Hoogtij #74 – A journey through alleyways, bureacracy and The Hague

Hoogtij, about to hit its diamond 75th edition in December 2023, is a hallmark of the contemporary art scene in The Hague. A map curates your Friday evening, helping you explore around 20 – 25 art spaces of all sizes, from internationally-facing galleries to site-specific installations open four Fridays a year. What unites is a focus on new artists and something special designed just for Hoogtij.

Hoogtij #74 – A journey through alleyways, bureacracy and The Hague

On this 74th edition, I was asked to lead the English tour. There are Dutch and English tours, usually around one of each, that you can pre-register for. And they’re free! That might explain why half my registered group didn’t show up, but more than double that turned up on the day to see if they could tag along. Never one to say no, my group ended up at about 30 people, ranging from artists wanting to check out something new to students studying industrial design to couples on a nice night out.

This is the first tour I’ve ever given, and it was a learning experience. I did my preparation, cycling the route the night before, reading up on the galleries and thinking about how to make the sometimes-short-sometimes-long walks between spaces fun. But the natural group dynamic was enough. We walked around 4 km across the Hague, beginning with the Hoogtij launch at 19.00 at Das Leben am Haverkamp, a collective-led project space on Stille Veerkade 19. While waiting to start, we could browse Side Eye, an exhibition curated by Yannik Guldner exploring judgement, those first glance assumptions we make but don’t want to be obvious about.

The introduction at Das Leben am Haverkamp
Lucy Glendinning's Feather Child (2016) at Das Leben am Haverkamp

Each space was expecting the tour group and was ready to give an introduction from the artist(s), curator(s) or gallery owners. This added something pretty special to the experience. One highlight was having the time for a quick wine and snack while hearing from all four artists exhibited at Galerie Sophie in Fibrous Nature in Textured Landscape. Ranging from an in-depth photographic study of the Persian sleeping tree by Isabelle Backer (don’t worry, no trees were harmed in the process) to Jorick de Quaasteniet creating paper from nettles or Loes Schepens finessing decades of working with the waste flax from linen production. Mai Marie Choon Dijksma’s ascending hallway sculpture made paper waste physical. Open until 29 October 2023 on Saturdays and Sundays. The images in the gallery below are from this exhibition.

Equally memorable was our visit to Dürst Britt & Mayhew, somewhat off the beaten track on Van Limburg Stirumstraat. Walking through the canopy to go in, I already knew that we were in for a treat. Two artists were featured. The first, Daniel Cabrillos Jacobsen (b. 1996), is a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. His colourful works do more than help fill the space in the front of the gallery: they are imposing, colourful, confident stories that invite you into idyllic community and familial scenes. The canvases are sewn together adding texture, imperfection and a connection to reality. Raúl Ortega Ayala filled the second half of the gallery. His works match desolation with preservation and inspiration, providing an immersive photo essay about the aftermath of the volcanic reputation and almost total ruin of the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Positivity peeked through in the sounds found under the ash. Especially for Hoogtij we were treated to a soundscape created with these records by the Hague-based DJ The Social Lover, and now incorporated into the exhibition. Open until 28 October – another must-see.

DJ The Social Lover in the exhibition by Raúl Ortega Ayala
An introduction to the work of Daniel Cabrillos Jacobsen

Though we were focussing on the best of the local and the new in The Hague, the Semantics of the Shell at The Balcony reiterated the importance of artist-led exchange. In parallel to Hoogtij, a parallel exhibition was opening in the Centrul Artelor Vizuale Multimedia (CAV) in Bucharest. In the Hague, we were treated to mixed practice works by Romanian artists Mateescu, Ioana Marinescu, and Mihai Șovăială and curated by Laura Bivolaru. The exhibition is open until 14 October 2023.

Image: Untitled (2023), part of the Past Present, by Ioana Marinescu.

White plaster casts on a table

The first non-gallery exhibition that we encountered featured Franka Pacqué and Ilona Senghore in the window space Maldoror Galerie. Recycled art, ceramics and painting – which by who, we don’t know – graced the small room on Wagenstraat 123, which hosts regular exhibitions to make those travelling to and from Den Haag HS think about art and what it means to be an artist.

The second was Refunc, a space at Spui 229a only open four times a year for Hoogtij. Squeezing thirty people into this space was part of the adventure of exploring functionality and temporarility in design. Walking under the organ-like installation in the long alleyway was enough to intrigue the tour group to question where they would end up, and I’m not sure that we knew when we got there.

The third was our penultimate stop at street gallery window space, Corneroh. Not only a memorable name but a memorable performance designed for Hoogtij by Catharine Cary, blending film (by her and Sarah Blum) with her own practice as a ‘sprite, spirit and improviser’. CRUMBLECAKE took us into a surreal, otherworldly, glowing space as we watched Cary sing and move while we lurked in the dark, poorly-lit side street. Then we all ate cake together. An intimacy that reached over the window bar and broke the performer-observer barrier.

A break in Catharine Cary's performance at Corneroh
The entrance of Refunc

West was an adventure with a big group. We lost the majority in the multiple exhibitions held there. It was more challenging to make sense of something so big after so many intimate moments. Yet perhaps the highlight of the night was the A.L.C. Collective’s GAPS WE WANT YOU TO FEEL – A LINGERING GAME, an immersive take on absurdity, mis-communication, normativity and administration. The ridiculousness of the paper trail we were unwillingly forced to create in languages we couldn’t understand, then destroy for reasons we didn’t know – shook us up and made us laugh in what was probably a home for bureaucracy as the former American Embassy.

Part of the installation by Jemima de Jonge at Heden
A.L.C. Collective at WEST

The ten or so people left in the tour ended up at the last stop just before 23.00 at Heden on the Denneweg. This was an intimate exploration of the surreal work of Jemima de Jonge, who was there to tell us about her exhibition A Body of Water, open until 4 November 2023.

The most challenging part of Hoogtij? The fact that there were more places that you couldn’t visit that evening. Knowing that they were likely to be open all weekend made it better. So Hoogtij is more than just a Friday evening – Hoogtij has your weekend covered.

Hoogtij #74 – A journey through alleyways, bureacracy and The Hague

Links to open exhibitions that you can explore:
A Body of Water, Jemima de Jonge at Heden until 4 November 2023
– Daniel Cabrillos Jacobsen and Raúl Ortega Ayala at Dürst Britt & Mayhew until 28 October 2023
Fibrous Nature in Textured Landscape at Galerie Sophie until 29 October 2023

HOOGTIJ#75 is on Friday 1 Dec 2023. Find out more!