City Curatorium: Guardians of Public Art

Amsterdam has the honour to be the first Dutch city to establish a City CuratoriumAn independent commission of 9 specialists in the field of art in public space. Their primary task will be safeguarding and promoting art in the city. Another part of their job will be generating a positive dialogue between the involved stakeholders. Such as neighborhood residents, entrepeneurs, city planners and project partners. The City Curatorium will also function as the connecting link between the municipality and museums.


The cleaning of an artwork by street art collective Kamp Seedorf is what set the wheels in motion. Amsterdam news channel AT5 broadcasted the topic on local television in 2017. Political party GroenLinks (Green Left), member of the city council, launched a proposal for a ‘relevance test’ for street art. This eventually lead to the recent formation of the Amsterdam City Curatorium.

 

THE VALUE OF ART IN URBAN SPACE

The importance of communicating cultural history, through art in public space, seems to be fully recognized. By project based advising, solicited and unsolicited, the City Curatorium will have a strong say in the appearance of ‘Open Air Museum Amsterdam’. The City Curatorium will also assist the municipality with future art projects, by selecting artists most qualified for a site specific work.

 

HOW TO CURATE GRAFFITI AND STREET ART?

Hopefully one of the Curatorium’s future tasks will be preventing the destruction of meaningful graffiti and street art. For example, when a painted wall is listed for cleaning, the Curatorium could be consulted first. They will have to do an assessment of the site. Then give advise about preserving (parts of) the wall. Or give the green light for cleaning it completely. A more art friendly alternative to the ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards non commissioned work in the city centre.

Painful mistakes can be prevented in the future. Such as the removal of the legendary ‘Snake Mural’ on the famous squathouse Slangenpand in the Spuistraat.

 

Snake mural on the outside of former squat house ‘Slangenpand’ in the city centre of Amsterdam.

Or the accidental removal of the ‘Damsko Strijder’ in the Wibautstraat. Another public artwork made by Kamp Seedorf. A non commissioned tribute to the late mayor of Amsterdam, who was suffering from cancer.

‘Damsko Strijder’ by art collective Kamp Seedorf in the Wibautstraat.

Or the double cleaning of master pieces by SHOE, YALT and SURE in the Constantijn Huygenstraat. Someone with the right knowledge, could’ve convinced the owner of the building, of the value of this graffiti.

Two times SHOE, YALT and SURE (2005 and 2008) on the same spot located in the Constantijn Huygenstraat.

 

GRAFFITI EXPERT

Its good to hear Aileen Middel a.k.a. Mick La Rock is chosen to be part of the City Curatorium. She has extensive knowledge about the history of graffiti and street art. Aileen played an important role in bringing back to life Keith Haring’s Sea Monster mural in Amsterdam-West. At the conference ‘Unauthorized Collection’ in Pakhuis de Zwijger, when asked by the congres mediator, Aileen had this to say:

“I can’t say much at this moment, because the City Curatorium is not yet operational. We haven’t come together yet. To talk about what we’re going to do first and do second. I really hope we can work together as a curatorial group. With all our different backgrounds. And make the city more aware of the value of art in urban space. Regardless of the fact if it is authorized or unauthorized.”

 

COVERING ALL FIELDS

All members of the City Curatorium have their own field of specialization. Their combined knowledge covers a wide range of topics. Such as fine art in general, art in public space, muralism, graffiti, city planning, museum curation and architecture.

It would be nice to see other Dutch cities follow this example by forming their own City Curatorium.

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Remko Koopman is a visual artist, graphic designer and author from Leiden, The Netherlands. He has been active as a graffiti writer using the pseudonym 'SCAGE' since 1987 and infiltrated the world of Street Art with artist collective 'Booyabase'. Koopman is co-author of the classic Dutch graffiti book 'Amsterdam Graffiti - The Battle of Waterloo' and author of the book 'De Leidse School' (The School of Leiden). He's also active within the field of cultural education for the youth.