Grote Marktstraat, Den Haag
52.076788947388, 4.3128413498459 View on map
"This one is for us!" This was shouted by an ADO supporter shortly after Space Duck Racer was placed in front of the Bijenkorf in The Hague on 13 January 2011. No doubt this enthusiastic football fan saw a great similarity between the colours of the sculpture and the green and yellow club colours of ADO. The maker of the sculpture, Hans van Bentem (1965), was delighted with this warm reception for his space duck. The duck, wearing glasses and a helmet, rides a small cart from which flames are shooting out and he storms the sky at a dizzying speed.
With his sculpture, Van Bentem seems to have created a three-dimensional cartoon character. And that is typical of Van Bentem. He once made and painted his own skateboards. Now he is fascinated by popular visual culture, including street art and expressions of subcultures. His racing space duck could have been straight out of a crazy sci-fi comic. But his creation is in ceramic, which has been used by humans for thousands of years. The past is his second muse. The artist often uses traditional materials and draws on art history, old stories and symbols.
Van Bentem's sculptures regularly have hidden meanings. Sometimes these are symbolic, as in the case of his sculptures for the Shri Vishnu school, which refer to Hindu gods. Sometimes it is a social criticism, as in the case of his ceramic rockets, which he painted with old Asian motifs and exhibited in Beijing in 2009.
Yet with Van Bentem it is not always immediately clear how form and content relate. With his bespectacled duck, he 'just wanted to make a nice, fresh image' that can hold its own in the old city centre with its busy traffic and many impressions. While designing, Van Bentem thought of the visual language of gambling halls and fruit machines. The result is an insane pedestal sculpture that succeeds in drowning out the metropolitan chaos. When racing, the duck just doesn't shoot out of the corner: its wheels stay neatly inside the pedestal.