Amsterdam Art Weekend proves the city’s creative cache is as rock-solid as ever

Amsterdam Art Weekend proves the city’s creative cache is as rock-solid as ever

A weekend is certainly not enough to see what Amsterdam, a city deeply committed to art and creativity, has to offer. The last weekend of November marked the fifth edition of Amsterdam Art Weekend, which featured more than 50 official participants and many more satellite pop-ups around the capital.

The epicentre and one of the highlights was undoubtedly the RijksakademieOPEN, which opens the door of its resident artist studios for only two days in the year for people to discover art trends and ideas. This year’s refreshing and upbeat dynamic included German video-artist Funda Gül Özcan’s Time to Say Hello at the East Pole (2016), a diorama-like multi-media sculptural installation that works as a display for a visual poem; Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood’s simple but captivating video Monument of Arrival and Return (2016) observes and documents a fading history and culture.

’Sweater Portrait’ by Jasper Hagenaar, 2016, at Ornis A Gallery

The city’s progressive and liberal reputation is evidenced by its many museums. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam challenged viewers with Jordan Wolfson’s solo exhibition, ’Manic / Love / Truth / Love’. The American artist’s cross-media work revolves around sex and violence; his latest animatronic artwork Colored Sculpture (2016), whereby a chained, computer programmed robot is dangled from a steel gantry before brutally crashing to the floor guaranteed an unsettling experience. Also courting controversy was Melanie Bonajo, who showed at photography museum Foam. Her trilogy of semi-documentary films Night Soil contests the progress of capitalism and moves beyond the accepted cultural norms, exploring often illegal themes.

Tucked away was the roving art biennial Manifesta’s fetching headquarters on Herengracht. In the historical grand canal house, the foundation hosted its bi-annual exhibition curated by Annet Gelink Gallery. The site-specific curation, ’Theatre Dreams of a Beautiful Afternoon – Part 2’, spread throughout the building and garden, showcased nine artists’ works, including Barbara Visser‘s large woven tapestry Baroque Ceiling (2013) and Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s neon We Shall be Strong in our Weakness (2012), both reflecting the history of the building and the location.

A pop-up exhibition, ’Collectors View’, curated by Fons Welters (of Galerie Fons Welters) and Laurie Cluitmans and held in the former diamond exchange building, showed works taken from six Dutch private collections. From left, ’Ex Futuro’ by Florian & Michael Quistrebert, 2010; and ’Sleeping Moon’ by Mike Pratt, 2015. Photography: Ernst van Deursen

Considered to be one of the founders of Dutch conceptual art, Marinus Boezem – who is known for his fascination with Gothic architectural symbolism – took centre stage at the city’s oldest building, the 800-year-old Oude Kerk (’old church’). Adding to the majestic structure were his new site-specific works including Labyrinth (2016), an installation of semi-transparent cloth that created a labyrinth mimicking the never-ending human search for transcendence. In the heart of the church was Into the Air (2016), a construction lift bringing viewers to the height of 15 metres for a change of perspective – and where they could find a personal message from the artist.

The city’s mastery in repurposed architecture was also strongly represented; the latest revamped building to be unveiled will be the Diamantbeurs, originally constructed in the 1910s. The art nouveau monument is currently being transformed into creative hub Capital C, yet it hosted two pop-up art shows to coincide with the art weekend. BIG ART, a new platform created by Anne van der Zwaag (founder of Object Rotterdam), showcased a collection of outsized artworks by both acclaimed names and young blood – Gerrit Rietveld Academie graduate Lillian Vlaun’s 12º32’19.7”N 70º3’47.5”WE (2016) used papier mâché to resemble the breakwater of artificial stones on the beach in Aruba where she was born, scrutinising the tension between nature and culture.

Also in the Manifesta Foundation was Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s neon ’We Shall be Strong in our Weakness’, 2012, a reference to her film, ’Zamach (Assassination)’, in which she explores themes on difficulties of living in a politically and socially split world

Occupying the grand hall on the ground floor, ’Collectors View’ showcased some 50 works from 35 artists from six independent Dutch private collections patronising the local art scene. The choice of works was somehow ‘daring’ – and even unliveable with, someone might say. In Communion of Goods (2016) by Sema Bekirovic is an installation of loops of compressor copper tubes covered in ice; Sarah van Sonsbeeck’s One Cubic Meter of Broken Silence (2009-2010) was quite iterally one cubic metre of broken glass.

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