By Ed Little and Alex Pope
Amsterdam has always been progressive in welcoming Urban Art. This March, artwork by Banksy was projected on the Dutch National Museum (the Rijksmuseum), in support of Syrian refugees. More than thirty years earlier, New York graffiti artists such as Seen, Dondi, Blade, Quik, Rammellzee and Futura 2000 were given their first taste of success in the high brow art world by Amsterdam gallery owner Yaki Kornblit. In 1986, Keith Haring did a commissioned mural for the Museum depot. Even before the arrival of the Americans, Amsterdam had a uniquely homegrown punk graffiti scene.
Fefe Talavera (photo © Ed Little)
By being exposed to the New York artists so early on, Amsterdam graffiti ignited and burned on well into the nineties. Amsterdam writers like Shoe and Delta, along with foreign partners Bando and Mode 2, spread the Crime Time style throughout Europe. In 1992, the city temporarily stopped cleaning subways because of toxic chemicals in the cleaning material. The writers completely took over the subways, creating a scene reminiscent of 1970s New York, as Amsterdam bathed in graffiti euphoria.
Today’s street art and graffiti scene is relatively small, and not pushing the envelope as much as it once was. That is not the say Amsterdam doesn ́t get down anymore. Feast your eyes on a selection of commissioned murals, illegal burners and creative get ups that Amsterdam has to offer.
Fefe Talavera (photo © Ed Little)
Here is a double header by Brazilian female artist Fefe Talavera, painted as part of the 2012 RUA Festival. The RUA Festival aims to show urban and contemporary Brazilian art next to institutionalized art of museums and galleries. According to the artist, the two heads represent two Indians wearing animal masks. The vibrant tribal color scheme really stands out against the dull grey backdrop, and is a good reminder of what a little bit of paint can do for a building.
Zed1 (photo © Ed Little)
This is a mural by Italian artist Zed1 at creative hotspot café Roest, home of Max Zorn ́s Stick Together festival. Awesome incorporation of the building window into the depicted scene, which reads as a critique of the current cost of living.
ETHOS (photo © Ed Little)
Here is another Brazilian mural in Amsterdam, painted by Ethos for the 2011 edition of the RUA Festival. Once again, masks are a big part of the artwork, which fits well with Ethos’ surrealist style. The mural itself functions as an awesome mask for an otherwise pretty shabby looking squat.
Adnate x Andersen (photo © Ed Little)
Here is Australian artist Adnate along with Morten Andersen from Denmark. Nice clash of Adnate ́s photorealist style of characters and Andersen ́s abstract geometrics. Painted for the Kosmopolite Art Tour, next to an insane burner by Dems UB which unfortunately is no longer there to be seen.
Vrankrijk (photo © Ed Little)
The legal squat Vrankrijk is one of the focal points of Amsterdam ́s squat scene. The Lichtenstein type BOOM! is a clear representation of Pop Art, which was also used as a vehicle by Fab 5 Freddy to push graffiti into the American higher art sphere in the late seventies.
Inkie (photo © Ed Little)
Here is a commissioned work by Englishman Inkie from 2012. Painted on what was once an always tagged up parking entrance. The wall on the right was painted later on, as the original was reclaimed by street bombers, who tagged it again within no time, even crossing out the artist ́s website with the word ́toy ́. The Inkie was left untouched, probably out of respect.
Niels “SHOE” Mulman and Adele Renault (photo © Ed Little)
A good example of calligraffiti here by Amsterdam graffiti legend Shoe. Brushstroked fill in, outlined by black spraypaint. Though Shoe ́s calligraffiti style is so uniquely his, it reminds us of that Amsterdam ́s 1970s punk graffiti feel. Pigeon portrait by Adele Renault, who went on to have a pigeon inspired exhibit at Shoe ́s Unruly Gallery.
Rammellzee Memorial Wall (photo © Ed Little)
Above is a Rammellzee memorial wall by Shoe and friends from 2010, paying homage to the evo griller. Rammellzee was one of the twelve New York graffiti artists who each had a one month solo exhibit at Yaki Kornblit ́s gallery in the early 1980s and who would inspire Shoe and eventually many other writers worldwide to pursue a career in the streets and the fine arts world.
The London Police (photo © Ed Little)
Here’s a large London Police commissioned mural on the Prinsengracht canal. Adopted Amsterdammers The London Police paid for their first stay in Amsterdam with t-shirts and art, and have made a comfortable living off their art ever since. The mural is located next to the street oriented Go Gallery, which has an original London Police mural from their earlier Amsterdam days.
C215 (photo © Ed Little)
C215 shown here with Kid Acne (photo © Ed Little)
Above are two subtle works by regular French visitor C215. The first one was painted with permission from the same Dutch family that first gave the London Police a roof over their heads. The second one is located near Amsterdam’s NDSM werf hall of fame. C215’s romantic works seem to make icons out of regular folks, which is probably why they are at their best when they are visible in the streets for everyone to see.
Jorit. Vincent Van Gogh (photo © Ed Little)
Italian-Dutch artist Jorit did this Vincent Van Gogh portrait. The technically very impressive photorealist depiction of Van Gogh didn’t fair well with everybody, as someone gave his 2 cents by writing “Vincent wouldn ́t approve” in the bottom corner. While Jorit’s photorealistic Van Gogh may be very opposite to the subject’s impressionist style, we wanna say that we do approve. Please note that Van Gogh ́s eyeliner was also added by a third party.
Delta (photo © Ed Little)
Here is an illegal burner by Amsterdam graffiti legend Delta from 2006. When Delta returned to graffiti in the 90s, he blew up big with his 3-D styles, which lead to a very successful career in the arts. Staying true to his roots, he remains active in his hometown streets while killing it in the galleries and even the architectural world.
ROA (photo © Ed Little)
An early work by international superstar ROA from the mid 2000s; While it is undeniably a ROA, it is awesome to see how his style and eye for detail have developed. It is part of an original mural that also featured Bue the Warrior and Chase. The wall was mostly repainted, but the ROA has been left untouched.
Leno, Twice and Gear (photo © Ed Little)
Above is some illegal wildstyle graffiti by the most prolific Amsterdam duo of the new millennium, Twice and Gear, along with colorful blockbuster letters by subway and trackside killer Leno on an old submarine nearby the NDSM hall of fame. Bastardilla and Stinkfish are on the bottom as well.
NEKST tribute. (photo © Ed Little)
Nekst Tribute (photo © Ed Little)
From Banksy projections to illegal wildstyle graffiti, all of the different aspects of today ́s modern urban art landscape are still a part of Amsterdam ́s creative daily routine. But for a city known for its liberal feel, it would be nice to see Amsterdam embrace urban art even more and reclaim its previous position as ahead of the worldwide pack. In order to do so, we will always keep an eye on the streets.
We thank Alex and Ed for this sharing this good work with BSA readers.
© Text Alex Pope © Photos Ed Little
To see more Amsterdam Street Art and read interviews with the artists click Keep It Hush
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