Hi! My name is Derry Razen and I am the new curator and art historian at Street Art Museum Amsterdam. In addition to being an art historian, I am also a restoration artist focusing on paper-based art. I moved to Amsterdam last autumn from Los Angeles, California.
A little history about me: I grew up in Texas but moved to Los Angeles after finishing my undergraduate degree. Similar to my move to Amsterdam, I wanted to live in a city with lots of art and culture readily available. I was lucky enough to find a job with a private art conservation company that specialized in paper-based art. This gave me the opportunity to combine my background as an artist and an interest in art history into one career. I took two years and got my Masters in Art History at the University of Oregon, then returned to Los Angeles and further developed my skills in art history and restoration. My husband is Slovenian, so when the opportunity to move to Amsterdam, a city we have always loved, came along it felt like the perfect compromise in terms of culture and lifestyle. We enjoy not having a car, being able to bike and all of the art in this city.Most of my life is centered around art.
When I am not working, I can usually be found at a museum or making my own art. (I think I got my money’s worth out of the Museum card in the first week I had it!) I love to draw and paint and I have been creating sketches of the city as I have gotten to know Amsterdam as my new home. I am also an art historical magpie, I am interested in a wide range of art-related topics and very few areas of the art world don’t fascinate me. As a restoration artist I have worked on prints and original paintings/drawings by some of the biggest names; contemporary artists like Banksy, Mr. Brainwash and Shepard Fairey. I’ve also gotten to work on pieces by Keith Haring and some of the founders of the street art movement, so I have hands-on experience with a wide range of artists who fall under the term “street art”. As for street art in the urban environment, as my husband and I traveled more, he infected me with his love of “hunting” street art and I began to read and research more about the art in the cities we were visiting. I love the freedom of street artists. I am a somewhat shy person and I like to follow the rules, but I am so interested in the kind of person and the art they create who defies conventions (and possibly laws) to create a piece for the sheer love of the medium and the desire to convey a message. I’m also incredibly impressed by the amount of skill it takes to work quickly, outside, usually on a large scale and to manipulate what seem like such humble materials into these beautiful and impactful pieces.
Working at SAMA is an incredible opportunity. I love museums, but I also understand that they can be perceived as elitist. Often the architecture or design of a museum can be intimidating and uninviting to people. This collection is truly part of the community of Nieuw-West and the museum works hard to engage local residents; combined with the majority of the collection being outside it is an incredibly democratic museum. We have several options for how to see the works, but the best option is to book a guided tour where we walk you around the collection, tell you about the pieces and answer your questions. We can tailor these experiences to the interests of the people in the group so that it can be a truly unique experience. Nieuw-West is an underrated part of Amsterdam and it has been fascinating walking and biking around to see how vibrant it is and how the street art that SAMA has helped create fits into this community.
My role at SAMA as a curator and art historian is to create, shape and focus the discussion around street art, SAMA’s collection and how they fit into a larger art historical context. This means that I write or edit articles for the museum, help to create and run workshops (such as our upcoming one in Lisbon at the CAMOC conference) and in conjunction with my colleagues I am developing the collection catalogue. A recent visitor to the museum called SAMA a museum in the “embryonic state”. I love this description because it so perfectly fits where SAMA is right now and our aspirations for the future. How many art historians and museum professionals would love to be there when a small private collection began the transition into a museum that is known worldwide? I am excited to be a part of SAMA as this incredible museum continues to grow and expand, as we work to include and perhaps eventually help to develop technology that makes museums more exciting and accessible, while also continuing our mission of creating street art on the street that centers the lived experiences of artists and the community.