The street art scene in the Netherlands is alive and bigger than ever. Over the last years, the art form has grown fast, resulting in a flourishing and varied scene. Festivals such as Step in the Arena (2010-), Kings of Colors (2013-) and Kings Spray (2015-) are well-visited events that show (inter)national top artists each year. In addition, the world’s biggest street art museum is coming to Amsterdam and will open its doors in 2019. This strong growth has not remained unnoticed: more and more local governments give street art a place in public space and offer artists prominent walls in their cities. Since 2016, Holland best street art is rewarded during the annual Dutch Street Art Awards, stimulating the scene to grow to an even higher level.
Enough reasons for us to make a list in alphabetical order of 15 Dutch Street Artists You Must Know to show you what this small country has to offer:
1 – Daan Botlek
Years active: 2000 – Present
Men is the measure in Daan Botlek‘s work. The characters are minimalistic but very striking, giving you new insights each time you run into them. They often play with their surroundings, sometimes breaking through their two-dimensionalism in a creative way. Botlek’s work is a game of geometric and physical laws, but the narrative is never explained: the work invites the viewer to find the meaning. He is one of the founding fathers of If Paradise Is Half As Nice, an art project focussed on making art in abandoned buildings, keeping his art accessible for everyone.
2 – Delta
Years active: 1983 – Present
Graffiti legend DELTA is worldwide seen as one of the best who ever touched a can. He became famous for his unique style, inspired by his industrial design background to create a 3D perspective that makes the pieces come to life. Nowadays, DELTA works with all sorts of materials and is a respected artist with shows all over the world. In the start of 2017, DELTA showed 30 years of work during his museum solo ‘A Friendly Takeover’ at the MIMA in Brussel. A few months later he was named Best Street Artist during the Dutch Street Art Awards, confirming his status as one of the country’s best once again.
3 – Does
Years active: 1997 – Present
Though Does has been active in graffiti since 1997, it wasn’t his first love. For a while, he was one of the biggest soccer talents in the Netherlands, playing for the Fortuna Sittard first team. However, he continued to bomb the city, being a public figure during the day but an underground graffiti writer at night. Due to his impressive soccer abilities Does even drew the attention of Dutch giants PSV and Feyenoord, but an injury ended his career at an early stage. He took this setback as an opportunity to focus on his art. Although Does’ work contains strong graphic influences, he stays true to his roots and uses the traditional graffiti lettering as his foundation. Nowadays, the bright, dynamic work of this former soccer talent can be seen all over the world.
4 – Favela Painting
Years active: 2005 – Present
Favela Painting is a collective from Amsterdam that transforms neighborhoods into colorful places. Founded in 2005 by Haas&Hahn, the collective did projects in Rio de Janeiro, Haiti and Philadelphia. They often work together with the locals, letting the people restyle their own neighborhood. Last summer, they painted the Bijlmerbajes, a former prison in Amsterdam and now inhabited by refugees. Together they turned this old building in a new, colorful and safe home. Their main objective: to use art as a powerful weapon to catalyze social change.
5 – Graphic Surgery
Years active as a duo: 2004 – Present
Amsterdam based duo Graphic Surgery is strongly inspired by industrial landscapes. Their abstract paintings are mostly black and white and often contain elements of the crane, for them the universal symbol of cities in transition. Graphic Surgery doesn’t confine to 2D only, their work is visualized through different forms of mixed media such as design, video and installations. A must see for all the raw abstract art lovers!
6 – Hugo Kaagman
Years active: 1978 – Present
Making his first stencil back in 1978, Hugo Kaagman can be seen as a true pioneer in the stencil art. He was one of the first stencil artists in Europe, putting his work on the streets years before legends such as Blek le Rat were active. At that time, he was a well-known figure in Amsterdam’s punk and squatting movement and often made art with a critical message. In his later work, Kaagman started to make his Dutch tribal art: stereotype images of the Dutch culture painted in the historical Delft Blue color. He was one of the few stencil artists who was invited by Banksy to be part of The Cans Festival (2008), the biggest event of its kind. Hugo Kaagman, the Dutch Godfather of Stencil Graffiti.
7 – I Am Eelco
Years active: 1989 – Present
Born in Uden, now based in Rotterdam, I Am Eelco came in contact with hip hop and graffiti, starting to bomb the city from 1989 on. His career as a muralist took shape in 2012 when he moved to New York. There he came in contact with the local graffiti crew ‘TATS CRU’ with whom he did a few murals. His graphic and colorful work immediately went viral, resulting in multiple commissions: Eelco did 10 more murals in the next two months and became a respected artist in the street art scene.
