You would think that setting up a new museum in Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter – sandwiched between the grand old lady Rijksmuseum and its extraordinarily popular younger sibling the Van Gogh Museum would be a tough act, but its taken just a few years for the Moco (Modern Contemporary) Museum to become a phenomenon in its own right.
Husband and wife Lionel and Kim Logchies run a very successful commercial gallery in Amsterdam’s art quarter. Featuring work from iconic artists like Picasso, Warhol and Banksy, in 2016 they were inspired by their little black book of collectors to take the next step and launch a private museum.
The first step was to find a museum-quality building in the heart of Amsterdam and that’s where Villa Alsberg came in. A stunning townhouse right on the Museumplein, the building was designed in 1904 by the nephew of Pierre Cuypers who designed Amsterdam’s Central Station and the Rijksmuseum. What started as a family home became a school in 1939 and latterly a law farm until the Logchies came a long with a proposal.
Filling the classic space with pop art, street art and other contemporary pieces they rely on the goodwill of collectors to loan this very modern museum its world-class exhibits. So what’s in it for the owners of these works? Well they gain validation by having their art displayed and might ultimately reap some financial reward if their pieces increase in value as a result however, it remains pretty remarkable when you see the jawdropping quality of work on display.
The museum trades on being the unauthorized home of Banksy works, but it would be a mistake to think that’s ‘all’ there is to it. Sure, it has some of his most iconic street pieces and indoor works including Girl with Balloon but the villa is also home to incredible array of modern masters from Dali to Warhol, Basquiat to Koons, Damien Hirst to Keith Haring.
Given it is situated in a villa rather than a museum, the rooms are relatively small and we suggest going first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day to avoid the crowds. Unsurprisingly it has become hugely popular and a serious addition to Amsterdam’s museum crown jewels.
Being a private museum, entry is not included with the iAmsterdam city card, however at €14 in advance for adults (€15 on the door) and discounts for students (kids under 10 go free) we’d say its definitely worth the price.
Our kids loved their visit. As well as the permanent exhibitions there are many temporary ones too as well as semi-permanent installations. We were lucky enough to enjoy the last weeks of the Insta-dreamy 3D recreation of Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Bedroom at Arles” which he made in 1992 after seeing a postcard of Van Gogh’s infamous “Artist’s Room at Arles”. Although this installation has now closed, new exhibitions open all the time and we are keeping our eyes peeled for what will follow this hugely popular experience.
Roy declared: “I’ve cleaned his room up a little bit for him; and he’ll be very happy when he gets home from the hospital to see that I’ve straightened his shirts and bought some new furniture. Mine is a rather large painting and his is rather small. His is much better, but mine is much bigger.
Here’s a brilliant visual description of how they went about creating the installation.
Still showing is work by Daniel Arsham. The Amethyst Ball Cavern is exactly that – sports balls lit in dim purple light that felt like a cave of wonders. There is also the “calcified room” (again pretty self explanatory) in which objects are suspended, abandoned as if in pompeii-like ash and “Hidden Figure” where something appears to be trapped just behind the wall.
There is much else to keep big kids and little ones engaged. Banksy’s bust that mashes-up classical sculpture and minecraft-inspired pixels was particularly fascinating for Zacy, but he also enjoyed “Crude Oil Jerry” and my favourite “Home Sweet Home”. Osc loved Damien Hirst’s Mickey, but having learned about Haring and Basquiat recently at school was generally captivated by the whole experience (and was particularly gratified when he got back to school and found out his art teacher had visited the same week!)
And the fun isn’t limited to the inside – the garden houses sculptures that are just waiting to be clambered on and interacted with (yes, naturally my two loved the giant gummy bear although its fair to say we also spent time rearranging the drawing pins in Marcel Wanders “portrait”) and the incredibly accessible work kept our two hugely entertained.
This is a truly contemporary museum. They absolutely get what visitors these days are after – Instagrammable experiences, works that can shock you, surprise you and make you smile (often all in one) and of course a good old shop.
As you would expect Moco also has an active and dynamic Instagram feed and huge ambitions for future growth.
We were surprised at just how extensive, engaging and dynamic the museum was. Spend time enjoying old masters at the Rijks, move forward in time and delight in Van Gogh’s wonders, but be sure to start or end with the Moco Museum for a dose of contemporary sizzle to thrill the senses.