Another Amsterdam summer has come to an abrupt close this week, signalled by a brisk and rainy first week of September. The change of season is palpable within Nieuw-West, as these dark grey skies provide an eerie but striking contrast to the vast green spaces that have thrived in our community these past months; the area is once more enlivened with the enthusiastic chatter of school children, eager to reconnect with their classmates and teachers after the summer break. At SAMA headquarters, we too are entering into a new and momentous season for our museum, precipitated by the arrival of some new artwork which, much like this week’s weather, fell from the sky and onto our walls.
Most recently in this respect, SAMA was visited by a talented couple from San Diego this past Tuesday. Wire-artist Spenser Little along with his partner Chloe, an illustrator and painter, came across SAMA in what can only be described as a moment of serendipity. Originally arriving in the Netherlands for unrelated projects in Heerlen and Pow! Wow! Rotterdam Festival, Spenser and Chloe initially sought out SAMA for a tour, but ended up contributing some wonderful new pieces to the collection. Little’s work, which consists of artfully bent wire interventions are distinguishable for their intricate blend of images and text based on one continuous wire ‘stroke,’ not entirely dissimilar from Suso33’s infamous ‘one line’ technique. His pieces can be found across the world, from the Eiffel Tower, to underground caves – and now, here in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, where he has contributed several pieces to SAMA HQ as well as some secret locations throughout the area.
While Little was making these pieces on the spot at SAMA, we also discovered Chloe’s distinct artistic talents. A peruse through her Instagram is akin to a Burton-esque fever dream, infused with fantastical paintings and austere colour palettes; we were therefore all too eager to provide Chloe with the tools and materials to create a piece on the wall of SAMA HQ! Thirty minutes later, our wall was adorned with one of her elaborate and other-worldly pieces, seemingly tailor-made for this ominous stormy weather.
In addition to Chloe’s piece, SAMA HQ also recently acquired a rather topical piece thanks to an anonymous artist from the United Arab Emirates. Similar to Spenser and Chloe, the two men happened across SAMA at an opportune time, while SAMA was in the midst of hosting a workshop with a family from the UK. Seeing the cans, they asked if they too could contribute a piece to the HQ wall. They indicated that, due to private property laws in the UAE, they were typically only commissioned to paint on ‘fake’ walls during festivals, and as such, were keen on the opportunity to paint on brick. Anna happily obliged, inviting them to paint whatever they wanted on our wall of fame. The final piece is a woman wearing a burka – a contribution incredibly appropriate not only with respect to our predominantly Muslim community, but also in regards to the recent ‘Burka ban’ in the Netherlands. This contribution reflects a somewhat tragic irony, in which women in the Middle East can be seen fighting to remove their burkas, while in the West, women are fighting for the right to keep their burkas.
Beyond our walls, Florence-based artist Stelleconfuse has also recently added new pieces to SAMA’s extensive paper collection. As one of the most active sticker and stencil artists in Italy, Stelleconfuse’s Plant a Tree project is perhaps his most famous; as part of this campaign to spread messages of hope, optimism and environmentalism across the world, Stelleconfuse donated several original works painted on tissue paper to the museum – all of which highlight the importance of green areas within urban centers in contrast to a climate of continuous construction and overbuilding. This message is especially appropriate within our community of Nieuw-West, given its historical basis in the ‘garden city’ concept, as opposed to the architecturally dense and overcrowded canal belt.
Despite the recent influx of new pieces to the collection, the team at SAMA has been shifting gears over the last months, from commissioning pieces towards preservation of the existing collection, as characterized by our recent entry into the virtual reality sphere. We are thus in the midst of exploring new and cutting-edge opportunities that this technology can offer our museum; as several of SAMA’s monumental pieces are scheduled for destruction within the coming years, SAMA has been collaborating with Impact Hub to document these pieces virtually. While SAMA has always embraced the temporal element of street art, we believe that these pieces are fundamentally valuable not only insofar as their artistic excellence, but moreover, what they represent in terms of the identity and memory of the community of Amsterdam Nieuw-West.
Beyond our work with Impact Hub, SAMA recently connected with XR consultant Gabriele Romagnoli who has been working on the application of extreme reality to Stinkfish’s Fatherhood (2015), one of SAMA’s largest murals, which is scheduled for demolition within the next year. His method combines documentary footage and animation to create an innovative final product, perhaps inaugurating of a new era of preservation in which ‘gaming,’ and the more academically accepted ‘digitization,’ coalesce. Along a similar school of thought, Moe Angelo from the Because of the Lotus team visited SAMA this past July to collaborate on a light-mapping project of Tolerance (2012) by Argentinian artist Alaniz. Like Fatherhood, Tolerance is also scheduled for demolition in the not-so-distant future; as such, it was particularly moving to have one last glimpse of our lovely matron, fully restored through the wonders of digitality.
Concurrently with all the goings-on over the past months, the curatorial team is busy working on further showcasing the street art pioneers within our collection for all of Amsterdam to see; specifically, we are in the midst of working on an exhibition plan that will highlight the twelve foremost artists within SAMA’s collection, each of which represent unparalleled skill and embody an unwavering dedication to the ethical roots of the movement. Without revealing too much, those who will join us at the exhibition’s opening (TBA) can expect an absorbing and interactive experience featuring work from the leading names in contemporary street art.
Meanwhile, SAMA was recently selected as a partner in the Europe for Citizens’ – Network of Towns project, an initiative which aims to tackle the urban regeneration of impoverished and depressed areas in European cities through the conduit of street art. For this project, the SAMA team will give workshops in several European cities, and share our knowledge on the role of street art within place-making initiatives. Moreover, we are incredibly honored that Amsterdam has been selected as the city to close this initiative, as it will enable us to showcase the ways in which SAMA’s activities within Nieuw-West have fostered renewed interest in this formerly neglected community. This is sure to be a ground-breaking experience not only for SAMA, but for the city of Amsterdam as well. With Brexit perpetually looming in the background of international news coverage, the concept of a unified European identity and the importance of intercultural European relations are now more significant than ever before. With the selection for this project, among several other subsidy and conference opportunities that the SAMA team are currently pursuing, we look forward to the continued professionalization of our institution in the upcoming year.
And, of course, SAMA remains as active as ever with our community-driven initiatives; in fact, the upcoming months are due to be chock-full of exciting events and collaborations here at the museum. We are particularly looking forward to the arrival of Spanish artist e1000; this artist, who fully encompasses the interwoven nature of graffiti and street art, will join us this week from the 9th to the 13th of September, to paint on the exact spot in which Tales of the Nine (SAMA’s initial venture) began. The project, which is funded by Gemeente Amsterdam Nieuw-West and Wij Zijn Plein ’40 - ’45, will see e1000 paint the ground at Plein ’40 - ’45. This is an exceptional opportunity for SAMA, not only to collaborate with a brand-new artist, but also to initiate the first ‘ground-mural’ into our collection!
e1000 joins us just before 24H Nieuw-West is set to takes off within the neighborhood, on September 14th; an event designed to reinvigorate local interest in the community, the program consists of over 50 different events, classes and workshops in which locals and tourists alike can experience all that this often-elusive part of the city has to offer. SAMA will contribute to the 24H Nieuw-West program by offering a free tour our collection from 12:00-14:00, and also by giving participants the opportunity to – for the first time ever – tag the wall of SAMA HQ!
So find your trusty ol’ umbrella, take your scarves out of storage – hell, grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte – and join us in ushering in a new season for SAMA!