Best contemporary art spaces in Amsterdam
Whilst the blockbuster exhibitions are world-class, it’s definitely not all about the big-name museums in Amsterdam. The city’s contemporary art scene is eternally evolving, fueled by the rich programming of smaller galleries, artist-run centres and non-profit exhibition spaces. These lesser-known venues can sometimes feel a bit hidden to those not in the know, so we’ve written a round-up of some of the best spots for contemporary art in Amsterdam to get you started.
Mediamatic’s interactive installations blur the boundaries between art, science and biotech. Alongside bold and groundbreaking exhibitions, they also host an intriguing events programme - think workshops for grafting cacti and designing your own perfume or seminars about sustainable food, aquaponics or fermentation. Definitely make a reservation for the waterfront restaurant, Mediamatic ETEN, which showcases inventive plant-based dishes using ingredients primarily grown in the on-site greenhouse.
The Oude Kerk in the Red Light District is the city’s oldest building and one of the city’s youngest art institutions. In the seven or so centuries since it was founded, the church has evolved into one of the most imposing Gothic ecclesiastical buildings in northern Europe. Keep an eye on the dynamic exhibition programme to catch installations by international artists specially designed to suit the space and acoustics of the interiors. And when you’re ready for refreshments, tucked away in the cloister garden, De Koffieschenkerij is hidden in plain sight. Indulge in loose-leaf teas or coffee with apple cake. Its garden terrace is a hidden paradise that’s a true local favourite.
This not-for-profit exhibition space has provided a robust platform for emerging talents in the city since 2003. Multiple times a year, the sprawling warehouse is given over to individual artists to produce new works related to the specific location. These large-scale solo presentations give viewers a real insight into each artist's thought process and the opportunity to catch one of their early-career shows before they undoubtedly go on to exciting bigger things.
The cavernous surrounds of this former munitions-factory-turned-experimental-art-space provide a unique setting for some conceptual art viewing. Het HEM’s artist residency programme changes every season, inviting a new individual or group to write the next exhibition ‘chapter’. The ever-changing events line up encompasses everything from visual art to dance, music, theatre and philosophy. Just a short jaunt outside of the city (with convenient ferry, bus and bike path connections), the space is located at the Hembrugterrein, where you’ll find a ton of exciting restaurants, ateliers and cultural hotspots to explore.
Het HEM | Warmperserij 1, Zaandam
See what some of the art world’s rising stars have been getting up to at this dynamic centre. De Appel hosts one of the most well-regarded curatorial residencies around the globe. The public programming is always varied and challenging, giving emerging curators a platform to engage with the local community and some fascinating contemporary debates. You can expect exhibitions that are critical, experimental and politically switched on, so put your thinking hat on and go take in some brilliant art.
Before catching a gig at this notorious concert venue, make sure you swing by Melkweg Expo for a contemporary art pick-me-up. With a revolving exhibition programme that is consistently playful, accessible and always free, the venue provides a platform for emerging local photographers and visual artists to engage with issues in society and pop culture today. The space is open until 7 PM to make arty encounters possible for even the most spontaneous of visitors.
Much like many of Amsterdam’s most dynamic artist-run venues, W139 has its roots in the underground squatting movement of the 1970-80s. Originally a theatre in the heart of the Red Light District, the space has since grown into an always-reliable platform for the city’s young artistic community. The group of creatives behind the venue is continuously renewing and evolving. Individuals and artist duos are regularly invited to present work in the exhibition space on the first floor, making for an inspiring visit.
Curators and artists collide at this long-standing project space and arts foundation in the cultural epicentre of Amsterdam Oost. Every year, the venue collaborates with emerging and established international talents to organise exhibitions and an extensive public programme of lectures, debates, screenings and performances. You’ll be confronted with work at the cutting edge of contemporary art, visual culture and politics from a diverse range of voices and perspectives in society.
Vlaams Cultuurhuis de Brakke Grond
Art, literature, dance, theatre, music, you name it; the Vlaams Cultuurhuis (Flemish Cultural Centre) champions everything that is Flemish in the Netherlands. The institution has been going for 40 years now, injecting Amsterdam’s cultural scene with talent from the neighbouring region of Flanders that would otherwise go unseen. Alongside the varied arts and events schedule, the quaint courtyard garden and atmospheric café make this unique venue well worth checking out.
The revamped Sexyland World recently opened its doors to the art-loving public at a new spot in Noord. It's a cultural clubhouse and experimental project space that operates with a different owner everyday. This new venue is a collaboration between twenty different initiatives working under a not-for-profit model where all income flows back to participating partners. Feast your eyes on the agenda for everything from exhibitions, seances and book launches through to knitting groups, swingers clubs and a kaleidoscopic array of parties.
On the Inside Project Space
The cavernous hangars and converted warehouses at NDSM provide the perfect environment to display large-scale installations and contemporary art. On the Inside is no exception, a new artist-driven project space with a rotating curatorial programme. Expect to find a range of artists showcased, from those producing massive sculptural works and intense multimedia pieces to more visually subtle exhibitions.