Public Art. Amsterdam

BOLD TOREN BOUWMATERIALEN

Strike a Pose – Wafae Ahalouch

Amsterdam, the magic center, art and counterculture 1967-1970

Schip van Slebos

De Appel

Het Bankje

Het Raam

De Oude Kerk

Het Stoepje

Licht

De Brug

De Brug

Ruimtestructuur

Het Zandkasteel en de Amsterdamse Poort

How to Kill a Tree, Edward Clydesdale Thomson

City Cells

Nelson Mandela

Monument tegen Apartheid en Racisme

DOE IETS / DO SOMETHING

Spanje Monument

De Muur

Gedenkteken Steven van Dorpel

De Grote Glijbaan

Yellow Wings

Dolle Mina

Man en Schaap

Hortus Botanicus

Portrait of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, J.L. Vreugde

Anton de Kom

Now, Speak!

Tayouken Piss

Monument Bijlmerramp

Sequin Monument

Mama Aisa

Zonder titel (Twee Schuine Naalden)

Nationaal Monument Slavernijverleden

Monument for Martin Luther King

Gloei!

Voor de Bijen

Industrieel Monument

The Black Archives

Tussentijd

Corned Beef

Sami

Brace for Impact, Node #6

Untitled (You Don’t Have To Be Here)

Staalmanplein

Wegwerphuisje

Groot Landschap

De 7 poorten

Klimmuur

De Kies

Black Waves

Tectona Grandis

Stapeling omlaag

Animaris Rhinoseros Transport

Tuinen van West

De Poort van Constant

Fietstunnel station Amsterdam CS

Noordbeeld

NDSM-Werf

Ontmoetingsplaats

IJ boulevard

ADM monument

De Ceuvel

NDSM-Werf

Observatorium

De Ceuvel

Gedenkteken Ataturk

Twee Beelden

Sunday Seminar Pay Attention Please! curating the city

Official Opening Pay Attention Please!

De Kost en de Baat

Van Eesteren Museum and Aldo van Eyck’s climbing frames

Constructie met I-balken, André Volten

Mirage, Tamás Kaszás

Rembo, Bastienne Kramer

Untitled, Margot Zanstra

Horse Chestnut, Amok Island

2 U’s naar buiten / 2 U’s naar binnen, Carel Visser

Opstandingskerk, Marius Duintjer

Cascoland

WOW Amsterdam

Leonard van Munster, Under Heaven 02

Lex Horn, Concrete relief Hendrik de Keyser

Het Wiel, Jeroen Henneman

Herbert Nouwens, Brettensuite

White Noise

De Wachter

Feestelijke Beelden (festive sculptures)

Your Life is Calling

Untitled

Primum movens ultimum moriens

11 Rue Simon Crubellier

Lady Solid

Opgelichte Stoeptegels

Ode to Mungus, Menhir Tower and Spire

Untitled (Hildo)

The First Turk Immigrant or The Nameless Heroes of The Revolution – Framer Framed

Amsterdam, the Magic Center Art and counterculture 1967-1970, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Monument for the White Cube – P/////AKT

Monuments to the Unsung – Framer Framed

wild care, tame neglect – Frankendael Foundation

GET LOST – art route, several artists

Ode to the Bijlmer – CBK Zuidoost

Untitled (You Don’t Have To Be Here) – De Appel

We should have a conversation (2018) – De Appel

Fiep van Bodegom

Roos van Rijswijk

Alma Mathijsen

Massih Hutak

Chris Keulemans

Rashid Novaire

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In the summer of 2017 the media were full of the ideological battle going on regarding controversial statues of heroes of the US Civil War. Demonstrators held opposing views on the respect due to the men who had devoted themselves to the maintenance of slavery. Statues were daubed with paint or defended, or removed by the local authorities as a preventive measure.

The struggle against the omnipresence in the public space of historical colonists and White supremacists has also resurfaced in the Netherlands. Hundreds of streets in Amsterdam bear the names of controversial naval heroes and their faces adorn a variety of buildings. An example is this one, on a relief above the main entrance of the Tropenmuseum where the Dutch East India Company (VOC) merchant Jan Pieterszoon Coen stands guard. The relief was probably made by J.L. Vreugde, although various artists contributed to it. A special symbolism committee chose the decorations.

The Tropenmuseum opened in 1926 as the Colonial Institute. It was the keeper of the ethnographic collection that was brought back from the colonies. The façade reliefs refer to the Golden Age when the Netherlands built up its empire overseas. In 1621 Coen led massacre on the Banda islands. By the time a revolt against the imposition of a Dutch monopoly on nutmeg had been crushed, only six hundred of the fifteen thousand islanders were left with their lives. This slaughter was condemned even in Coen’s own time, but in the nationalist nineteenth century he was praised as a hero of the Golden Age and founder of the worldwide Dutch empire. Now this status is called into question again. Does a man like Coen deserve such an honourable position in our city?

The questions raised by this debate require a critical view of art in the public space. Which history do the streets of Amsterdam tell? For whom was this history glorious, for whom inglorious? Should the symbolism in a city stand for all its diverse residents? For instance, is it a problem that so few streets are named after women? And can symbolism really have an impact on the psyche of the women of Amsterdam today? And if not, do we still have the responsibility to keep the ideology of a city up to date? What do we do if we change our minds about the heroic deeds that we once honoured?

‘History is written by the victors’, claimed the former British premier Winston Churchill in the 1960s. The Coen Tunnel, the former Van Heutsz Monument, the Piet Heinkade: Amsterdam tells the glorious story of the Golden Age when the city was the hub of international trade. It is no secret that the era also had its shadow side. The Netherlands, like many other European countries, owed its wealth to the exploitation and enslavement of people in other continents. It is partly as a result of this history that the Amsterdam of today is a diverse, multicultural city. The current debate on whether or not to remove statues and street names of oppressors is about representation. What do we as a city want to express, what do we stand for, and which citizens are represented in the public space?

This year the former J.P. Coen school in East Amsterdam gave a loud and clear answer to this question by dropping the name. It is now trying to find a name that everyone in the school can support and that represents the multicultural composition of the school community. Still, different answers are possible in this complicated issue. Decolonisation is more than just breaking the colonial relation between oppressor and oppressed. It is a process in which the colonial legacy, consisting of centuries of superiority in all its forms, is due for revision. The Tropenmuseum itself has developed a critical attitude towards its institutional history and assumed an active role in the process of decolonisation. In exhibitions and symposia the collection is considered as material that can offer an honest and balanced perspective on the imperialist history. In this connection the exhibitions Present of the slave pastand Afrofuturismcan currently be seen in the Tropenmuseum.

 

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