8 – Karski and Beyond
City: Amsterdam / The Hague
Years active as a duo: 2014 – Present
The duo Karski and Beyond is known for their realistic and playful murals. Karski is born in Amsterdam and started to spray graffiti in 1984. The Hague based Beyond touched his first can in 1997. They both studied graphic design and started to combine their skills early 2010. In 2016, Karski and Beyond made a series of impressive murals in The Hague; the walls won the award for the Best Dutch Mural during the Dutch Street Art Awards.
9 – Mr. June
Years active: 1985 – Present
Started as a B-boy and graffiti writer in 1985, the Limburg born Mr. June still uses the cans as his main tool medium. He studied Graphic Design, which played a major role in the development of his style. The letters are replaced by colorful geometric shapes which often create an optical illusion. You can find his work all over the Netherlands, but also in New York, Spain, Bristol and Miami.
10 – Pipsqueak Was Here
Years active as a duo: 2003 – Present
The paintings of the Amsterdam based duo Pipsqueak Was Here seem innocent at first sight, but always have an underlying thought. Their trademark, a girl and a bear, is a metaphor for man and his relationship with nature: ‘Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you’. In a playful way, they always try to express their criticism on men and nature and thereby make the world a better place.
11 – Remko Koopman
Years active: 1987 – Present
Like most street artists, Remko Koopman started his career as a traditional graffiti artist (‘style writer’), being one of the pioneers in the city of Leiden. He became a member of the respected DSK, a crew founded in 1988 by the Dutch Master ZEDZ. Koopman made a name for himself with his alias SCAGE and is even featured in the American cult documentary Bomb It – Street Art Is Revolution (2007). Later on, he studied graphic design and developed a personal style inspired by technology, science fiction, biology, machinery and industrial architecture. He became a respected artist in the regular art world. Koopman is of great value for the Dutch scene: he is responsible for the classic Dutch graffiti books Amsterdam Graffiti – The Battle of Waterloo (2004) and De Leidse School (2008).
12 – Shoe
Years active: 1979 – Present
SHOE is one of the pioneers of the Dutch graffiti scene, started coloring the streets of Amsterdam in 1979. During the 1980s he met New York artists like DONDI, Rammellzee, QUIK and Keith Haring and formed the international crew ‘Crime Time Kings’ with the famous writers BANDO and MODE2. Later on, SHOE started to focus on graphic design but always kept working with paint. In 2007 he founded the art form Calligraffiti, a combination of graffiti and calligraphy, which is now a worldwide movement.
13 – Super A
Years active: 1995 – Present
Painter and street artist Stefan Thelen is known for his huge realistic murals. Super A is his alter ego: an anti-hero with which Stefan can express the things he normally can’t say. He received attention by the end of 2012, when his mural of a huge dove was nominated by the broadcasting company VPRO for ‘best Dutch illegal artwork’. The audience voted and chose Super A’s work, making him the first to win this competition.
14 – Telmo Miel
City: Rotterdam / Amsterdam
Years active as a duo: 2012 – Present
The duo Telmo Miel met each other during their study at the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2007. Their strongly detailed paintings are both realistic and surrealistic and contain multiple layers. They create these layers by combining two or more images in a single composition, telling a new and interesting story. In 2012 they decided to take their career to the next level by officially forming the duo Telmo Miel. Nowadays, they are seen as one of the Netherlands’ best, making massive murals all over the world.
15 – Zedz
City: Leiden / Amsterdam
Years active: 1984 – Present
Born in Leiden, ZEDZ soon went to Amsterdam and became a famous graffiti writer, being the founder of the internationally respected DSK crew. Influenced by graphic design, later on his style became more abstract. With the help of technology, he aims to transform the 2D graffiti into 3D artworks. In 2017, a new highlight came in his career: ZEDZ painted a 750 square meter wall in Heerlen, the biggest mural ever made by a single artist in the Netherlands.
Hyper-realistic murals, abstract geometric shapes, stencil work or Calligraffiti – we can conclude that the Netherlands has an interesting and varied scene. Most of the artists started as graffiti writers on the street, now trying to find their way in the relatively new art form called street art. Names are missing in this list, but that confirms there is even more quality in the Dutch scene. We are curious how this scene will develop and what the coming years will bring.
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