The Cultural Garden of Amsterdam

23 Oct 2016
Old-fashioned Pleasures

Those who think that the use of modern technology is what makes or breaks a museum have clearly not visited Rembrandthuis yet. Travel 400 years back in time and discover the sleeping, eating and, of course, painting arrangements of Rembrandt. In his studio, they still make the paint out of the same pigment that he used, and two stories lower you can examine the workings of a 17th-century press.

Between the sheets, ink and a big wooden press you will find an American man shrouded in a big apron. With the ink he greases an iron plate, which bears an engraving of one of Rembrandt’s images. In the old days, dogs were a useful resource for the printing procedure, as their skin has few pores (that’s why they gasp and pant so much) – therefore, dog leather does not absorb much ink so nothing dries out. It makes a perfect tool for spreading the ink, which back in the day was made of burnt animal bones.

After being invited to feel the different sorts of paper Rembrandt could choose from, the American puts a sheet of paper on the inked-in plate. Due to the relief of the plate, not everything turns black, which is on purpose. The whole package is sent under the press a second time et voila! A Rembrandt is born!

The audio tour will lead you through the rest of the house and you will hear not only the stories of the many paintings on the walls, but also those of arguments between Rembrandt and his mistress about alimony payments for their extramarital child. This old house offers the perfect combination of gossip, art and old-fashioned craft.

11 Oct 2016
Kissing, Diseases and Other Little Things

Microbes are the smallest and most versatile form of life on Earth. We are somewhat aware of the microorganisms that surround us: germs, bleu cheese and washing your hands after going to the toilet. But did you know that at any given moment you are carrying a kilo and a half of these microbes around with you? Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Museum Micropia brings this micro-world to life.

Microscopes are waiting for you to use them as a true lab technician. Just zoom-in to see the lively water fleas, or focus the lens to see the fungus. The beauty of the micro world is breath-taking and it takes me a few moments before I realize that my skin also bears the now familiar corral-like pattern of the fungus.

The museum makes it perfectly clear that bacteria are not a threatened species. With the ‘Kiss-o-meter’, you are invited to kiss (in what other museum can you do that?) and the message is ‘Congratulations, you have just exchanged 80 million bacteria.’ If you compare this to the number of people, it means that in those few seconds you exchanged the whole population of Germany with that of Turkey. But imagine now that there are more bacteria present in your mouth than there are people on Earth, and you will see that the movement of 80 million microbes is not as drastic as it sounds.

Because all this life is so incredibly small and adaptable, you could say that Micropia is almost a philosophical experience, where the unseen is magnified to its true life-changing potential. Visit the museum and explore the kilo and a half of microbes that you provide a home.

27 Sep 2016
Moes Serves Up Happiness

Taking a moment to relax and stretch your muscles at the museum café: what’s not to love? This is an opportunity to discuss the experience and let it sink in, to recharge your batteries or to simply satiate your hunger. I have been known to enjoy all three at times. Usually they also offer a high quality of service and a great atmosphere. So great, in fact, that you will be drawn there the next time you pass by, even though you might not be hungry or tired, or want to discuss the paintings you’ve just seen. Guilty again.

Luckily, you don’t need an entry ticket to visit a museum café, which is handy if you’re only interested in the food, not the art. Or if you just need a change of scenery: De Plantage offers plenty of scenery.

Already familiar with Moes?

Moes is a cosy café at the Appel arts centre. Situated underground and featuring a modern interior, it has a homely feeling, even though they might have gone a bit too far with the airport signage. The service is fantastic and welcoming, and the menu offers healthy classics prepared with local and sustainable products which will pleasantly surprise your taste buds. Their burger is by the looks of it the only non-healthy option and the portions are on the small side, but hey, I like that. Unfortunately, you can’t eat here during the week, however, the café is open longer than the museum, which means you will be able to enjoy a three-course dinner and some great beer after a day at the museum. You can even bring your own bottle of wine, if you are so inclined.

27 Aug 2016
Turn Your Phone Off and Put on Your Yamaka

 

Some museums leave you feeling as though you will never see them in their entirety, that you need to choose something to focus on. Jewish Historical Museum is one of them. The permanent exhibitions on Jewish religion and history, plus two temporary exhibitions are just too much to take in for one visit. This is ideal for those who hold a multiple entry museum pass and can always come back to continue where they left off, but the one-time visitor will need to make a plan and decide how to criss-cross the museum, or alternatively, be blessed with an unending attention span.

The fact that the museum seems to ask its visitors to choose a focus actually fits the message they are intending to deliver. The Jewish people have a moral obligation to perfect the world, which they try to accomplish by spreading awareness. And the only way to do that is to take time with important moments and events, whether it’s together with others or individually. Even though the teachings of this religion are more than four thousand years old, its message still rings true today.

The museum is very inspiring, but the sheer number of stories and objects on display makes it difficult to remain focused. All the touchscreens with even more menus, two auditoriums, four hundred years of history and all the art combined with a vibrating phone in my pocket and a long to-do list in my head make me wish I had time for reflection. Glancing out the window, I can see the Portuguese Synagogue – my next stop? 

 

09 Aug 2016
Exotic dining at De Tropen

Taking a break in a museum café to give your weary legs a rest: lovely. It gives you a chance to talk about the collection you've just seen and let it sink in, to recharge or even just to satisfy the appetite you've built up. I've been guilty of all three. And what's great is that the quality and atmosphere are often surprisingly good: so good that you visit the café again, even if you're not hungry or tired, and don't feel like talking about the paintings that you just saw. Guilty again.

