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Street Art Museum Amsterdam at UXUS

On Wednesday, 24 May, just before the AJAX football game, I was invited to present at a mini-PechaKucha event in UXUS design and architecture offices. Here's my talk.

Seven years ago, I got hooked on the idea to put the area of Amsterdam, where I live, on the map, whilst providing exciting international artists with an opportunity to paint a semi-permanent artwork on the streets of Amsterdam. So I started a Street Art Museum Amsterdam.

Street Art Museum Amsterdam. SAMA. We are an Open Source museum. We are agile and do not have set processes, except for some principle ground rules. We have over 30 people actively participating at the moment. Majority because they feel passionate about the cause.

We, the people of Amsterdam, are not on the map. And we are - 125.000 people, 130 nationalities, 25% of Amsterdam’s youth and 60% Muslim. We have predominantly social housing blocks stretching along green lanes direction Sloterplas lake.

We are designed by Cornelius Van Eesteren architect based on Mondrian’s functional living model. Some call us 2nd rate citizens. Some say there is nothing to do here. Some come here to get away from the centre. Some have only come here for the first time because of either SAMA collection or Architectural History.

Street Art Museum Amsterdam collection consists of just over 120 of artistic graffiiti, urban and street art pieces, which are spread through Amsterdam Nieuw-West, and specifically Slotermeer and Geuzenveld parts of it. We also have 20 artworks at Schiphol and 12 in De Hallenkwartier of Amsterdam West.

Street Art was chosen as a tool to start the dialogue in the neighbourhood. This is because if the artwork created in public space is legal, all the involved parties around it have to be asked - municipality, housing corporations, people who live in the building and people who live opposite the building. In SAMA’s case this happens 3 times.

We chose Street Art because it is connected to the activist movement of Graffiti. And activism is an integral part of what we do. When I pitched my project, at the time 2010-Urbanites United, to the municipality advisors, I was told that this area does not need it and I am schizophrenic. There was no choice by to go activist, and get down to grass roots.

Our collection is In Situ. The collection consists of monumental murals reaching to 160 square meters, as well as pieces as small as 10 by 10 cm, and street games. These are series, and you can win a museum card worth 60e. When it comes to neighbourhood engagement, ’the biggest fastest” approach simply does not work.

We are often asked why we are so selective about the artists. Now, after “My grand-daughter stopped visiting me because of the monster in the back yard” complaint from the neighbour when SAMA left the artist alone for the first time, we had no choice but to begin to curate the choices if we wanted to continue. The artist had to be open to communication, questions, complaints and gifts from the locals.

And that’s how we started getting engaged with locals and collecting their Stories, as well as Street Art. SAMA joined city events such as Dialogue Day, Freedom Day, Museum Night and 24HWest. Soon enough we were invited to Rembrandt Park Festival, I Love Slotermeer and Ambacht in Beeld Festivals.

After speaking at Heritage Academy as part of City as Canvas exhibition in Amsterdam museum, SAMA was fortunate to attract attention of one of the students, Salina Meijer. Salina ended up in SAMA for her work experience and was the first confident step towards official Collection Registration.

We do not sell Street Art. At SAMA we study it. We use it to open the doors to informal peer to peer learning. Street Curator School is our new social project. During the pilot, we aim to help 15 local youths to acquire skills on their way to a job market, whilst earning by doing as SAMA guides.

Our second social project peeps into the future. Art and Technology - VR/AR solution as an alternative method of preserving and sharing street art In Situ. By making the pilots and creating the stories, the youths has an opportunity to acquire some of the soon to be most demanded skills.

At the end of 2016, PB Cultuurfonds awarded SAMA a small grant to purchase a computer and software for the formal collection registration. We were one of the first start-up museums to sign up for the cloud version of AXIELL. Thus setting up the precedent to be the first Street art museum to register a Street Art Collection and in this way.

At SAMA we refuse to accept Street Art as “nothing more than something (super) ephemeral, which purpose has been reduced to only one thing: a photo for the Instagram.” The artwork on the street, in contrast to canvas or commissioned ad piece, always has a real story, a tale. A story that goes beyond ‘during the making of’. A story that reaches out to history, a story of people living it.

Recently we had a visitor who volunteered to put together our Catalogue Book. We hope that this prototype will take us further to a good publisher, with whom Mondriaan fonds are willing to co-fund the making of the book. So if you know of anyone who might be interested in taking on this project, please let me know!

We have a new website with more information being added every day. The site was made by two students from University Savoie Mont-Blanc in only 6 weeks. Lazy design works, correct choice of platform delivers and for the first time we can bill for the tours upfront. The site is supported by Google Adwords grant and our monthly reach surpluses 8,000 visitors.

SAMA is a non-profit foundation. We need Street Art’s viral effect to communicate. Thanks to SAMA our Nieuw-West has found a spot in New York Times, Taiwan Business Weekly, Google Arts Project, Mobile Marketing Monthly, DRUM. Our content is being used by, SuperDry, Marriott group, Suitcasemag.

New Museum, for New Time, with New Amsterdammers in the New Shape using New Design principles in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. NEW.

If you would like to visit the museum, please contact us via our new website.

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