Amsterdam is a city of old and new. It is well known that art has a history which is imbedded in the culture of Amsterdam and its galleries are world-renowned. Artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh are cherished. Along with the theatres, the concert halls and the museums, art galleries shape the rich cultural picture that attracts so many tourists every year. But it is not just the history of this memorable city which is valued by its natives. The manner in which Amsterdam pioneers modern standards and a radical liberalism is of as much pride – particularly in art.
Amsterdam has been accustomed to innovations in art since the Amsterdam Impressionists of the 19th Century, led by George Hendrik Breitner, whose paintings of Amsterdam streets are as progressive as they are beloved by the city and its galleries. Vincent Van Gogh is idolised by the city as much as his paintings are adored by Amsterdam galleries because of the emotional extremities displayed in both his short life and his work. Though in a city which yearns modern thrills, it is the independent art galleries which are thriving today, with their license to display the most unusual and provocative art the city has seen.
The Galleries: W139
One of the best galleries to view contemporary art in Amsterdam has to be one located in the city’s most evocative location. Founded in 1979 (which explains its punk sensibilities), W139 lies in the heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light Disctrict and showcases a variety of work on controversial subjects ranging from sex and drugs to the conflict between art and politics.
It is a particularly hip haunt and the coolest young Amsterdam inhabitants can be found viewing the artwork on display or perhaps taking in a film, participating in a debate or having fun at one of the many parties held within its walls. A truly diverse location with a great scope of interests and passions; perfect for uni student who can get themselves out there relatively cheaply if they search for flights to Amsterdam online.
A much newer venture on Amsterdam’s art scene, Radar, located on Rozengracht and offering free admission, offers an equally radical stance to its art. The gallery is operated by Marco di Piaggi whose passion for architecture and music are evident in this avant-garde space which displays some of the strangest work Amsterdam’s artists have to offer. Ranging from the satirical to the rebellious to the downright bizarre, the work is often complimented by poetry or, thanks to di Piaggi’s connections to underground music, similarly unrestrained sounds.
Located just round the corner from Radar, but seemingly miles away in its style, is the much less abrasive Galerie Fons Welters. A stalwart in Amsterdam’s independent art scene, it is one of the most important providers of contemporary art in the Netherlands. Whilst displaying work from respected artists in it large “white cube” space, the gallery also pioneers the work of young artists in its smaller Playstation area. Whether it is painting, projections on the large screens which cover the walls, or sculptures, Galerie Fons Welters is essential for anyone visiting Amsterdam, particularly art enthusiasts.