In a space massive enough for a Dutch sea vessel, the Street Art Museum of Amsterdam (STRAAT) has one of the largest collections of today’s mural stars anywhere. During its official maiden voyage, curious street art/graffiti/contemporary art fans look to see if this ship is seaworthy. The brainchild of former graffiti writer, curator, and publisher Peter Ernst Coolen in the early 2010s, the D.N.A. of the museum is rooted in his forward vision as much as the ideal waterfront warehouse that showcases close to 200 international artists.
Housed in a massive yet austere ship hull-welding hanger that closed in the 1980s, the airy space later hosted flea markets and similar events. Today the STRAAT is evolving into something more closely resembling a museum space due to recent structural and lighting improvements, but it hasn’t become a white box. If its origination story of punk culture, D.I.Y., and a well-loved graffiti Hall of Fame still holds water, this street art home by NDSM Wharf has the potential to be a world-class icon that retains credibility and out-paces other contenders.
The museum delivers a promise with a significant renovation, focused programming, public/private tours, an investment in marketing, branding/partnering, a sexy website, invited curators, and (no Banksy jokes, please) a gift shop. We’ve encountered the palpable energy of the select crew of creative directors, curators, content creators, and experience managers over the last few years. There is the desire to forge a soul of the new enterprise, as helmed by Coolen’s original business partner and civil engineer Peter Hoogewerf.
To appreciate where it may be heading, you now have a guidebook of works by the 200 or so artists who have created canvasses and sculpture here in the permanent collection. Given the wide span presented, the challenge will be to define a direction for this 8000 square meter shipyard space – aside from merely offering a broad survey of current names on the global stage.
STRAAT: Quote from the Streets (Lannoo Uitgeverij) is the name of the opening exhibition and a thick softcover tome of attractive art plates. It offers a collection of artists’ profiles, reflections, and artworks laid out in a spare and modern way, allowing the mind to wander or rest. With an intro by curator and founder of the Paris-based agency Le Grand Jeu Christian Omodeo, the travel/street art blogger Giulia Riva and writer Giovanna Di Giacomo are authors. Their essay explains that the STRAAT collection is organized here according to categories of Aesthetic, Ground, Empathic, and Conscious – with detailed descriptions of the respective characteristics and rationale laid out in the opening texts.
The range of styles and techniques here mirrors many of the mural movements on streets around the world today. The writers give valuable contextual background for decoding what often are high-quality artworks. A unifying and concise overview of each artist is a supporting firmament with enough academic rigor to enlighten the reader – no small feat in a world populated with fanboys and pseudo-intellectualizing. Because of it, this introduction to the museum is more than average data reportage – helping to broaden understanding of this multi-headed hydra called the street art scene. With a firm grip guiding the rudder, this ship looks like it is ready to sail.
STRAAT MUSEUM: Quotes From The Streets. Published by Lannoo. Click HERE to learn more about STRAAT and to purchase the book.