Dutch public art scene is popping

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

From an angel drifting over Amsterdam to Stanley Brown’s square boxes, street art is hot. Public artworks are sprouting up like mushrooms.

Tom van Gestel, artistic director of the Foundation for Art and Public Domain (SKOR), has taken RNW on an exclusive tour around some of the best works.

A tipped-over, burnt-out Citroën 2CV is nestled comfortably in a newly built neighbourhood near Utrecht. The artist, Fernando Sanchez Castillo, calls it an “ode to democracy”, explaining that Barricade honours people who fight against injustice and oppression. The work was inspired by the student riots of 1968.

About 30 km from Utrecht is the Flevopolder, an artificially-created island. The endlessly flat landscape is broken only by a stand of 178 poplar trees that have been carefully planted to mimic the pillars supporting the cathedral of Rheims, where the kings of France were once crowned. Marinus Boezem started the Gothic Growing Project or Green Cathedral 24 years ago in order to give Almere, known as a ‘town without history,’ the allure of the middle ages.

These are just 2 examples of public art in the Netherlands. Now Amsterdam, as well as 2 provinces in the north and south of the country, have initiated an annual public art prize in order to stimulate the displays.