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Fall Preview: Bittersweet Nostalgia in Amsterdam
by Andrea Alessi

More than birthdays, more than New Year’s Eve, there’s something about September that viscerally marks the passage of time. A feeling of nostalgia hides under the angle of the Earth’s axial tilt. It blows in on cooling winds, grows with the lengthening shadows. It begins gradually, the bittersweet end of Summer, then suddenly there’s no time left.

Last September the Stedelijk Museum reopened. Has it really been a whole year? Indeed. We’ve attended stellar exhibitions dedicated to Mike Kelley, Aernout Mik, and Lucy McKenzie. Last month the museum’s Creative Director Ann Goldstein announced her resignation after just four years. Has it already been four years? Elsewhere on the Museumplein, the Van Gogh Museum briefly took up residence in the Hermitage and then returned better than ever and the Rijksmuseum opened its beautifully renovated building to tremendous fanfare and intimidating queues. Big things happen. Milestones in our diaries are reached, then scratched out. We turn the page and move on.

Yes, September is a good time to reminisce but also to look ahead. So pause here. Acknowledge the passage of time. Now get ready. As August’s balmy limbo releases us from its pacifying embrace, Amsterdam’s gallery scene blinks awake to the standard harmony of exhibition openings. We welcome artists having their first Amsterdam solo shows into the fold and say hello to old favorites as they filter into their galleries’ exhibition cycles (time for another Roger Hiorns show at Annet Gelink – it’s been two years? Dawn Mellor at Gabriel Rolt – three!?).

Helen Verhoeven, Mother 9, 2013, oil on canvas, 142.2 x 101.6cm; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Stigter van Doesburg.


In terms of familiar faces, the Hiorns exhibition is a first stop. The artist’s signature sense of wonder floats around the room with an exhibition full of “foam-pieces”, his foam-creating vessels. They are sophisticated, at once solid and ephemeral, and perhaps a bit mystical. And don’t forget to go downstairs to The Bakery for the reveal, hidden in a corner. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the latest in Dawn Mellor’s defaced portraiture, and pop in to see Helen Verhoeven’s rich yet unsettling paintings exploring iconography of the Mother figure at Stigter van Doesburg. Lisa Oppenheim’s show at Juliette Jongma is also on the list of old friends. New faces worth the introduction include Alex Verhaest and Olga Balema presenting their first Amsterdam solo shows at GRIMM and Fons Welters, respectively. Balema’s crudely welded fountains, rusty metal arcs, and elongated latex arms make a particularly nice first showing.

If you aren’t satisfied by tumblers of wine and cans of Grolsch, preferring instead that heady back-to-school cocktail of apprehension, inspiration, and ambition, perhaps the art fairs are your thing. Add some extracurriculars to the prospectus with back-to-back fairs Amsterdam Drawing at the NDSM-werf and Unseen in the Westergasfabriek. After a popular debut in 2012, the trendy Unseen Photo Fair features young photographic talents from over fifty international galleries and includes the Unseen Collection highlighting selected works under €1000, as well as a Book Market for independent publishers.

Paulina Olowska, Hunting, 2010, oil on canvas, 68.9 x 49.21 in (175 x 125 cm); Courtesy of the artist and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.


Once the gallery shows are no longer the latest thing, don’t forget to check in with the Stedelijk the end of the month when it opens a solo show of work by contemporary Polish artist Paulina Olowska. Olowska’s imagery drips with a sort of critical appreciation for the signs and symbols of the past. Her broad oeuvre mines such eclectic sources as vintage knitting patterns and “behind the iron curtain” signage, fonts, and designs. The museum is also featuring a major retrospective of Lawrence Weiner’s works on paper, Written on the Wind, which travels to Amsterdam from MACBA in Barcelona.

With the Museumplein in functioning order, there’s a chance you might actually feel nostalgic for scaffolding and ribbon cuttings, wondering what other construction deadlines you can cross off your list. For that I direct you, at last, to the expanded Huis Marseille, which now inhabits two adjacent townhouses on the Keizersgracht. Its inaugural exhibition, The Rediscovery of the World, features Dutch photographers who question the very nature of artistic photography in a world saturated with all manner of imagery. Couple your visit with a canal side evening stroll. September evenings have a natural sort of IRL Instagram glow, don’t they? And what could feel more nostalgic than that?


Andrea Alessi 



(Image on top: Roger Hiorns, Untitled, 2012, ceramic, rubber, compressor, foam, 26 x 62 x 43cm; Courtesy of the artist and Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam.)


Posted by Andrea Alessi on 9/14/13

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