Art in Amsterdam

See master works with an I amsterdam City Card.

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I amsterdam - sign
Koen-Smilde-Photography-Rechtenvrij

By Jill Gleeson

Sure, Amsterdam may be best known for its more hedonistic, visceral pleasures, like its famed coffee shops, where patrons smoke marijuana legally, and the red-light district, home to ladies of the night offering their womanly wares from window fronts. But the city serves up more innocent—if still adult-centric—attractions, and we’re not just talking tulips and canals, either. Amsterdam, one of the world’s loveliest cities, is resplendent with some of the world’s best museums. From the Van Gogh Museum and its deeply moving, fantastical masterpieces, to Foam, which presents cutting-edge photography exhibits, the Netherlands’ capital is rich with more than 50 blockbuster art institutions. Here are a few of the best:

Van Gogh Museum
Located on Museumplein, a public square that stretches across the ritzy Museumkwartier section of Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum is a treasure that manages to pretty much outdo boffo neighbors like the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum. Boasting a fabulous collection of French fin de siècle and Japanese prints, as well as paintings from Van Gogh buddies like Gauguin, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec, the museum also happens to house the planet’s largest stockpile of work from it’s titular artist.

Many of the big boys are here, including one of Van Gogh’s almond blossom paintings, a relatively simple but stunning piece he gifted to his brother Theo and his wife upon the birth of their son. There’s also the beloved representation of his bedroom in his Arles house, plenty of self-portraits and perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous work, the glorious Sunflowers, created with just three shades of yellow. It’s all not only dazzling but more than a little poignant, particularly given the painter’s battles with declining mental health. Van Gogh, who committed suicide at 37, may have invented expressionism, but in the end even art couldn’t save him.

I amsterdam - van gogh

Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam’s modern art and design museum, the sprawling 130,000-square-foot Stedelijk, which opened its costly, long-awaited new wing in 2012, now offers some 700 permanently-installed works. The works date from 1880 to present day, and were created by big names such as Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Pollock, Chagall, Kandinsky, De Kooning, Mondrian Koons and Warhol. There are engaging temporary exhibits, too, like last year’s show from Dutch duo Studio Drift, which featured jaw-dropping, transportive light sculptures. But perhaps the Stedelijk’s most surprising facet is how beautifully it integrates art with design. Paintings hang alongside furniture, photography with jewelry, all of it interspersed with posters, drawings, ceramics, video art and more that wonderfully weave together the story of what the museum calls “historic movements, social themes, and influential artists.”

I amsterdam - art
Credit Jill Gleeson

Moco Museum
Tiny, vital, and usually boasting lines out the door, MOCO (Modern Contemporary Museum Amsterdam) is also tucked away on Museumplein. The private institution, which opened in 2016 in an historic villa, currently bursts at the seams with work from British provocateur Banksy. While the anonymous, political graffiti artist’s images may be ubiquitous, it’s not easy to find them on exhibit—after all, by their very nature they more temporal than eternal. Moco’s collection, on loan from various sources, features both his indoor sculptural pieces and his infamous, ironic and iconic stenciled street art. Standouts include Girl with Balloon, in which a child reaches for a red, heart-shaped balloon (perhaps representing innocence, love, or hope), that is floating just out of reach, and Love is in the Air, a representation of a protester hurling a bouquet of posies. Thought-provoking and darkly humorous, this is a must-see exhibit.

I amsterdam - Banksy art

Rijksmuseum
You might want to take a nap before visiting this behemoth, and be sure to pace yourself. In addition to plenty of paintings from the Dutch Masters, including Rembrandt’s legendary The Night Watch, there is everything from Delftware to ancient artifacts, some 8,000 objects in all, spread throughout 80 galleries. This year, the museum is marking the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death with a full spate of special events and exhibitions running through December. When you’re full up on spectacular art, take a break at the museum’s Michelin-starred restaurant, RIJKS, specializing in innovative cuisine inspired by traditional Dutch flavors, crafted from locally-sourced ingredients.

Foam
This exquisite photography museum, which sits pretty inside a remade canal house, has gained worldwide acclaim since opening in 2002. Exhibits from superstar artists like Diane Arbus, Anton Corbijn, and Cy Twombly keep the institution in the news, but Foam also regularly presents gorgeous, provocative shows from emerging photographers centered around current events. Last year’s barnburner, timed to coincide with the city’s Pride celebration, was a stunning exhibit of work by JeanPaul Paula and Florian Joahn showcasing LGBTQ people from across the globe. Running June 14 to September 4 is American artist Alex Prager’s Silver Lake Drive, which uses saturated colors and heavily-staged images, often of women, to probe dark themes in a style evoking film noir.

I amsterdam

More Information…

Before exploring The Netherlands’ capital, be sure to grab an I amsterdam City Card, which begins at 60 euro for 24 hours and provides unlimited public transportation, entrance to museums and attractions, a canal cruise and more for free. For more information, visit I amsterdam.

Van Gogh Museum
Museumplein 6
1071 DJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
+31 (0)20 570 5200
Free entrance with I amsterdam City Card

Stedelijk Museum
Museumplein 10
1071 DJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
+31 (0)20 5732 911
Free entrance with I amsterdam City Card

MOCO Museum
Honthorststraat 20,
1071 DE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
+31 (0)203701997
Discounted entrance with I amsterdam City Card

Rijksmuseum
Museumstraat 1,
1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 (0)20 674 7000
Free entrance with I amsterdam City Card

Foam
Keizersgracht 609,
1017 DS Amsterdam, The Netherlands
+31 (0)20 551 6500
Free entrance with I amsterdam City Card

I amsterdam - Amsterdam at night

– Photo Credits: Vary; click on individual images for details.

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Jill GleesonJill Gleeson is an independent travel journalist who has written for brands including Woman’s Day, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Washingtonian, Gothamist, Canadian Traveller and a host of other festive publications and websites. She is the Travel Editor of Enchanted Living. Follow her adventures at gleesonreboots.com.

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