A Look into Amsterdam's Urban Art Scene
Hello and happy Wednesday to all the readers out there! I spent this past Sunday cruising the famed NDSM and its inspired me to take a refreshed look one of my favorite observations, Street Art. This feature is an updated of a previous post I did back in 2017.
One of my missions as of late is to be as present as possible and observe the beauty that can be easily overlooked in a rush to complete tasks. Living in Amsterdam is almost like being in a real-life postcard, so I’ve decided to make a more conscious effort to appreciate all the visual candy it has to offer.
As I’ve noted this many time before, one of the most compelling things about living here is the art scene. It’s what I love most about the city. Before I moved here, the notions I had in my head of Amsterdam was one of a gritty cool. While it’s way more polished and conventional here than I expected there are plenty of displays of creativity that are cutting-edge in approach. Here you can enjoy the fine art sensibilities of the Rijksmuseum and the exuberant energy of open-air art that’s found throughout the city. In Amsterdam I’m able to experience lauded greats like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dali and the drop of a hat, but just as blessed to have access to beautiful expressions of visual art in the most unexpected places. It’s one of Amsterdam’s superpowers, its ability to be both a posh cosmopolitan metropolis, as well as an open, free landscape for new artists to flourish.
I have an affinity for anything that is a result of someone living out loud. Street art culture has always held the lure of the art or die concept. Forget monetary gain, the mere expression seems to be the most important thing when I see the outdoors used as a medium. Since I’ve moved here, one of my quirky little pastimes is to see how artwork I can spot around the city. There are several places one can find Amsterdam street art, the most notable is in NDSM.
A quick ride on the ferry to the north side of IJ Amsterdam will take you to an explosion of urban art everywhere you look. NDSM, formerly the site of the largest shipbuilding company in the world is now an up and coming hotspot and a popular hub for creatives. I had only been to the area a few times for lunch at Pellk, a restaurant and bar that host cultural event, so I went back this past Sunday to really take in all the artwork I missed. There was so much to see! I biked around to the different parking lots, buildings, trucks and shipping containers serving as a canvas to graffiti, tags and murals. I was blown away by the level of detail in some of the work. The most striking pieces to me, of course, the massive Anne Frank mural painted by legendary street artist Eduardo Kobra, the “Zam Zam” wall mural, and the blue girl graffiti work. I captured a few other incredible pieces, click around and let me know your favorite!
NDSM is also the site of the largest Street Art Museum in the world. Peter Ernst Coolen’s brainchild was set to open summer of 2018 but has been delayed. Unlike other places where street art museums are really a walking tour of work around the city, Coolen’s version will be at a fixed location. However, his vision is to redefine what people expect from a traditional museum. In addition to the planned exhibitions inside the massive warehouse, he’s converting for the project, “guerilla” artwork will still be welcome on the outside of the building. I'm super excited for this venture to be completed. I'll make sure to update you all when more details become available.
This multifaceted artist that has been creating works of art in Amsterdam since 1975. You can find Hünd’s beautiful mega mosaics ‘Scherven van beschaving’ and ‘Het Kompas’ at Muiderpoorstation and on Marie Heinekenplein respectively. He also has smaller mosaics commissioned murals throughout the city.
Since I started paying attention, there seem to be captivating pieces every time I look up when I least expect it. There are so many times I’m walking around the city, and I’m randomly treated to work that makes me think and feel. I was born and raised in New Orleans, an artistic place in terms of music. I've also lived in New York which is also known as a culture rich city. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Amsterdam that I begin to be more cognizant of what seems to be ever-constant creative outbursts in public spaces.
The people that contribute to the fabric of this forward-leaning city aren’t afraid to share their talent, even if it’s temporary. You can take a shortcut down an alley and discover a vibrant portrait of a woman carelessly painted on a door or get lost on one of your expeditions around the city and find a building facade graced with the most irreverent deception of a woman’s body that you’ve seen in a while. On a walk around Centrum, you can spot Amy Winehouse’s tragic memorial on the wall of Boulangerie Le Mortier by artist Judith de Leeuw. All around you can find gallery-worthy work in the most mundane of places like an intricate ode to Dutch actor Herman Brood on a parking lot wall.
The more I’m exposed to urban visual art scene the more I’m partial to it. Each time I’m going about my day and I happen upon something random such as a mother holding her precious child stencilled on someone’s doorway or a reading monkey in a narrow pathway I’m reminded how this art form inspires emotion rather than thought for me personally. When I stumble upon a Dump Trump tag and shake my while I snicker, I’m experiencing the artist’s commentary rather than thinking about it. I have these sorts of occurrences almost every day. I remember once trying to find Waterlooplein with my awful sense of direction, and I was so frustrated I wanted to cry. I felt like I had been walking in circles for hours. Then I passed two beautiful painted garage doors, I stopped and smiled. Something about seeing beauty in such an unexpected place caused me to calm down and find my way.
As a creative being, it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to live in a city where is self-expression is a big part of the culture. Amsterdam’s willingness to not only accept art outside the confines of traditional venues but embrace it speaks to its practice of nurturing up-and-coming artist. Amsterdam’s reputation as an art forward capital city is indeed well deserved. Here there is space for it all – commissioned murals, mosaics and installations, guerilla-style stencils, as well as inspiring stickers and tolerated tags.
I invite you to be extra present next time you are out and about. Open your eyes to all of the artistic expression right in front on you. You’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll spot something that will move you, make you laugh or inspire thought.
Have you noticed all the interesting street art in the city? What is one of the most striking works that you've seen? Share with use below in the comment section! We can't wait to hear from you.
'Til next time