Although being famous for its Golden Ages, Rembrandt‘s and Vermeer’s paintings at the Rijksmuseum, and the biggest collection of Van Gogh’s works, Amsterdam has a vibrant contemporary art scene, as well. And the best time to explore it is during the annual Amsterdam Art Weekend.
Amsterdam Art Weekend
Although I studied Art History, I’m always a bit intimidated around contemporary art and feel much more confident being surrounded by some classical paintings. However, I actually do quite enjoy it when I know the story behind the piece. That’s why, I thought exploring some of Amsterdam’s contemporary art during the Amsterdam Art Weekend, could be a great (and safe) thing to do.
Amsterdam Art Weekend is an annual event during which many art galleries, institutions and museums are opening their doors and organising special events where they are showing some of the best contemporary art pieces, hosting performances and art tours. Their goal is to showcase Amsterdam, which was always attracting artists from all over the world, as an international contemporary art hub. Despite, the event taking place only during the four days in a year, many exhibitions remain open for much longer. You can find info in the calendar on their website about some of the most interesting contemporary art events happening in Amsterdam.
⤷ Read my Amsterdam Travel Guide on a link here
Which locations to visit during Amsterdam Art Weekend
I explored some of contemporary art n Amsterdam during the Amsterdam Art Weekend 2019 on Friday and Saturday. There are so many great places you can visit during it. So, I recommend you getting one of their great little maps with all the locations and events organised marked on them. Make a plan and create your own route to visit the ones interesting to you.
Galleries participating in the Amsterdam Art Weekend are having a purple banner at their entrance with the number by which they are marked on the official map. That makes it quite easy to find your way around Amsterdam (especially if you’re visiting the city for the first time). Below are some of the places I visited during the Amsterdam Art Weekend, and am definitely recommending them to you, as well.
Rijksakademie Open Studios
Rijksakademie is an international artist residency where artists from all over the world could spend two years. They are provided by an accommodation, a studio and a supportive group of their peers. It’s a place where many established contemporary artists started their career. Usually closed to the public, they open their doors during the Amsterdam Art Weekend, so it’s an excellent opportunity to see some new art movements and meet some of the residents, too.
Something I really liked during the Amsterdam Art Weekend is how contemporary art is showcased in so many different ways. After exploring work of younger artists at the Rijksakademie, we continued to a new contemporary art hub in the city – Capital C. Located in the old diamond cutting centre, the building has been restored and given a bit of a modern feel with a new glass roof on top of it. Their goal is to make Amsterdam the creative capital of the world. They are doing that by combining art and design, hiring contemporary artists to do interventions in the interior design of the building, gathering creative community at their co-working space and organising free exhibitions. During the Amsterdam Art Weekend, they hosted ‘Amsterdam: Collected’ exhibition at a small pop up gallery at the main entrance to the building. Although just at their beginning, this place is definitely going to become a vital contemporary art hub in Amsterdam.
*TIP: There is a lovely restaurant called Stan&Co on the first floor of the building. So, if you would like to see the interior of that beautiful building and have a quick bite, this is definitely place to visit.
Contemporary Art Galleries in Amsterdam
After a quick lunch, I continued exploring Amsterdam Art Weekend by visiting some of the participating galleries. I visited AKINCI, Lumen Travo, Flatland Gallery, Grimm, Gallery Stevenson and Galerie Ron Mandos. In most of them either small tours, artists talks or performances were organised. So, it really felt like the whole city was celebrating its contemporary art.
AKINCI had an exhibition ‘Heroines Now’ with works from five female artists exploring different positions of women in today’s society (you can see a photo from it above). In Lumen Travo artist Thierry Oussou was teaching the visitors to play the board game Adji, which was an inspiration to his exhibition ‘Political Strategy’ that’s currently on display there. My favourite was probably Galerie Ron Mandos where a painter Jacco Olivier told us more about his works there. He animated some of the elements from his paintings and brought them to life in an amazing way (check out my Instagram stories highlight on a link here to see some of them).
⤷ Read my guide through the best museums in Amsterdam here
*TIP: Don’t worry if you’ve missed Amsterdam Art Weekend because many of these exhibitions will remain open until the end of December or January. Click on their names above for more info.
The last stop of the day was the Stedelijk Museum and the opening of Carlos Amorales’ exhibition ‘The Factory’. He’s one of the most important Mexico’s contemporary artists, and this exhibition is an excellent retrospective through his multidisciplinary work. My favourite piece there was ‘Black Cloud’, which consists of around 30,000 black butterflies made of paper, spreading over a few rooms of the museum. It was a great way to finish my first day at Amsterdam Art Weekend.
*TIP: Are you planning to visit Stedelijk Museum? Get your online ticket on a link here.
After an exciting first day of Amsterdam Art Weekend, I woke up the next day ready to explore it more. There is something so relaxing and fulfilling in dedicating two days to art only. Being surrounded by other art enthusiasts, visiting small art galleries and standing in front of some fantastic art pieces have something magical in it.
So, the next morning I started at the Conservatorium Hotel located at the art heart of Amsterdam, at the Museumplein. The building itself is a piece of art itself. Built at the end of the 19th century as a bank, later on, it was transformed into the musical conservatorium. And finally, in 2011 the hotel was opened there. One of the aims of it is to promote contemporary art. Besides doing that by organising exhibitions at its lobby, the hotel is also having a room dedicated to Rembrandt and Artist in Residence Suites. I visited one of them that was decorated with paintings and drawings created by Dutch artist Jasper Krabbé. He was there, and while he was telling us a story behind his work, I wondered could there be a better place to stay in Amsterdam for anyone in love with art.
⤷ Check out my guide through the Museum Quarter in Amsterdam here
During the Amsterdam Art Weekend the biggest international art fair in the Netherlands, PAN Amsterdam, took place, as well. It was interesting to see some very old art pieces like the Roman vases or Medieval religious paintings, next to the Dutch Golden Ages classics, and some contemporary light installations or video art. That mix of time periods, genres and mediums is something I really enjoyed at PAN Amsterdam. However, it was also exciting to place those pieces to the art market and see the prices some of them have.
Exploring contemporary art during the Amsterdam Art Weekend and PAN Amsterdam definitely made me understand better the position the Netherlands has in the art world today. From seeing some artists in residence to visiting some of the galleries and an art fair, I had a great time during the Amsterdam Art Weekend and am definitely recommending you to visit it next year.
*I have visited Amsterdam Art Weekend on a press trip organised by IAmsterdam, Amsterdam Art Weekend and PAN Amsterdam. Many thanks to all of them for organising it.
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