15.07.2016 | Words by: Jasmin Hoek.
It’s summer and the garden at De School is in full use, which leads to more exposure of the mysterious artwork that has become an icon for the club. Continuing my search for the story behind the sculpture, it seemed like I had finally found the artist who made it; the two names written on one side of the statue “Heide ’66 / Verweij” have led me to Herman van der Heide. Van der Heide passed away in 1998, but I managed to contact his daughter Catharina Hoogterp-Van der Heide. In her reply to my email, she enthusiastically invited me over for a chat in her apartment in Amsterdam where she lives together with her husband Jetze Hoogterp.
As I walk up the stairs I find myself in an apartment filled with modern art. Before their retirement Jetze and Catharina owned a gallery in both Leeuwarden and Amsterdam. As we start talking Jetze brings out folders with pictures and files of his father-in-law’s legacy. The pictures show different bridge railings and sculptures that can be seen all around the city, like the Vaz Dias monument and the Hortusbrug. A big part of his work was commissioned work from different municipalities all around the Netherlands, from Texel to Amsterdam to The Hague. As Jetze brings out another folder, Catharina says: “My dad was not into archiving his work at all. After he passed away, we put all the paperwork and pictures we could find into one big box and together with my two older brothers we sorted everything out.”
Herman van der Heide was born in Sneek, a small town in the north of the Netherlands in 1917. Catharina tells me about her dad: “After the war there was nothing to do in Friesland; my parents wanted to move away as soon as possible. In 1947, when I was a 6-week-old baby, they bought a boat and got it dragged all the way over to Amsterdam. There my dad worked for an advertising company for a while until he got asked to do an artwork for the E55. The E55 was an exhibition held in Rotterdam in 1955, about what the Dutch’s own “Energy” (as in work) had manifested in during the post-war rebuild of the Netherlands. After the E55, he left his daily job at the advertising company. Back then we lived on that boat with my three siblings and my parents. My dad had a really tiny atelier, which was hardly big enough for small artworks and sketching. Through networking with officials and architects he got more and more different jobs in the time between 1955 and the early 1970s. The artwork in the garden of De School is from that same period as well, as it was made in 1966.” Jetze starts showing me letters from De School’s architect, Jacob Ben Ingwersen, who asked Van der Heide to make an artwork for the school building he was designing. “In this letter,” Jetze shows me another letter “the ministry of culture asks for Herman’s sketch of the sculpture and his cost breakdown.” He says: “That is where the other name on the sculpture comes into the story: Verweij is the metal company who executed the welding and placing.”
Catharina goes on: “As soon as my oldest brother moved out, the rest of the family moved to a house right in West-Amsterdam. My mom got an administrative job and my dad worked from his atelier in our new home. Our neighbors thought it was odd that my mom left for work and my dad stayed at home. I suppose our family might have been a bit too modern for them; we used to go to The Stedelijk Museum on Sunday to look at my dad’s work when other families went to church.” She laughs and shows me a picture of Herman in front of an artwork. He is holding a cigarette and looks a bit rebellious in his oversized coat with his messy hair and a big mustache. “My dad had a strong personality. He taught at the Academy of The Hague for a while, and even though the students loved him, the ones I’ve met all told me he had his own way of doing things. Even during his commissioned jobs, he didn’t like other people telling him what to do.”
Before the opening, Catharina and Jetze came across an article in a newspaper with a picture of the sculpture in De School’s garden. “I recognized it right away, but I had never seen the sculpture in real life before.” Catharina says: “My youngest brother went to school in that building, so that’s why I knew it was there. He must have been very proud that his dad made the sculpture in his school courtyard. Actually, he must have loved the sculpture since he grew up to be a sculptor himself as well.” I ask them if they have seen it in real life already. “Yes, we did. We were there during some kind of party in the garden in June (Het Weekend). The sculpture was lit up with purple lights. That made it look almost psychedelic. It’s funny how the purpose of my dad’s creation has shifted from a simple artwork in a high school courtyard to a very present feature in De School. I am sure my old man would have found it hilarious as well if he had known about it. He had loved to see his work in the middle of a party and he would have taken the entire family in his tiny car over to De School to see it.”