Street Art Hunter: Rene Zweet
Would you mind giving us a brief introduction into how you got into street art hunting?
The first time, I was in Amsterdam in a street and there were many little pieces. I saw there a stencil by C215. I liked it. I go home and I want to know who he was. I go on google and saw a lot of work of him and then I started finding that work. Every time when i come and see a piece of him I saw a lot of other works by different artists around his. And so i go home and read. After that i sent him pictures on instagram and the street artists respond and say they like it. So from one piece now i follow 150 artist and always when they place a picture on instagram of a piece they made, I try to find it in person. So, when you're in Amsterdam there are 3 or 4 hotspots where a lot of artist go and now I don't always go to instagram but go to the hotspots and see if there's something new and take a photograph and place it in my book.
Where would you say those 4 hotspots are in the city?
NDSM in the noord, Flevopark under the bridge. There was also an old spot in the center. And then here in Nieuw-West. I like very much stencils and layers and 1 of the persons very good at that is Btoy and she was here so I go here and then I met Anna. Now I come here regularly to see what's happening in this neighbourhood. Now this also a hotspot. The only thing here is that the area is very big so always when I come here and spot with the car or with the bike and when you walk you can go to one spot but when you want to see all there's too much.
How do you focus your search?
I've followed 150 artists. When I go to Paris I collect first on instagram and social media about 10 or 15 pieces i want to see. I try and find out where it is or in Paris you have the arrondissement. I know all the arrondissement and now all the hotspots in Paris. Then I go walking and check it out. You go for a piece and you see 10 pieces or I go for a piece and it's away but I come back and there are 15 others. The most people go to the city and you to the Eiffel Tower or things in the city. But when you're hunting you go to other neighbourhoods where normal people aren't coming. And that's also surprising every time. You see a lot more of Paris than a normal tourist and that I like. Also in London there are a lot of places where normal people aren't coming. If I didn't have this hobby I never would have been there. In street art there are festivals, and last years there were more festivals.1st there was one in Europe, and now every city has a festival. 2 weeks ago I was in Rotterdam, then next week I go Eindhoven and then I see what it is there from instagram, I collect some photos and try and match the photos in real life. Then I try and meet the maker of these pieces and I put the picture I made in my book. So for the most artists I think I have 20-30 photos. Then if I meet them I show them the pictures and sometimes they like it and follow me on instagram. Then you have contact. You also have a contact for all the new things they made."
Which city would you say has the most vibrant street art scene?
Ostend, that's in Belgium. They have a festival, and every year they come 10 pieces, they do this for 3-4 years, and now there are 40ish new pieces. Another place; Bristol, also a festival and every time there comes new pieces from it. Sometimes they cover them up but the big ones stay there. Berlin, the line between east and west. The west is very modern and east was not modern and they build a lot. But between that area there are a lot."
Over the years you've been searching what would you say has surprised you the most?
It became bigger and bigger. Early in the 80s they make a lot of tags and every one tags it with a marker or pen. Then bigger, bigger and now it is fairly professional. There are street artists who live from it, make money. And there are galleries that sell the pieces. It's not only on the street. Today, it is art, it is bigger. Big buildings, big walls on buildings. And not for a week, but for a half year or longer. More festivals and a lot of cities see the importance of it."
How would you say people's attitudes towards street art have changed, if in any way?
First they clean it and it is illegal, now they want it for the tourists, give them something to do, you can watch. You can make your neighbourhood in the city interesting for tourists. In the past it was always illegal and now they see it, they go for it. They see it on instagram and people go for looking. They used to see it and go away, now they go towards it."
Where do you feel the progression of street art is headed?
They go into the museums because they want money for it understandably. And it becomes bigger. Before being in the museum, first people must know, and at the festivals you can present yourself. Festivals are interest of the councillors and of the city and that is new also. SAMA is good, they invited street art and invited them to paint on big walls which is good. But painters come not here, there is no place for them. NDSM there is a place, everyone can come here and you can paint. Here you can not paint only when you're invited here. So, this is not for the artists this is for SAMA. The greatest, the biggest come when they are invited here and you pay for it and arrange it.
Would you mind sharing with us some of your more bizarre street art hunting stories or experiences?
Yes. Not only with the hunting, but when I go with the bus to Paris they found 3 bags of pills. We stand there 7 hours by the border, and when I go there and have 12 hours to visit the city and then go back, you end up with 5. Then you get irritated. Also you meet someone and start talking with her and she was a street art hunter too. We were together for 4 or 5 hours looking around the city. You never know what you find. You find a nice piece and find others. When you find art on the street it it is always different. You can go 3-4 times to see it and every time it's a different piece. When you go to the museum it's always the same piece. Also you go to Paris or somewhere and you go to the location where the piece is and there's no piece".
What do you think of street art tours and street art maps?
It is the right step into getting people involved. But it is very long to walk with all the pieces. If tours are for tourists. And i've been on a tour, not here, but in England, and I knew more than the tour guide. Often go not to the dangerous places, apart from here. So I do it by myself and have the time by myself. But with a tour you're always certain you see something, and when I go and for nothing. I have good trip but yeah, it's not always certain. You are not always certain of the result when I go. So for tourists who come to Amsterdam and are stuck in the city, it's a good way out. I don't think someone who is on holiday and lives in London will say now I'm going to Amsterdam to see street art. They go to Amsterdam, they go to see everything, and then they go see. There are not many people like me only for the street art. the hunt I like, and with a tour it's not hunting its a show. The same when you out it in the museum it's always the same. In the streets it's always different, and you can go to a piece 4 times and every time it's different
And finally, what do you think of SAMA collection? And in comparison to other street art initiatives in Amsterdam?
I like stencils. I like Btoy and the big walls. Here are a lot of artists from the world. You seem them not every day in Amsterdam. Sometimes you see pieces. You meet different artists here, and for me and my collection it's great.
(All photos used in this blog post were taken by Rene Zweet)