Fortunately, you don't always need to buy a ticket to get into a museum's café, which is great if you don't feel like art, but you do feel like eating. Or if you just want to have lunch in a different kind of atmosphere. The Plantage has enough of those kinds of places, and I personally recommend the Tropenmuseum's Grandcafé.

The Grandcafé offers exotic dining in an elegant atmosphere. While it tries to appeal to nearly everyone, I find it a bit too dark and chic, but its impressive views out over the recently redone Oosterpark, and into the museum, make up for that, as does the menu. The ingredients are locally sourced, but have an exotic twist. There's also a special children's menu. I found the cakes a bit dry and uninviting, but I can easily recommend lunch or dinner. Try a banana beer, or a cocktail served in a white pineapple! Don't let the interior turn you away: let the menu entice you, because the Grandcafé De Tropen is there for everyone!

26 Jul 2016
The Royal Barge is back!

It was big news in October 2015: after eight years, the Royal Barge was back in the Dutch National Maritime Museum. The Royal Barge, with its gold-plated ornaments, was built in 1816 for King Willem I, and used for decades as a 'golden carriage on water' by the Royal Family for official events. The last time it was used was quite a while ago, for Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard's silver wedding anniversary in 1962. I'd never seen it.

The Royal Barge was on display in the Dutch National Maritime Museum until the museum's renovation in 2008, during which it was placed in storage. Moving the Royal Barge was quite an operation; a hole needed to be made in the outside wall of the building to remove it. While in storage, the barge was restored to its former glory and made seaworthy again; if King Willem-Alexander wants to use it, he can.

The Royal Barge's comeback was celebrated in style, with a spectacular opening ceremony and lead-up. It also has its own boathouse now. The barge clearly belongs there, just like a painting made more beautiful in the right frame - it's picture-perfect. But the boathouse is more than the right frame; it's also an exhibition room. Wall texts, a large screen with photo material and interactive screens reveal everything about the barge's history, its unusual protocol and its crew.

The Royal Barge has found its rightful home in the boathouse, moored next to the Amsterdam, a Dutch East India Company ship, and the Christiaan Brunnings, an icebreaker. Definitely go and have a look - the allure of the Royal Barge can only be experienced in person.

30 Apr 2016
The Spanish Sun in the Hermitage

Are you also looking forward to higher temperatures? Wait no more – visit the Hermitage! The unique collection of Spanish art will transport you to the Mediterranean in the 16th and 17th centuries. In their paintings, Spanish masters such as El Greco and Ribera tell the stories of a world gone by. Go see the Spanish Golden Ages and the kingdom in which the sun never sets.

The Spaniards, just as the Dutch city guard, let themselves be immortalized in a stately manner on portraits and in excessive decoration of their buildings. Painters such as El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo and Goya welcomed this opportunity with open arms. The temperament and pride of the subjects in those paintings are now part of the decoration in the Hermitage.

The highlight is the hall that is dedicated to the Spanish Golden Ages. Velázquez shows his revolutionary side when he immortalizes not the rich ones, but everyday objects. Zuloaga is known for his nationalistic themes and the walls glitter with pride. This pride is also seen in the decorated furniture and the craft in armor that symbolizes the status of the one carrying it.

The exhibition would not be complete without Spanish bullfighting, which is represented by Villegas‘ paintings and a documentary about Enrique Ponce, a famous bullfighter. The exhibition is full of typical elements of Spanish history, politics and nationalism. The setting also plays a part in all this: the red and yellow colors in combination with the art make it look Spanish, royal and almost theatrical. The experience is completed by the musical audio tour. The sounds of Moorish and Spanish music that was written by DJ Von Rosenthal especially for this exhibition will soothe your ears. It really is a heart-warming experience. Enjoy!

This exhibition was on view untill 29th of May.

23 Feb 2016
The 60s With Pleasure

The current exhibition at the Tropenmuseum, The Sixties – A worldwide happening, offers playful insights into the 60s in the West, as well as Asia and Africa. Even though they were politically turbulent years, cultural life flourished and people were liberated like never before. The last point can especially be seen in the Tropenmuseum. Or is it not just perfectly balanced?

Upon entering, the exhibition springs to life with life-sized dolls and objects, arranged in a playful manner. Where shall we begin? I was free to choose my own route, probably as a sort of consequence of the emerging postmodernism of this still somewhat chaotic decade.

The 60s played out with the background of WWII, decolonization and the Cold War. Independence for countries in Africa and Asia represented a search for their own culture and identity. On the other hand, in the West there were protests against the Cold War and capitalism was expressed through posters, slogans and music. Despite their differences, east and west found inspiration and refuge in each other. Western influences seeped through to the eastern culture, and eastern spirituality, free drug use and new fashion styles fed the so-called hippie period.

The 60s were a period of liberation, unending creativity and also technological advancement, and this exhibition represents just that. The background and causes of this cultural phenomenon remain largely unexplored. It is difficult to assess how the young of today and the unknowledgeable visitor will experience the exhibition, and if they will really notice the playful side of it. Go see for yourself and enjoy. As John Lennon once said: ‘Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.’

The Sixties – A worldwide happening was shown in the Tropenmuseum until March 13th.

The plantage journal

A person notebook on museums, cafes, theater and night life in the most beautiful area of Amsterdam, the Plantation.

Here you will find the pearls away; favorite places and undiscovered hot spots.

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