What is the collection?

In Amsterdam, a large number of well-known and lesser-known works of art show the story of the city and its inhabitants. Art in the public space has the potential to strengthen the city’s public and polyphonous character. Art can show us – not because it is accessible, but precisely because it is complex – that the public space is a domain where opposites are not eliminated or banished, but rather embraced and experienced.

Art in the public space manifests in many different ways, in different guises, with different functions. The collection of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, for example, includes a wide range of works of art, from monuments, sculptures, social projects and interventions in the environment to graffiti, wall paintings and reliefs. Art not only has qualitative and historical aspects, but it has also been used for decades to improve social structures in neighbourhoods and other aspects that are difficult to measure, such as ‘unity’ and ‘quality of life in the neighbourhood’. The collection is not just about monumental gestures or sculptures on pedestals. Art can also signal a place of gathering, or be one itself.

WJM Kok – Monochrome 360° (2020)

How did this tradition start? Where are these works of art located and how many are there, exactly? How were they created and what stories do they tell? These aspects of art in the public space do not always manage to catch the spotlight. The Stadscuratorium safeguards the accessibility of visual art in the public space by making such information accessible both online and on location in a new and inventive way. Thus, the Stadscuratorium stimulates the preservation of the city’s visual memory and ensures that is on every agenda.

Amsterdam has a large number of initiatives that inventory the collection of art in the (semi-)public space of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. These include Public Art Amsterdam, Amsterdam Street Art, Art Zuid and Buitenbeeld in Beeld. A recent addition is Hans Aarsman’s ‘Rijksakademie on the map’, a city map that shows 441 works in the public space of Amsterdam, all by artists who are/were connected to the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten. The collection owned by the City of Amsterdam contains the almost 1,600 sculptures and monuments that are listed on Buitenkunst Amsterdam. However, the collection also includes privately owned outdoor sculptures plus more than 200 pieces of post-war wall art. Street art and graffiti have hardly been documented in this manner at all. The Stadscuratorium is committed to making the stories of the entire collection as up-to-date and complete as possible and unlocking them to the public.

In the stories below, a selection of works of art is spotlighted and the Stadscuratorium addresses its agenda, opportunities and urgencies – and, notably, its love, knowledge, annoyances and hopes. Future contributions will involve collaborations with residents, artists and writers – together, they will tell the story of the collection of Amsterdam.