Next Monday, January 17, the last parts of an impressive artwork will be placed on the roof of Eusebius Church in Arnhem. The work consists of, among other things, Covid viruses, tardigrades and sperm cells. It was designed by artist Arno Koenen – better known as Markthal Rotterdam – and traditionally executed in stone and steel. It is an ode to science and symbolizes hope for the good in the future.
With his design, Arno Koenen responds to other traditional sculptural groups in the Eusebius Church with the biblical theme of Noah’s Ark. Coenen: “When you approach the story of Noah’s Ark with knowledge of the day, it sounds like alienation: Why build a giant vessel to save animal species from the flood? You can save the contents of the ark at the cell level and clone them later.
Or you store DNA information on a chip: Noah’s Ark in your inner pocket. But that doesn’t make the story any less present. Important animal species are still going extinct and the land is threatened by natural disasters.”
So, instead of many animals, this new series of flying prop images consists of a series of magnifications of microscopic phenomena that we can visualize thanks to science and that can tell us more about our place in the universe. Arno Coenen emphasizes through his artworks the importance of science while at the same time recognizing the role religion can play in giving people hope and motivating them to shape their future in a positive way.
Covid viruses and tardigrades
Featured prominently in this series are mysterious tardigrades, which occur both on Earth and in space and where science remains a mystery. There’s also corn, covid virus, amoeba, and a piece of fungus. It can be supplemented and diversified endlessly on the church in the future, depending on future scientific developments. Coenen designed the artwork even before the Covid pandemic, but now he’s unexpectedly putting this artwork at the center of current events.
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Artist Arno Koenen has built a reputation for massive artwork in public spaces, mixing vintage crafts, such as glass mosaics, and contemporary computer graphics. He gained international fame with his contribution to De Markthal in Rotterdam by MVRDV Architects, the large-scale stained ceiling that has ended up on the covers of both the Dutch Architecture Yearbook and the Dutch Design Yearbook. He made an important contribution to the Beurspassage in Amsterdam and ended up in the top three in the annual architecture overview of NRC Handelsblad.
Eusebius Arnhem Church
The Eusebius Church, known for the Battle of Arnhem, has been extensively restored over the past ten years. This spring the church will be free of scaffolding. The setting of this artwork is the last piece in ten years of the radical restoration of the Eusebius Chapel. The church was destroyed during the Battle of Arnhem (1944) and then rebuilt even more beautifully than before. During the reconstruction, almost a hundred modern statues of pilasters were placed on the church. The images on two flying buttresses turned out to be indispensable with the last restoration. Then the organization Eusebius (museum) invited Arno Koenen for a new design. Among other things, the organization aspires to turn this particular work of art into a major cultural attraction. In the recent past, the church was used as a venue for local events.