Monday, March 15, 2010

Amsterdam Part 3 - Alternative Spaces

Though the historical art of the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums house some of the most prolific works the Netherlands has to offer, what makes Amsterdam's art scene thrive is its new galleries and alternative spaces, housing works by international contemporary artists.

One of the most interesting places I visited was an "Alternative Space" called W139. Its a large warehouse-like room, with incredibly tall ceilings and plenty of bare walls; a space devoted to the production and presentation of Contemporary Art since 1979. On an annual basis, this alternative spaces hold 8-9 exhibitions each year, always opening on Friday nights at 9pm. or in truth, whatever the artists and directors will. The space is open for all forms of interpretation and all art forms to participate.
The in-process exhibition Doktor Faustus (February 1 - April 2 [opening night]) was large murals by various artists based on the novel of the same name, "Doktor Faustus" by Thomas Mann. This rather complex book, written in 1947, encapsulates the Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverk├╝hn as told from a friend. It is, in essence, a retelling of the classic German tale of Faust (Faustus), a man who makes a deal with the devil for his soul in exchange for knowledge.

"The hero of the novel, Leverk├╝hn, is an usually prideful, distant and gifted individual, far too clever for the arts, but who nonetheless fulfills a creative urge and with this, requires unrestraint which, in the idealized framework of the book, can be delivered only by evil. From a more political perspective, his demise mirrors the intoxication of the people by Fascism"
- Thomas Mann (in a letter to Albert Oppenheimer)

In truth, one could call the entire gallery a singular work of art; a giant floor to ceiling collaboration of artists "who transcend the obligatory reference to a shared theme and the endeavor to vanquish the wondrous fear of illustration that has held the visual arts captive for over a century". Being an Illustrator, naturally I slightly scoffed at this final remark, by curator Gijs Frieling. However, the works were quite powerful, intriguing and the overall impression of these tall, imposing walls was such that I could think of nothing but to give my full admiration to the works.

(promotional poster for Alternative Space)

Contributing Artists:
  • Axel Linderholm
  • Charlotte Schleiffert
  • Dick Tuinder
  • Gijs Assmann
  • Gijs Freiling
  • Joris Lindhout
  • Menso Groeneveld
  • Natasja Kensmil
  • Paul Klemann
The exhibition and works were so interesting, that I will be ordering an english translation of the book to read.
Until we meet again


  1. Laura, this is really interesting! Do read the Thomas Mann...even more than Doctor Faustus - my favorite is "Magic Mountain" ..."Buddenbrooks" too...great novels.

    Glad you're going to galleries...

  2. Good still....but not much here, Laura. I hope you're seeing more than I see on your blog... so keep going...