Democratic and Direct – Contemporary Art in Dutch Art Institutions

By Emma Luz Philipp (@emma_luz_nefertari)
14/09/19

Street Dreams: How Hiphop took over Fashion at Kunsthal Rotterdam
Street Dreams: How Hiphop took over Fashion at Kunsthal Rotterdam

Do other cities function differently? Does time flow faster or slower there? Do interactions take place under different conditions? Sure. And just as much, the approach to contemporary art is influenced by the environment it finds itself in, in each of those different cities or cultures.

I just moved to Rotterdam a few weeks ago and still exploring the art scene of this new environment. However, I have visited Amsterdam a few times before and always enjoyed the encounters there with the local approach to art – experiences that might have influenced my decision to move to the Netherlands.

Museums and galleries, both, in Amsterdam as well as Rotterdam, have a down-to-earth, direct way of presenting contemporary art. Democratic maybe: No raised brow, close to the people and close to the present. What else could be more relevant in contemporary art?

A great example of this democratic approach to art might be the Amsterdam-based Public House of Art➹. A concept gallery that offers affordable works to everyone, simultaneously giving a diverse portfolio of up-and-coming artists the chance to address a wider audience and make a name for themselves.

Additionally, both, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are very diverse metropolitan areas, resulting in an opportunity for authentic representation of current cultural (and subcultural) developments. It may be characteristic, that I had the chance to experience my first Kehinde Wiley live and in vibrant color at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam➹.

Kehinde Wiley - Portrait of Margaret Woffington (2017).  The artist applies a classic pictorial language to modern subjects and cultural issues.
Kehinde Wiley - Portrait of Margaret Woffington (2017). The artist applies a classic pictorial language to modern subjects and cultural issues.

The Kunsthal serves as a great example of several other characteristics that I appreciate in the pragmatic and original approach so typical of many Dutch venues. Just like many of those institutions, the Kunsthal is not afraid to touch on commercial issues and play with metaphors that everyone understands. It displays works of urban legends like Wiley next to photographic evidence of both, significant moments in pop culture as well as everyday life. It presents works like Joana Vasconcelos Marylin (2011), whose message is so clear that more conservative visitors might label it as pithy. Still, they speak to everyone. The venue is not afraid of hosting panels with modern streetwear designers, followed up by 3h DJ sets. And it does not shy away from collaborating with the notorious hype-brand Off-White™.

Joana Vasconcelo - Marylin (2011).  The gigantic high-heels made from steel pots and lids exude luxury and power. At the same time, they clearly remind us of the position of women in society and their role as trophy and housewives.
Joana Vasconcelo - Marylin (2011). The gigantic high-heels made from steel pots and lids exude luxury and power. At the same time, they clearly remind us of the position of women in society and their role as trophy and housewives.

In cooperation with the high-end streetwear label Off-White™, the
Kunsthal Rotterdam launched a limited edition T-shirt to tie in with
the 'Street Dreams: How Hiphop took over Fashion' exhibition. The
T-shirt is available in black or white for €247
In cooperation with the high-end streetwear label Off-White™, the Kunsthal Rotterdam launched a limited edition T-shirt to tie in with the 'Street Dreams: How Hiphop took over Fashion' exhibition. The T-shirt is available in black or white for €247

Contemporary art – loud, original, diverse, and close to the people and their everyday realities. This is what one can look forward to during the Amsterdam Art Weekend 2019➹. From the 21st to 24th of November, “a selection of the city’s finest galleries, museums, institutions and project spaces will showcase the latest developments in contemporary art”. Among them are RijksakademieOPEN➹, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam➹, Christies’s➹ and many other exciting venues. The Amsterdam Art Association promises visitors to be able to “venture off the beaten path within this unique setting and be the first to discover a new generation of contemporary artists”.