Rob van der Werve – A non-violence project

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what’s a Scholte ?
this happened at the assault…
artist or businessman ?


Like Don Quixote from his wheelchair, he thrusts at the windmills of art. In the Dutch tradition he is confronted with as much lack of understanding as Rembrandt was and declared as mad as Van Gogh. In short, a Dutch artist who cannot do without a website!

Rob Scholte is one of the most important contemporary Dutch artists. His work is justifiably questioned, particularly for his use of existing pictures. Has he a right to do that ? A question of morality and ownership which is relevant also to the Internet.

This site refers to some of his pictures and varying opinions of both the man and his work. The English version is limited but with time and growing interest, I hope it will expand.

Rob Scholte: ‘Of course I visited your site; I think it looks great.’

never heard of him
is he the King of Imitation ?
just show me some pictures
any ideas…

Rob Scholte was born on June 1 1958 in Amsterdam. He studied art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie from 1977 – 1982 and became part of a private enterprise of artists who worked at the infamous Warmoesstraat street in Amsterdam. Like Warhol he had, until 1993, a studio called The Living Room where he exhibited for the first time in 1984.

Scholte grew to be a very successful artist both in critical and commercial terms and in 1993 was appointed professor at the University of Kassel, a post he continues to hold. On line is Class of Rob Scholte:

In 1994 Scholte married Mickey Hoogendijk, from whom he is now separated. It was in November of that year that an attempt was made on his life when a hand grenade exploded in his car. Scholte lost both legs as a result of the attack but so far the perpetrator remains undiscovered and the case has led to much speculation.

He now lives on Tenerife though his work is sold in many countries. Several documentaries have been made about his life but hopefully the best is yet to some.

“Humanity, humanism, love, respect that’s what it’s all about. John Lennon is my main example.”

In 1986, Rob said:
“I always start with an idea, with something not mine, but that I want to make mine by painting. In fact I have never done it in any other way, and except for one larger project that took its inspiration from a coloring book for children, I have really never made children’s drawings in my whole life. For me it’s about these things that have a complete presence, that unexpectedly affect me even though just before they didn’t affect me at all.

Quoting is anything but taboo, but I think quotes should have as little to do with the world of art as possible. In that way the surprise is even greater. Hans Haacke and Andy Warhol are two artists who have found believable solutions in this respect. Warhol’s work is legible, it contains no pseudo-science and no pseudo-mystery. He presents an absolute breaking point, his work is milestone, the way in which he exploits public opinion and lays bare the structure of the art world. His piss paintings are specially underrated”.

‘I am very interested in amusement parks and MTV.’

Rob Scholte – the King of Imitation is now an original by Rachel Castell Farhi

Dutch artist Rob Scholte, 40 this month, speaks from his Amsterdam studio about the bomb attack three years ago which almost killed him. “My best weapon against this is my work – perhaps not the only weapon. But the best I have.” ‘This’ is the fact that Scholte lost both his legs in the explosion on Eerste Laurierdwarsstraat, a quiet narrow street in the artistic Jordaan district of Amsterdam.

Walking the deserted road today on a peaceful June evening, it’s very hard to imagine either the noise of the explosion or the burning dark blue BMW. Scholte remembers it all with a frightening clarity. “I heard a ticking sound – three ticks…tick…tick…tick,” He pauses and precisely demonstrates with his hand, re-living the moment for the viewer to comprehend the full impact. “Then, this wall of fire was in front of me. White light. Not so much an explosion as an implosion.”

wall of fire

Wall of Fire is the title of one of his ‘Obsessie’ series of paintings executed since the attack. It depicts in Scholte’s usual simple graphic style, the interior of a BMW engine with a canister of nitro glycerine resting on the fuel tank. The reality of the incident however is not so clear or simple. The police are yet to pin the attack on anyone, although Scholte himself has always had a list of suspects whom he has accused in a very public way. He has appeared on television and named former assistants and colleagues whom he believes have envied and hated him enough to want him dead, citing diaries and letters which he claims are evidence of complicity.

Some of these documents figure in his latest exhibition of paintings at the Jan van der Togt gallery in Amstelveen, replicated in passionate detail and reflecting Scholte’s own obsession with the shattered mosaic of truth that he has committed himself to piecing together. Despite several people having been questioned on suspicion of the bombing, the police have failed to bring charges against anyone and although the case remains officially open, it seems that they are no closer to establishing the identity of the perpetrator. In a bizarre twist to the case, Scholte himself even came under suspicion, asked by the police if he had done it ‘for the publicity.’ Shortly after the attack, Scholte exhibited a new work of art – the burned out shell of his BMW. Scholte had bought it back from the insurance company and put it on display – an icon of terror.

