Recommendations of what to see in the Amsterdam art scene this month by local guides at ARTernative. Discover even more on a private tour.


I.

Exhibition: Paradise Omeros
Artist: Isaac Julien
Venue: Ron Mandos Gallery
Dates: January 20th until February 17th, 2018


This exhibition is a great opportunity to see “Paradise Omeros”, the famous video installation by the internationally renowned artist Isaac Julien. Julien is without a doubt a pioneer in all aspects of video art and multi-screen installations, and this three-channel video is one not to be missed. The work was first exhibited in documenta 11 and was since displayed in many museums, festivals and Biennales all over the world. The video work is a collaboration between the artist, the Caribbean songwriter and Nobel prize winner Derek Walcott, and the composer Paul Gladstone Reid. Derek’s poem is recited on the background of the exotic Caribbean island of Saint Lucia from one side, and the urbanic London scene from the other. The name of the work refers to the Odyssey by Homer, however, it is not about a journey of self-discovery of a Greek king, but rather of a Caribbean immigrant that seeks for a place in the Western world, symbolising the Diaspora of the Caribbeans. The recurrent motif of the sea that separates the two worlds takes the viewer to places of self-meditation on notions of self and stranger, love and hate, or even war and peace. 

It has been almost 15 years since it was first exhibited in documenta 11, and one might say that today it is a symbol of the post-colonial period in the art world. And still, there is no doubt that the work is even more pertinent than ever, dealing with issues such as: immigration, multiculturalism and otherness. Alongside Julian’s video installation, we can see the work of the British artist Esiri Erheriene-Essi who presents colourful paintings of groups of Black immigrants next to White British families, all based on photographs from the 60’s and 70’s. The connection between the two different exhibitions is clear, but the way the diverse modes of representation are enriching one another makes this exhibition worth a visit.

 Photo courtesy of Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam

Photo courtesy of Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam

II.

Exhibition: NA
Artist: Christian Boltanski
Venue: Oude Kerk
Dates: 24 November 2017 - 29 April 2018


While the 800-year-old Oude Kerk (“old church”) is Amsterdam’s oldest building, it is the most up and coming cultural institution in town. Contemporary art exhibitions in historic locations are not a new practice for art museums, however, NA - the site-specific exhibition of Christian Boltanski that was commissioned by the Oude Kerk, is a radical and unique one. It seems like the renowned artist’s oeuvre that deals with notions of collective memory, transience and the way we remember and commemorate, is even more relevant in a memory-filled space like the Oude Kerk. 

Boltanski is well-known in the contemporary art community for his conceptual design and installations, and in this exhibition, he manages again to overcome the challenges of exhibiting art installation outside the familiar white cube space of art institutions.
There is no doubt that the magnificent setting of the old church creates an even more complex work of art with new meanings. Boltanski uses the entire church while placing in it monumental installations on the theme of life after death: a labyrinth of tombs and graves of our predecessors as if they are resurrected. While the exhibition is on, visitors are invited to record themselves whispering the names of the people who are buried in the church, in what seems to be a contemporary confessional chair - these recordings will then be played as the soundtrack of the show. The artist invites us to think about what happens after our lives come to an end, while creating a mystic experience, bringing together our history, memory and death, and challenges our grasp of those three notions as separate from one another. 

 Photo: gert jan van rooij

Photo: gert jan van rooij

III.

Exhibition: Rijksmuseum Schiphol, Lounge 2 and 3

It might be a place that you never thought you will visit in order to see an art exhibition, but on your way to/from Amsterdam you should definitely check this out! In 2002 the Rijksmuseum was the first museum to open a space at an airport, and after refurbishing it for the last few years, the exhibition on Holland Boulevard (between lounge 2 and 3) is back, with an area of 167 square metres that was designed by NEXT architects, and Irma Boom designed the exhibition layout. This almost extraterritorial exhibition is exhibiting original 17th-century art of Dutch Old Masters from the renowned Golden Age. So, if you didn’t have time to visit the Rijksmuseum, or just didn’t have enough of it, this space is open 24-7 and is in a way challenging the way we are used to experiencing art in a museum.

 Rijksmuseum Schiphol. Photo: Thijs Wolzak

Rijksmuseum Schiphol. Photo: Thijs Wolzak