Just when we thought we’d “done” all of Amsterdam’s best museums, along came a new one that blew our socks off.
The cleverly named STRAAT (Dutch for “street” and a mashup of “street art”) opened at the NDSM wharf in Noord just a couple of weeks before Covid hit. After several years work on the extraordinary warehouse building (including a complete rebuild of the roof) the museum opened to huge excitement before shutting down for an indeterminate amount of time. Eventually covid restrictions eased and Amsterdam’s newest and most spectacular graffiti and street art venue threw back open its doors to the public.
And it truly is fabulous. The regeneration of NDSM wharf as a creative urban space is spectacular. The former shipyard on the banks of the River IJ has exploded into a vibrant hotspot housing artists, events, festivals, bars, restaurants and exhibitions. The scale here is enormous as former warehouses have been reinvented on a site the size of 10 football pitches.
So the setting couldn’t be more perfect for this fantastically restored raw industrial building housing 150 huge commissioned works celebrating international street art and graffiti in all their glorious scale.
We headed there on a wild and windy Amsterdam day which felt a perfect fit for the vibe pulsating from the vast 25m high and 8000m2 warehouse.
The outside of the building has been given as much thought as the inside and it was brilliant to see signs on all sides with the slogan “YES, YOU CAN PAINT HERE. And indeed artists have taken the bait. The walls change frequently and in Summer the building feels like a living installation with graffiti artists expressing their creativity day and night.
At the front of the building is a staggering modern interpretation of the iconic Anne Frank image. The work was created by Eduardo Kobra, known for painting the world’s largest street art mural in Rio de Janeiro as well as factory and apartment-building murals around the world featuring The Dalai Lama, John Lennon, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Ghandi. His 240m2 piece for STRAAT is named “Let Me Be Myself” and celebrates respect for identity and the inspiration Anne provides for modern youth.
Inside, the space is breathtaking and its no surprise that as well as being a museum, it houses both public and private events from exhibitions and parties to late night happenings and date nights.
The art is curated into five different themes and there are explanations by each work. There are a huge variety of styles on display and the informal urban setting is the perfect antidote to a traditional museum atmosphere – far more fitting with outdoor ethos of street art and graffiti.
But, given it is a vast warehouse, the advice is to “dress like you’re going for a walk outside” – though I’m pleased to say we managed to stay warmer and less windswept than our walk from the wharf.
The boys quickly made themselves at home in the way that only children feel the freedom to do.
They explored, stared, laughed and reflected on the stunning variety of art on display, questioning what art is and what it means.
They were lucky enough to be provided with an engaging worksheet which for now is only in Dutch but which, in keeping with the museum, was visually engaging, deceptively simple and utterly accessible. They were of course thrilled to receive stickers as a reward at the end.
Alongside the commissioned works are a couple of installations which can be entered and explored and, at the centre of the warehouse is a huge blank canvas ready for a new work. Artists come from across the world to create here with complete freedom of expression – occasionally you might be lucky enough to find someone doing just that, surrounded by work from their contemporaries as well as lucky onlookers.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, which finished with a bird’s eye view from the Panorama Terrace above.
Although we didn’t stop at the cafe (we headed next door to the wonderful Ijver for lunch) we did linger for a browse in the shop which, alongside some incredibly cool merch, even sells spray cans for those who have been inspired. My pair were sorely tempted!!
The city of Amsterdam has always mixed up the old and the new, the local and International. History rubs shoulders with the future and the cultural melting pot has always welcomed new voices and perspectives. So be sure to do the same – by all means start your Amsterdam art journey at the Rijks, but do keep going – stepping onwards through the generations at the Van Gogh Museum, Moco or the Stedelijk before ending your journey in Noord at STRAAT where the 17th century is a distant memory and culture explodes in the 21st.
STRAAT is currently open from Wednesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Kids under 13 go free
Tickets can be booked on their website here: