Solaris on tour: Amsterdam calling! Part 1

Its always fun to go on a city break, especially when the weather has been this horrible in London like this year! So when I got asked to DJ at a wedding in Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity to escape the grey and rainy same old same old. So I grabbed a suit, an USB stick full of beats and off I went!

I associate Amsterdam mostly with two things: Very strong weed and the horror flick “Amsterdamned”. While the first might kill your ambition to do anything apart from eating waffles with Nutella, the second one literally might kill you if you stand too close at a canal during the 80ties!

As the days of herbal self medication are well behind me I had plenty of time to find new ways to entertain me in the Dutch capital. So I grabbed my camera and hit the road. 

There are three things I look out for when I am in a new city: Geeky stores, record shops and the local streetwear retailer of choice! The last one on that list was the most obvious: Patta rules Amsterdam when it comes to sneakers and clothes so my first point of call was to check out what’s happening at the Dutch version of Supreme or Palace.

The store was close to Centraal Station and featured a very minimal white interior and rows and rows of kicks! As the T-Shirts didn’t flatter my shapely body and 5 panel caps are a young man’s game I ended up purchasing only with a Patta coffee mug like the Streetwear tourist that I am!

Put the kettle on… now all I need is Supreme teabags!

While there are a lot of chic stores in Amsterdam I didn’t really run past anything that caught my attention fashion retail wise. Honorable example: The Comme Des Gar├žons Black store next to Patta… creepy big babies anyone?

Another thing I expected to see more was surprisingly Street Art! I guess it must have something to do with the narrow streets and squeezed buildings which don’t really provide a lot of paintable surface! Then again, I haven’t really done any research and just ran up and down through the city centre so maybe the outskirts of Amsterdam are full or crazy murals, who knows…

Stickers, on the other hand, were EVERYWHERE. Just good that I packed a big duffle bag of Solaris ones so I could go All City!

Whilst on the topic of Street Art: Somehow it was Banksy season in the Dutch capital: Pink posters advertising the Banksy show at the Moco Museum were everywhere so it would have been rude not to go!

As much as I liked Dismaland, I really prefer my Banksy on the streets and not in a museum. It’s still mind boggling to me what crazy prices Banksy pieces command and how much he became the blueprint of what Joe Public perceives as Street Art: Some funny riff on a celeb stencilled with some paint drips around it and an ‘edgy’ slogan below. I don’t blame Banksy for this development, but the level of celebrity he achieved makes visiting exhibitions like this slightly surreal… and may I say… naff.

Curated by Steve Lazarides, the show had a lot of pieces on display that Banksy is known for. It just feels weird seeing a piece of Graffiti displayed in a gallery environment that you still remember seeing on a grubby wall in East London. There was an attempt to juxtapose the Banksy artwork with Warhol pieces which fell a bit flat as the Warhol artwork was put into the basement gallery, next to the toilets and the gift shop… poor Andy!

Seeing the Warhol show being put into the lower floor gallery shows how much Banksy draws the crowds these days. As much as I am happy for his success I do wonder how he feels about having tourists buying bootleg merchandise at shows that display work that could have gotten him arrested just a few years back. I guess he might actually really appreciate the irony of it all! 

Oh and did I take a picture at that Banksy tourist wall? OF CAUSE I DID, because I am just a sheep like everybody else! XD

Well, after I exited the Moco Museum I head back into the town centre, running into quite a couple of galleries and stores which were, literally, up my street.  Turns out I ended up in the part of Amsterdam known for it’s antique stores, art galleries and boutiques: Nieuwe spiegelstraat.

First up was the cool stuff store ‘Famous‘: Toys, Books, Screenprints oh yes please! On the shelves the usual suspects: Warhol, Murakami, Medicom… basically how my flat would look like if I had serious money… or would be Jayawesum!

Onwards I ran into more great galleries. The big discovery for me was the show of Ayako Rokkaku at Gallery Delaive at Spiegelgracht 23: Her psychedelic comic art is just great, especially as she painted everything WITH HER FINGERS! Whut?! Cray cray!

I was especially in awe of her layered 3D perspex paintings that were so polished that you couldn’t really make out the seams of the glued together slabs of plastic. Amazing…

Further up the road, even more Banksy at the Lionel Gallery! This show had mostly prints and some pieces by other contemporary artists like KAWS, Hirst and of cause, Warhol. Here my big discovery was Spanish painter Yago Hortal: Loved his bold colours and abstract shapes… check him out!

I had a lot of fun just walking around and looking at what’s happening around me. And although there wasn’t a lot of Street Art out there, I at least spotted an Invader and a really psychedelic bike… I wonder how long it’s owner sampled the local mushroom offerings to come up with such a bold design! 

Let me sign off for now with this famous monkey: Who would have thought one day it would be in charge of the art world! Still, there is lots of other great things to see and do in Amsterdam, so keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of my Dutch travelogue where I hit the local toy and record shops!

Dismaland REDUX

I don’t know how he does it but somehow Banksy manages to stay ahead of the pack and makes his at times painfully obvious social critique still enduring and exciting. Maybe that’s because he always finds new ways to come up with exciting ways to present his artwork. 

I am thinking about his New York residency that created awesome stunts like the cuddly toy transporter or the budget art for sale. I am still amazed he managed to pull this off without getting busted…

Picking a run down English coastal town to take over a derelict Tropicana Seaside resort is just another stroke of genius. On my travels around England I was always fascinated by the environment of these places where a sense of dread clashes with amusement rides and cheap booze in the local pub.

So when the tickets got released for his latest collaborative show it was time to fire up Trainline, grab my travel companion Bob Motown and see what all the dismal is about!

It rained heavily on the day with a strong gale battering the installation… perfect weather then! What surprised me was the variety of people visiting: From hipsters, school kids, families with babies all the way to grandma and granddad in their walkers, everybody crawled the different exhibition spaces and queued orderly for Dismal Castle.

I am still amazed how Banksy managed to transcend the walls of Shoreditch and became the Street Art Sensation he is today, leaving a myriad of other stencilled depressed mice and Ronald McDonalds that tried to follow in his footsteps  in the dust.

But well done to him! Love it or hate it… I personally had a dismal time at Dismaland!

I wonder if Blek le rat got himself a ticket too?