Modern day Amsterdam is a living, breathing canvas providing an eclectic hotbed of art and beauty. From the grandmasters Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer to the modern heavy hitters of photography, design and architecture; the planet’s most inspirational and important artists continue to flock to the Dutch capital.
Inspired by a unique history and atmosphere, artists have long walked alongside the canals of Amsterdam, frequented the brothels and visited the famous café bars to draw inspiration for their work. And fittingly, Amsterdam has managed to retain thousands upon thousands of original works inspired by the city, the surroundings and the people.
With more than 50 art museums and galleries dotted throughout the streets of the city; Amsterdam offers much more than a history lesson for art lovers. The art scene is as healthy and robust as ever, providing unforgettable experiences regardless of your tastes or specific artistic interests.
The Big Hitters
Alongside strolling along the ancient, beautiful canals; exploring the major museums and galleries is an absolute must when visiting Amsterdam.
Dedicated to the arts and 800 years of Amsterdam history, the Rijksmuseum is fittingly located in Museum Square, borough Amsterdam South. The museum is home to a wide collection of works by the Dutch greats including Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. With over one million pieces to peruse and explore, including 2,000 plus paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, there is far more than a one day tour to be enjoyed in the Rijksmuseum. And it is definitely worth taking your time to really breathe in and appreciate the beauty of one of the world’s finest art collections. The downside? Since being reopened by Queen Beatrix in April 2013, annual visitor numbers have neared 2.5million, so you might have to be a little patient when glimpsing some of the more popular works.
Van Gogh Museum
Conveniently located on Museum Square just across from the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum offers the world’s largest collection of works by the troubled genius. Comprising 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters from Van Gogh, the museum offers a unique journey through the short life and career of the prolific artist. Some of the artist’s most famous pieces housed in the museum include The Potato Eaters (1885), Self Portrait (1888) and The Yellow House (1888). But perhaps the greatest draw is the two entries from Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series – the only two to have never left the artist’s estate. As well as work from the eponymous artist, the museum also features pieces from a number of his esteemed contemporaries including Gauguin, Manet and Monet.
Rembrandt House Museum
Located in the house owned and occupied by Rembrandt van Rijn, this museum proudly boasts a huge collection of its former occupant’s works and collections. The grand old house was bought by Rembrandt in 1639 and served as a studio for many of his most famous works, until 1656 when he was declared bankrupt and forced to auction off the property and all of his belongings. The Rembrandt House Museum has been lovingly restored to its previous glory, giving visitors an insight into how it would have looked when the artist took up residency.
Great for aspiring artists and etchers, the museum features Rembrandt’s student studio which gives guests the chance to try their hand at etching using traditional techniques.
Anne Frank House
Part memorial, part exhibition space, Anne Frank House celebrates the life and legacy of the eponymous former occupant whilst also serving as a stark reminder of the horrors committed during WWII.
Understandably the greatest draw of the caringly restored house is the secret annex dwelling of Anne Frank and her family when she was recording happenings in her now famous diary. But in addition, the museum regularly runs exhibitions to help guests develop a broader understanding of the situation facing the Jewish population during wartime.
Established little over 10 years ago, Foam has quickly become an integral part of the Amsterdam art scene – specialising in photography. Located on the Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), Foam features four different exhibitions at any one time, traditionally running for three months at a time.
The museum is dedicated to spotting young artistic talents, giving them a stage upon which to share their work and connect with other likeminded artists. The eclectic mix of exhibitions features a variety of photographic genres from fashion to documentary.
For those who want to avoid the crowds or have already visited the works of the grandmasters, there is an absolute abundance of niche museums and galleries, catering for a huge selection of very specific interests.
If you are slightly confused by the relatively vague name, Electric Ladyland is the world’s first museum dedicated to naturally-occurring fluorescent minerals. The tiny basement museum features a collection of glowing artefacts, fluorescent minerals and bright works of art.
Located close to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, Electric Ladyland is perfectly placed for an afternoon of very niche cultural exploration.
Charmingly founded as a tribute to the founder’s beloved tomcat, John Pierpont Morgan (sharing a name with the American banking tycoon J.P. Morgan); the Cat Cabinet is dedicated entirely to the role of felines in art and culture.
Located in a small house on the Herengracht, the museum features an exhaustive collection of artworks depicting cats and is also home to a few moggies who love nothing more than welcoming guests into their home.
Ones to Watch
As Van Gogh and Vermeer remained criminally underappreciated during their lifetimes, there is a strong, concentrated effort within the Amsterdam art scene to ensure that up-and-coming artists are given the opportunity to present their work to wider audiences. There is a huge selection of emerging talents in the Amsterdam art scene, but we believe the following two are the ones to watch.
A member of the National Academy class of 2015, Matthijs Munnik Creates work using the color organ, a kaleidoscope effect causing instrument overdeveloped in the 19th century. The results psychadelic explore flowing modulations of light, shapes and music. Combining historical methods with a modern approach, Munnik is to create bootable hugely original pieces.
Born in South Korea, Ryu moved to Amsterdam to further his art studies and progress away from the oriental skills he was brought up learning. His confusion regarding relations between North and South Korea manifests itself in his artwork, depicting confused interactions between humans and different species.
Amsterdam is a hugely popular river cruise port call, and if you would like to explore its vibrant art scene during an unforgettable river cruise, visit our homepage or call our dedicated team on +44 161 236 2537.