then director of the Central Museum. You could see artworks all over the city, standing on the city’s Dom church. The UFO was designed by the sculptor Marc Ruygrok and stands atop the largest brick building in the Netherlands, which is called the Inkwell or Inktpot. Most of the artworks of Panorama 2000 have since disappeared, but the UFO was allowed to remain in place after ProRail purchased it.

art installation of the UFO on the inkwell

Roel Hendrickx

Moreelsepark 3, Utrecht

2) Sea level

This artwork by the American artist Richard Serra, which is his largest in Europe, consists of two concrete walls, measuring 200 metres each. They ank the canal. One of the walls is as tall as a dike, the other one is the same height as the sea level. Without the dike, the water would flood the landscape here, right up to the top of the artwork. When you walk past the wall, you feel as if you are briefly submerged only to emerge above the sea level again.

Sea Level by Richard Serra

De Verbeelding 25, Zeewolde

More hidden Holland?

Discover the best of the Netherlands: this guide takes you to hundreds of fascinating spots all over the country. Ook verkrijgbaar in het Nederlands.

Buy the book or ebook

3) Bospolder Fox

Every now and then, a fox pops up in busy Rotterdam. These courageous and streetwise adventurers are a symbol of nature making its way into the city, says artist Florentijn Hofman. As a tribute to them, he designed a 25-metre-high fox that overlooks the busy and multicultural Schiedamseweg, in the Bospolder neighbourhood. The animal has a huge plastic bag in its mouth, referring to the market on nearby Grote Visserijplein and the many plastic bags that lie around after a market day.

a giant-sized sculpture of a fox holding a shopping bag

Markus Clarijs

Schiedamseweg 280, Rotterdam

4) Love

When the government announced that international artists would be selected to design the eleven fountains in the Frisian eleven cities for Leeuwarden Cultural Capital 2018, the people were rather sceptical. Couldn’t they have just given the job to some local artists? But these two children’s heads by the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa soon stole everyone’s hearts. You can see the fog that Plensa admired above the Frisian pastures at the foot of the heads.

the Love sculpture by Jaume Plensa

Stationsplein, Leeuwarden

5) The Green Cathedral

The Cathedral of Reims, in the form of 178 Italian poplars. The people of Almere called this ‘gothic cultivation project’, as the artist Marinus Boezem called it, the Green Cathedral. The same cathedral shape has been ‘carved’ out of the forest in the eld alongside it. According to Boezem, a cathedral is the ‘epitome of human skill’, just like the Flevoland polders in the former Zuiderzee.

drone view of The Green Cathedral project

Waterlandseweg, Almere

6) Rotating House

According to the rotondological society (yes, it really does exist), John Körmeling’s rotating house is one of the most successful examples of roundabout art in the Netherlands. According to the society, roundabout art should take into account the roundabout’s round shape, must be easy to understand for random passers-by, and the design must be easy to read. Körmeling’s open house is unambiguous and easy to distinguish. The house slowly turns on its axis. Nonetheless, this artwork, like so much other art in public space, was criticised as excessive expenditure by the town. It was even briefly squatted for this reason in 2009.

rotating house in Tilburg

Roel Hendrickx

Hasselt roundabout, Tilburg

7) Big Funnel Man

Many of the people of Breda think that the man who lays here on the side of the road with a funnel in his mouth is just very thirsty after an evening on the tiles. In reality, the artist Joep van Lieshout thought that the many commuters who spend hours in traffic here would perhaps recognise themselves in the reclining man, who looks as if he is being force-fed.

Big Funnel Man besides the highway

A27, exit Breda

Join the community

Sign up for free to gain unlimited access to the website. Plus, you'll receive a 10% discount in our online bookshop.

Sign up