Amsterdam’s Gallery Scene Builds on the City’s Art Historical Legacy


Whether viewing Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, visiting the Van Gogh Museum, or musing on the modern and contemporary art collection of the Stedelijk Museum, art lovers have long found a lot to love about Amsterdam.

But while the city is best known for its historical art attractions, it is increasingly becoming home to a vibrant scene of commercial galleries and project spaces. These will be highlighted in the 12th edition of Amsterdam Art Week, running through June 2nd, where 76 locations for contemporary art will partake in a series of talks, performances, gallery tours, and parties.

“There are a big group of art lovers going to the Rijksmuseum, but they don’t necessarily all go to the galleries or to the project spaces,” said Martina Halsema, director of the art week. “That is where we come in and really try to make sure that the other art locations in the city are visible for museum visitors.”

New galleries in the Amsterdam art scene

This visibility is important for the city’s contemporary commercial galleries, which have grown in number and influence over recent years. “Amsterdam has a lot to offer within relative proximity,” explained Jorien De Vries, a director at GRIMM, which opened its space in the city in 2005. “This density is the art scene’s strength—it’s easy to see a lot in little time.”

During last year’s blockbuster Johannes Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, the gallery saw a “significant increase in international visitors,” he noted: “People who came for Vermeer also made their way to contemporary galleries, such as GRIMM, as more art lovers flocked to the city for the sold-out show.” Rutger Brandt, who founded his eponymous gallery in 2015, echoed the sentiment, describing the city as “a vibrant hub of art galleries that appear to be at almost every corner.”

For younger galleries, Christina Voulgari, director and co-founder of Enari Gallery, echoed this sentiment. “Since our opening a year and a half ago, we’ve been pleased to witness an expansion in the diversity of artists showcased in galleries and cultural spaces across the city,” she noted. “We eagerly anticipate the emergence of more young galleries, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative gallery models to Amsterdam’s thriving art scene.”

Notable young galleries to emerge in recent years include Hama Gallery, Go Mulan, and Fleur & Wouter; and new exhibition spaces include the likes of Het HEM, Nxt Museum, Osca, and Project Space On the Inside. But while the city is home to a growing number of contemporary players, galleries “need to organize events and special moments such as luncheons and artist talks to get people in,” according to Joris Ontens, founder of Galerie Fontana, which was founded in 2011.

Galleries are also keen to emphasize the community spirit between each other. “The gallery art scene in Amsterdam isn’t that big,” said Martita Slewe, who founded Slewe Gallery in 1994. “We know each other. We work together on openings. For example, in September, we will open the new gallery season with another jointly organized gallery opening weekend on September 13th and 14th.”

Young collectors in Amsterdam

Initiatives such as Amsterdam Art Week and community-organized gallery tours and openings are some of the ways that collectors are being engaged. “We make it a point to attend other galleries’ openings after hours, showing solidarity and engaging with our peers,” noted Voulgari.

In another example, Brandt mentioned that “we collaborate with local initiatives such as the Wallen Festival hosting performers within our exhibition space, as well as partnering with private collections to curate joint exhibitions that bring together new audiences.”

With annual visitor numbers between 10 million and 20 million, according to the Holland Times, Amsterdam’s status as a leading tourist destination also means that there is no shortage of potential collectors that can be tapped into. Part of the focus of Amsterdam Art Week is aimed at a younger crowd. The Art Week is running a VIP program and a young professionals night that convenes around 300 people to tour galleries and network. “It’s okay to ask questions,” said Halsema. “It’s also affordable for young collectors and…that art is fun as well.”

Ron Mandos, founder of the eponymous Galerie Ron Mandos, is also excited about “an opportunity for us to curate a special program for visitors from the Netherlands and abroad. Hosting them in our gallery for art, refreshments, and conversation creates a unique atmosphere.…We look forward to this event as we celebrate the final day of our 25th-anniversary exhibition.”

A growing number of artists and institutions

International artists are making the city their home, too. “Amsterdam has an allure for international artists who are drawn to the city, wanting to exhibit their work in this esteemed cultural capital,” said Brand. “Most of our artists are not from the Netherlands, but rather international artists seeking representation in Amsterdam.” Adding to this, the art week also coincides with the Rijksakademie Open Studios, where international artists in residence will share what has emerged from a two-year residency period of experimenting, researching, and producing new work.

And with cultural venues such as Drift Museum, Hartwig Art Foundation, and Zamu among those planning to open in the city, there’s every sign this growth will continue. Mandos is bullish: “Amsterdam will undoubtedly retain its significance within the global art scene, owing to its exceptional infrastructure for artists, residencies, and institutions,” he said. “As we commemorate our 25th anniversary this year, we raise a toast to another 25 years of artistic excellence in Amsterdam.”

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