(by Lucien den Arend, coordinator)

The beginnings of this exhibition date back to 1990. In that year I met the Finnish minister of culture, Marja-Liisa Kasurinen and discussed with her my intention to make an exhibition of Finnish sculpture in Holland. During that same summer I met the sculptor Kari Huhtamo in Helsinki. We elaborated on the idea. Upon my return home I contacted various museum directors who might be interested in this exhibition. But as is often the case with academics, such a venture did not fit into their making of art history. When in 1992 the Dutch Sculptors' Association asked me to manage its secretarial business, I proposed that we organize a presentation of Finnish art in Holland. It was in this same period that I asked the city of Zwijndrecht whether its water tower could be used for accommodating a Sculpture Center. It will lose its present function in the near future. The idea was also discussed with the Drecht River Banks Project Team, which was working on a proposal for this area. We discussed organizing exhibitions of sculpture, along the riverbanks of the six cooperating cities. A permanent sculpture park could evolve. The team incorporated such an aspect into the Drecht River Banks Master Plan. The heart of the park would surround the juncture of the three rivers between Dordrecht, Papendrecht and Zwijndrecht. The Dutch Sculptors' Association decided to develop the first phase of the sculpture park here. The association has two hundred members, a number of them with large sculptures in stock. Also other Dutch sculptors were invited to submit work for the selection. Queen Beatrix opened the park in the spring of 1996. It is the beginning of a permanent exhibition of sculpture that will have a total length of around thirty-five kilometers. It is the only one of its kind that will be exploited and owned by the artists themselves. That, which initially started out to be an exhibition of Finnish art, resulted in a permanent sculpture park. The first exhibition, therefore, had to focus on Finland. In 1997 it took place in cooperation with the Papendrecht Museum of Modern Art, where smaller sculptures as well as paintings were presented. In 1997 the sculpture park’s organization was transformed into the Open Air Museum Drecht Banks Sculpture Park , in short OPAM. In the summer of 1999 the OPAM organized a second biennial following a symposium of Bulgarian sculptors. It was opened in that summer by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Bulgarian King Simeon.