A colorful mural by Anne Frank, which is no less than 240 square meters in size and was made by Brazilian artist Kobra, means that it is not long to look for street art museum STRAAT, which is located on the grounds of the Amsterdam NDSM shipyard.
In the gigantic industrial warehouse, where ship parts were formerly welded together, now hang and stand one hundred and fifty meters high works of art. From both big names and emerging talent, and from both Dutch artists and street artists from all over the world.
A lot of misery preceded the opening of the museum: a leaking roof caused enormous delays and disagreements within the team led to the departure of the then artistic director and a small part of the artists.
The museum did not have an easy start, curator David Roos agrees. “Last summer we sometimes thought ‘Is this ever going to open or are we going to cut it?'”
Silent opening due to corona
But October 9, 2020 was the day. Not a big party, but a quiet opening. “We could not let the artists fly in because of corona. Moreover, that would have been a significant investment.”
Because all those street artists had already come to Amsterdam at one time at the expense of the museum. “Almost all the works you see with us were also made in the warehouse,” says Roos.
Travel and accommodation costs will be reimbursed, as will all material costs. The street artists are not paid for the artwork itself.
Isn’t it a bit crooked that the makers don’t earn anything from the work they make for the museum? “The works of art remain the property of the artists. We only have them on loan. In principle, all works are also for sale,” Roos explains.
If people have the space at home or in a company – on average ten by six meters – a work from STRAAT can be hung there. Both the museum and the artist profit from this. “The way art galleries work.”
In addition, the museum also acts as an intermediary. “If a clothing brand or large company is looking for a street artist for an advertisement, we can link them together.”
Curator Roos, who has been a part of the world as a street art photographer for some time, is looking for street artists for the museum himself. “But we are also actively approached by artists who want to hang here and make a work.”
Although there are also street artists who believe that street art does not belong in a museum, but should only be admired outside. Artist Robin Nas, known as Zenk One, understands the discussion, but is happy with the museum himself.
Added value of the museum
His graphic work can be seen on the walls of his home city of Breda, on a forty meter high silo in the Achterhoek, but also in the Red Bull office. Last month he made a work of five by nine meters for STRAAT. This happened during opening hours so that visitors can see live how a work of art is created.
“Street art is and remains something that belongs on the street, but the added value of the museum is that the art form gains more appreciation and is made accessible to a large audience,” says Zenk One.
Roos adds that visitors in the museum learn about the history of street art and are also explained the context of the artworks. “We’re not just docking for a few pictures, we really want to tell you more about what’s behind it.”
Keith Haring, Banksy and Basquiat
For example, one work criticizes society, while the other is a personal interpretation of Van Gogh. Context that you often cannot guess when you encounter the work outside on the street.
Roos believes that the museum should contribute to taking street art more seriously. “Big names like Keith Haring, Banksy and Basquiat all started on the street and are now seen in major museums and galleries. It was time to dedicate an entire museum to this art form, because it deserves it.”
Now it is still important to get the general public to the museum, because opening during the pandemic was no fun. “We had just been open for five weeks when we had to close again due to the lockdown. This way you can’t make a name for yourself as a museum,” says Roos.
All the publicity from around the opening had already subsided when the museum was finally allowed to welcome people again in June. And the major decline in tourism in the capital also has an effect on visitor numbers. “The figures are not yet what they should be, but things are moving in the right direction. More and more people are finding us.”
Including artists: street artist Eddy Plu left a spray can painted by him in the museum shop. Equipped with an information sign entirely in the style of STRAAT. That joke was appreciated by Roos and his colleagues. “We have now given the spray can a nice spot.”