The NDSM shipyards already rates as a street art gallery: everywhere you look walls, cranes and containers are dripping with fresh paint applied by playful members of Amsterdam’s long-vibrant graffiti scene. Now, inside a former welding warehouse where ships were (re)constructed, there’s an official street art museum – one that credibly claims with 7,000 square meters at its disposal to be the ‘world’s largest’.
In an almost overwhelmingly vast post-industrial space, the museum collection of paintings, sculptures and installations charts out the history of street art, albeit in a rather roundabout way. Outside looms a 24-meter high portrait of a smiling Anne Frank by Brazilian heavyweight Eduardo Kobra. The work is called ‘Let Me Be Myself’ – a fitting slogan indeed.
A long time coming
The museum was in the making for over five years as it dealt with pragmatics such as funding, leaky roofs and building up an actual collection. Over those years, leading lights of the global street art scene were invited to the warehouse to create new work on canvases as big – or bigger – than most walls. As of its opening, the main exhibition features 153 artworks by 140 artists from 32 nationalities – with names including Xoooox, Mike 171, Ox Alien, Phibs, United Painting, Guitar y Banjo, Seyb, Clandestinos, A Squid called Sebastian, Wayne Horse, Buff Monster and local hero Hugo Kaagman.
7,000 square meters of raw
Of course, there’s some irony involved in displaying outdoor art inside. But the location does allow visitors to absorb more of the background of both the movement and the individual works – to learn more about the story behind the tags. Meanwhile, the atmosphere does remain suitably raw (and unheated).
As you leave, keep an eye out for work from another local hero Streetart Frankey. Just like the game, his Donkey Kong suddenly appears when you have played the museum right until the end.
(And yes, the giftshop sells spray paint.)