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Conference on Public Art and a ‘Stadscurator’ Position in Amsterdam

Art in the open space exists in Amsterdam in different sizes and formats. You can find sculptures, public poems and architecture. Street art is also amongst them, although more recent, upcoming and undefined than the other arts. A while ago GroenLinks launched a new plan to create a curator for the all these outside artworks in the city of Amsterdam. Last Thursday there was a conference to discuss the topic.

How should the role of a stadscurator take shape? Should all kinds of art in public domain be included, also graffiti and street art?

Representing the Street Art Museum Amsterdam, Anna, San and I were present at the conference to debate about these and other questions. The conference was opened with a few notable speakers and was then divided into six pre-classified workshops, in which the participants could share their opinion and debate.

The alderman of Arts and Culture Kajsa Ollongren opened the conference by telling us about the more than 14000 outside art objects the city of Amsterdam contains, and street art is not even included in this number yet. In order to manage and document these artworks properly, the stadscurator is a possible solution.

Siebe Thissen from Rotterdam already had some experience with a similar template for managing art in public spaces. In Rotterdam they now created a city collection out of all the different public artworks. They have exhibitions and even lend the art to other exhibits sometimes. Working in a flexible team to estimate the worth of different artworks, they also acknowledge the importance of emotional value and neighbourhood support.

Thereafter Annemarie de Wildt, curator at Amsterdam Museum, talked about the different stories behind artworks in public space and artist Marjet Wessels Boer spoke about the process of creating and installing public artworks.

The conference then split into different workshops, SAMA was present at three of them. We discussed whether or not the term ‘museum collection’ would be applicable for public art in Amsterdam. It soon turned out that term ‘collection’ could work, since the city of Amsterdam is a connecting feature, but the word ‘museum’ should be deleted. Furthermore the importance of collecting data was underlined and the duration of artworks was discussed; should most artworks outside be put there temporary at first?

Another workshop tackled the problem of financing the template of the stadscurator. Since there is little money for the cultural sector and that money has already been divided between different parties, how would a new function be financed? A few possible solutions were brought up, for example to raise the tourist taxation with one euro or to cooperate with marketing.

In another workshop we discussed about popular support for public art. The questions of why and in what stage neighbours and residents could be actively involved in the creation of an artwork was raised.

After the workshops a small plenary summary was held. It was generally agreed that the organisation of the stadscurator should rather be a flexible team than just one person. One participant pointed out to also look at Utrecht for an example on how to manage public art, next to looking at Rotterdam.

However, at the end of the conference the discussion about the duties and implementation of the future stadscurator was not finished yet. During the drinks afterwards questions and opinions were further exchanged between participants and organisers. From the Street Art Museum Amsterdam we are of course very curious of how the idea will further develop in the future.

To read more on the plan of stadscurator, follow these links [in Dutch]:

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