The reaction he received from the Dutch public was unsympathetic. Unused to such violence on their peaceful streets but nevertheless impatient with what they regard as the over – emotionality of Scholte and his allegations, Scholte became, and in some ways still is, dismissed as an embarrassment. “People said it was my artwork but it was not. It was the artwork of that fucker who wouldn’t reveal himself.” Certainly, the shock aspect of the whole affair has not been lost on Scholte. He also tried to reclaim his amputated legs from the hospital – ‘they’re mine’ – but they had been incinerated. One wonders if they had not been, whether the Dutch artgoing public would have been treated to a Damien Hirst-style display of the artist’s severed limbs suspended in formaldehyde.

his wife

His wife, Mickey Hoogendijk’s, part in the Scholte affair is understated. Twelve years his junior and manager of his company, she too was in the car when it exploded and, though only lightly wounded, lost the child she was carrying. By a cruel irony, the reason for their journey that day was a doctor’s appointment to have Mickey’s pregnancy confirmed. It was the second time the couple had known the loss of a child – their first was stillborn. While Scholte’s anger at this is clear and dramatic, Mickey’s appears complex. A beautiful cool blonde, she speaks calmly of the night which changed her life with a dispassion that is in complete contrast with Scholte’s intensity. “Perhaps two or three people know for sure what happened. Perhaps one day we shall find out and that will be okay. Perhaps we will never find out, and that is okay, too.”

Her husband cannot reach the same intellectual and emotional compromise – and it was one of the reasons that they separated. Scholte, who now lives on Tenerife and won’t return to the Netherlands ‘until justice is done’, has done a lot of thinking on the way back from his violent encounter. He’s working on his biography, due out later this year – “I won’t call it my autobiography”, he says. “Auto is the Dutch word for car.” – and in the process has looked at both himself and others more deeply to find an explanation for what has happened. “Jealousy is a disease,” he says. “It’s an illness that poisons the mind, especially in relationships. I’ve had to look closely into parts of myself that I didn’t want to look at before.” Foremost in his soul-searching, the grim mind-games that he has been playing ever since the attack, is perhaps the effect he has had on others – and in particular the person in whom he has inspired such murderous intentions.

Certainly the Amsterdam art world has come out of all this as a small, poisonous place where jealousies and egos clash over the triple crown of fame, money and critical acclaim. Scholte had achieved all three and in the success-hungry decade of the Eighties when his star rose to the ascendant, he revelled in everything that there was on offer. Despite his beginnings as a punk anarchist playing in a rock band and violent confrontation with the police during the housing riots of the Eighties’ kraak movement, Scholte’s talent brought him positive recognition. Drugs, beautiful women and the lifestyle of the fabulous almost became his birthright. In November 1994, within the charred remains of his dark blue BMW, the party came to an abrupt finish.

It is perhaps another irony of Scholte’s life that he has gone from precocious drug rebel to disabled moral activist, engaging on a clean-up crusade of Amsterdam’s streets. There’s much work to do. Shortly after he left hospital, Scholte gave a press conference at Schiphol Airport in which he released a fax that had been sent to him by the self-styled ‘ Neerlandica Nostra’. It appeared that the underworld of the Colombian drugs barons and the artistic echelons of the Dutch cultural scene met on the streets of Amsterdam and Scholte became part of that encounter. The danger Scholte now faces in artistic terms is that people will associate him more for the attack on his life than for his work. Certainly his obsession with bringing the criminal to justice colours everything he does. His style has changed. The pop art Disney colours – ‘ cartoons for adults’ as he once described his work – are now servicing weightier themes and reflect Scholte’s increasing introspection and re-assessment of his identity. His concern with green issues and anti-war themes have involved him in painting the Greenpeace tram in Amsterdam and a replica of the Palais Huis Ten Bosch in a Nagasaki amusement park, the world’s largest piece of art which, despite the bomb attack, a commission Scholte managed to finish on time. He has also been asked to make a mural for the Reichstag in Berlin later this year. One wonders what his theme will be when he has been quoted as saying he’s ‘the Dr. Mengele of visual art.’

Piecing together old familiar images and juxtaposing them to make something new has been the hallmark of Scholte’s work. The challenge for him now is to re-invent himself in the light of his experience. The King of Imitation has become an original – let’s hope he learns to live with the white space on the canvas until time and truth emerge to fill in the missing parts of the picture.

how did he become an artist ?
apres nous la deluge (pardon my french)
and for some live action
enough said, show me some pictures


In 1982 Rob Scholte together with Sandra Derks (b. 1960) made a work that resembled a colouring book. He had already achieved some fame for working at 139 Warmoesstraat in a so-called Selbsthilfegalerie or ‘self-service’ gallery. His breakthrough came with the exhibition ‘How to Star’ in Rotterdam which received mixed reviews.

The most simple ideas aren’t simple enough: an HP cover, the Chiquita bananas advertisement, Kodak, a Beatles album. He has received a lot of criticism for allegedly stealing ideas and commercialising them but Rob has always been his own main critic.

