Press release
26 January 2021

Kunstinstituut Melly—the new name for the institution formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art—will launch publicly on January 27, 2021.

An artistic program and a new visual identity will accompany the formal name launch of Kunstinstituut Melly. These are publicly launched via Melly TV, a community television program that connects the institution’s transformation with commissioned art for the screen and timely conversations. The institution’s renaming results from a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative aimed at achieving an institutional transformation. "We have been working to make meaningful change, and not just a name change,” said Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, director of Kunstinstituut Melly.

Please join us at the launch on Wednesday, January 27 at 8 pm GMT+1:

In three different episodes, Melly TV opens up the learnings of the institutional name change. It asks how vulnerability is necessary for change. It investigates how the name change is connected to educational reform. And it recognizes and celebrates ongoing processes of change. With talk-shows, neighborhood guests, and commissioned artworks for the screen, Melly TV is presented in partnership with Open Rotterdam and developed with consulting partners Lilith Magazine and Brand New Guys.

About the programming of Melly TV, the programmers said they wanted its episodes to convey an ongoing transformation. "That's why we have invited people who were already part of our community to participate, since they inspired this institutional transformation," explained Vivian Ziherl, Jessy Koeiman, and Emmelie Mijs, all staff at Kunstinstituut Melly, adding, "As a team, we’ve learned a lot, and, we are still learning from everyone that participated in our renaming process."

The new visual identity for Kunstinstituut Melly is the outcome of the institution’s annual Work-Learn Project (WLP). This third edition of the WLP was developed in collaboration with the Dutch design academy, Werkplaats Typografie (Arnhem) of ArtEZ University of the Arts, and Wkshps (Berlin and New York), a multidisciplinary design workshop. Six graphic designers – Callum Dean, Wooseok Jang, Nina Schouten, Alexander Tanazefti, Emily Turner, Yan Zhihan – came to work and learn with Armand Mevis and Anniek Brattinga from Werkplaats Typografie, Prem Krishnamurthy from Wkshps, and the team at Kunstinstituut Melly.

The designers say that, "the plasticity of [their] typographic ecosystem reflects the collective method of [their] design process, as well as the mentality of the institute. In embracing the vulnerability of the renaming process, we are enthusiastic about how the system can continue to evolve."

Kunstinstituut Melly’s Background

In 2017, a group of cultural practitioners publicly challenged the name of the institution formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art with an Open Letter. Their letter was triggered by artist Wendelin van Oldenborgh’s Cinema Olanda: Platform presented at the institution that year. Both this art project and the open letter made clear the need for an urgent historical awareness, the manifestation of an increasingly multi-vocal society, and the pressing concern of systemic racism. In response, the institution vowed to change its name.

On September 30, 2020, the name Kunstinstituut Melly was chosen on the basis of its capacity for maintaining accountability and responsiveness towards social narratives, and to continue the process of becoming a more welcoming and daring cultural institution—actively challenging racism in both the present and the past—into the future.

Kunstinstituut Melly is one of the few cultural institutions in the world to have launched a multi-faceted, formal name change initiative. Using the need to respond to the de-colonial movement as an aggregator for deep institutional transformation, a starting point was to question the role of contemporary art within society. As a result, contemporary art, collective learning, and public engagement lie at the heart of all their activities.

The name ‘Melly’ originally refers to the artwork Melly Shum Hates Her Job (1990) by Canadian artist Ken Lum, permanently installed on the building’s façade since 1990. ‘Melly’ has come to signify not only the image of a female, working-class ‘anti-hero’, but also a new relationship between the institution, the street, the city, and the communities that it is part of. This name was chosen as a bold, unique name that maintains the memory of the renaming process and the community-led transformation that the institution has undertaken.

Media Campaign

With the message New Perspective Make Me Grow, the media campaign produced by Brand New Guys features video clips with new and longstanding collaborators of the institution: Ed de Meyer (community worker, Cool District; since 1992, co-organizer of art projects with us) with Mohamed Chajid (participant of the first edition of the Work/Learn Project, in 2018); dancer Chanel Vyent (public program participant 2020) with fashion designer Odair Pereira (tutor Work/Learn Project, 2018-2021); audience members, Jeroen Koolhaas with his daughter Lua Koolhaas; Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing with Jacques Wong-Loi-Sing (family members of Cye Wong-Loi-Sing, who is part of the name change initiative workgroup since 2020 and director of this media campaign).

The Significance of the Date

The institution first opened its doors to the public on 27 January 1990. Selecting the same date for announcing our new name in 2021, is an acknowledgement of the institution’s history.

Kunstinstituut Melly is supported by the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The name change initiative has also been made possible by Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie, BankGiro Loterij Fonds, Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds, J.E. Jurriaanse Stichting, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.