Philly Travels: Langston Clement Finds Amazing Work All Over Amsterdam
(Photos by Langston Clement)
Philly Travels is a Streets Dept series that takes Philadelphians’ eyes (well, their lenses, more like it) on street art they find in their travels around the world.
Today, we get this AMAZING account of Langston Clement‘s recent trip to Amsterdam…
Stickers, stencils, wheat pastes, tags, throw ups…you name it – it’s all good here in Amsterdam. This is a city well known for its architecture, design and storybook-like streets filled with bikes, trees, people and canals. In the 1980′s, budding Dutch graffiti writers traveled overseas to NYC around the time New York artists began taking their work from the walls to canvases and art galleries. Decades later, you can find a wealth of original work and creative styles from famous Amsterdam artists like Delta (3D graffiti writer and architect) to the world renowned London Police. The London Police were pioneers in the early street art days and remain the beloved hometown heroes of Amsterdam. Their trademarked precision of perfectly hand drawn circles and iconic LADS characters have landed them their place rightful place in street art history. You would think that with such a famous crew, other local artists would have more free reign of the city. Well, this certainly isn’t the case.
Modern day Central Amsterdam is upheld by a visual code of conduct and actively enforced by their government. If there’s an unapproved paint color or a small piece of graffiti on a building, the property owners will receive a hefty fine and are held responsible to repaint or buff over the tags themselves. In efforts to compromise, a few legalized walls were granted in the city but they are typically reserved for Project ASA (Amsterdam Street Art). During the annual ASA event, famous international graffiti artists are invited to collaborate with a very short list of locals to create new murals in city. The remainder of space left is limited, but as you can see, it certainly doesn’t stop the hungry scene from getting up wherever they can.
I was able to reach out and team up with a veteran Amsterdam street art tour guide named James, who gave me a proper run down of the key players and pinpointed out some legitimate spots. As he explained this whole process, I couldn’t help to give these artists a lot of props for using the loopholes in the system to their advantage. For example, a majority of the work is tucked away in some of Amsterdam’s unique angled alleyways. Using the out of sight, out of mind approach – these pieces remain a bit safer since they aren’t visible to the public eye from the main streets and canals. Interestingly enough, the city doesn’t allocate public resources towards graffiti removal, so if there are no rightful owners to reprimand, the location remains untouched. This is where you’ll find the larger pieces that have been painted directly onto the face of Central Amsterdam’s very few condemned buildings. In most cases, these buildings are still being used for legal squatting and the occupants highly encourage artists to create new pieces as often as possible. In addition to those spots, you can catch an occasional burner on the outside the local commuter trains (a feat rarely seen, if at all in the US anymore!) because of their surprising lack of security in the train yards. All of these factors, certainly make the hunt tricky when searching for non-sticker graffiti related work in this pristine city. But, if happen to land onto larger gems around town – the reward is very, very sweet.
In these photos, you’ll see pieces including locals like Bust Art, Fake, Zaira, The London Police and even some outsiders such as Alice Pasquini (Italy), C215 (France), Bue the Warrior (Belgium) and more. Every piece matches the energy and vibrance that the city of Amsterdam gives off. If there’s something that’s not up to par, the proud locals have no issues in using their own…artistic quality control.
Tip: If you’re in Amsterdam soon, don’t miss a street art and graffiti tour with All Tournative Amsterdam and ask for James or Alex!
And be sure to follow Langston Clement on Instagram HERE.