Internationally he became famous by exhibiting at the Documenta in Kassel in 1987 and for decorating the Dutch studio at the Venice Biennale in 1990. The art business in Holland reached a turning point at that time and Rob accepted, with true Amsterdam bluff, an enormous project in Japan to work on his largest and most impressive achievement so far – ‘Apres nous la deluge,’ which took four years to complete.

far away

The project Après Nous le Deluge was opened in November 1995 in the replica of the Palace Huis Ten Bosch (the official residence of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands) in Nagasaki, Japan. This project has been set up in the ‘Oranje Zaal’, and consists of 1200 metres of wall and ceiling murals painted by the Dutch painter Rob Scholte and of three dimensional furnishings which Scholte introduced Harald Vlugt to design and produce.

After visiting the Nagasaki Palace Huis ten Bosch in July 1992 Vlugt began designing the ornaments, to correspond in the style with Scholte’s murals, resulting in a ‘Gesamtkunst- werk’. Both the murals and objects have been created largely by ‘recycling’ images from historical artworks which have been combined in a way similar to collage.

Rob worked for four years, with twelve assistents, among them was Mary Grooteman.


The documentary Après nous le déluge about Rob continuing his work after the attack, won in 1996 the ‘Gold Medal’ at the New York Movie Festival.

A Quicktime Movie (4.1mb) shows you the intro.
Another Quicktime Movie (2.4mb) gives you an idea of what’s it like.

‘Disney is art, so why should art not be Disney?’

what happened ?
what’s this with art and crime ?
the story continues

police report

On November 24, 1994 there was a explosion on the corner of Eerste Laurierdwarsstraat and the Laurierstraat in the heart of Amsterdam. At that time 36 years old artist Rob Scholte was severe wounded when a projectile in or under his darkblue BMW exploded. By the force of it he was thrown out of his car.

He was taken to the hospital for immediate surgery. From the knee both legs were amputated. His wife Mickey Hoogendijk, 24 years old, who was also in the car, was lightly wounded.

“People said it was my artwork but it was not my artwork… was the artwork of that fucker who did not want to reveal himself.”

1999, the case is probably solved. The bomb was meant for a lawyer living in the same street and riding a blue BMW as well.
A private investigator, hired by Scholte, found out a drugs-syndicate wanted to prevent the lawyer to investigate about them. Scholte admits the mistake, but says he doesn’t believe the switch is a coincidence.

art as crime

A year after the event (1995), the attack on artist Rob Scholte remains unsolved. A strange phenomenon is occurring: increasingly, resentment is focusing on the victim instead of the offender.
[Note: Rob Scholte was invited to appear on Dutch television but they withdrew the offer at the last moment] This circumstance is quite characteristic of the strange relationship between Scholte and his homeland which has developed since the attack. It is as if the nation wants to collectively repress the events which took place a year last November, rejecting the figure of Scholte in the process. The same Amsterdam political-cultural vanguard, who almost weekly organise a solidarity meeting for Salman Rushdie, has reservations about his fellow-sufferer from Amsterdam. Instead of speculating on who did it, one rather talks about the ‘paranoid streak’ or ‘megalomania’ of Rob Scholte.

The victim is up for discussion, not the case; as if an extreme act of terror in the heart of the Jordaan never happened. It is the most peculiar swing, this trading of places between the offender and victim is the most bizarre shift that has been seen for a long time in the Netherlands. But what’s paranoid in the behaviour of a man who has been severely mutilated for life by a bomb attack, doesn’t know the identity of the perpetrator and who remains in fear of his life ? In such a situation, paranoia is the only adequate response. What has come up so far about the ‘question of guilt’ is not at all reassuring. This case shines a sinister light on the art-business in Amsterdam these days, and not only there. It’s an indication of the moral bankruptcy of a scene and an illustration of what can happen when the upper and underworlds of a city mix. The message of the Scholte case is that there’s something rotten in the kingdom of the Netherlands. The sense of discomfort and insecurity are growing with the length of the ineffectual inquiry.

his car

The Scholte Affair is a British documentary from Nicam Digital Stereo.

This programme profiles the life of Rob Scholte, darling of the decadent 1980s Amsterdam art scene, who lost both his legs in a car bomb attack in 1994. Commercially successful and critically acclaimed, Scholte was envied by many of his contemporaries, but who could have hated the artist so much as to carry out this horrific attack?

“He is a man who loves talking about himself but he’s also very cagey about how he’s seen and put across. I told him we can’t just have his side of the story.” (Ian Macmillan, producer of TX on how he stipulated to Scholte that he would be interviewing all those implicated in the incident for the film.) TIME OUT April 8-15 1998.

“Scholte became an artwork himself……..Everybody wanted to video the artist without legs [at Documenta, Kassel]. Somebody must think art is very important if an artist is worth blowing up.” (Desmond Christy, THE GUARDIAN, April 15 1998)

“Scholte had it all. A wonderful talent, paintings that sold for huge amounts of money, fame, a series of very beautiful and highly intelligent women……and by some accounts, he didn’t care how rude he was to his friends. The Salieri in your soul could see why someone could wish him dead.” (Desmond Christy, as above.)

‘Yes, I think I know who did it’

Rob van der Werve, 1998
source: Ronny van de Velde
font: Comic Sans, MS Sans Serif
tool: Homesite
best view: 800 x 600 15″
update: 5 februari 2000