The Tolerant Home, 400 Years of Liberal Culture

Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
© Charlotte Dumas, Courtesy of Chambres des Canaux: The Toleran Home
Group Show
The Tolerant Home, 400 Years of Liberal Culture

Contemporary art in Amsterdam canal houses
Canal Ring
November 1st, 2013 - November 17th, 2013

Canal Girdle


The exhibition The Tolerant Home, 400 Years of Liberal Culture in Amsterdam features work by 35 artists, displayed in primarily privately owned institutes and houses located within or close to the Canal Ring, which were created during the third city expansion of 1613. All artists have a personal connection with Amsterdam: some of them are born-and-raised Amsterdammers; many others came to the city for a period of creative research at one of the two post-academic institutes (De Ateliers and the Rijksakademie); while others simply chose to live in Amsterdam or – as is more often the case in the international art scene nowadays – chose it as one of their addresses.

Amsterdam's influence on the international art scene

The selection of artists provides an excellent overview of the size and scope of the city’s internationally active art scene and the outstanding level of work being produced. But the selection also attempts to draw historical parallels with the relative freedom and social critique expressed by 17th-century artists. Rembrandt van Rijn made optimal use of his unrivalled talent and the relatively liberal climate to draw attention to the digressions of his contemporaries and to record his social commentary. As such, he provides us with sound historical anchor as we turn our attention to contemporary artists who go about their work in a (thus far) tolerant society whilst staying true to a critical perspective.

Both the visible and invisible facets of tolerance in Amsterdam

The selection of individual works was primarily drawn from the existing oeuvre of each artist in an attempt to examine the various aspects of intrinsic attitudes to tolerance. The highlights and nadirs of tolerance in the history of Amsterdam and the Netherlands form the thematic focus, but the works display a much broader approach to the theme; it is often merely suggested or hidden beneath the surface.

For example, David Claerbout presents his fantastic new film Oil workers (from the Shell company of Nigeria) returning home from work, caught in torrential rain, based entirely on a single anonymous photo depicting a group of African men sheltering under a viaduct in Nigeria. The question arises of how we should interpret this group of men, while the location and their employer play a much more subtle role. As one of the Netherlands’ best-known employers, Shell is involved in a complex balancing act to stay afloat in Nigeria.

And then there’s Germaine Kruip’s Aesthetics as a way of survival, an examination of the economic relevance of the visual arts. Or, far more explicit is the work of Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan. In Monument of Sugar, they use dubious sugar subsidy regulations to question the relationship between Nigeria and the European Union. And there’s Gert Jan Kocken with his acclaimed photomontage DEPICTIONS OF AMSTERDAM 1940-1945, which includes images of former city officials overseeing the registered deportation of Amsterdam Jews.

By contrast, be sure you don’t miss Rosella Biscotti’s subtle audio installation We Will Be Here Forever in the entrance to Herengracht 520. Meanwhile, in the privately owned property at Keizersgracht 584, you’ll find work by Marlene Dumas from her M D-light series. This work has never before been on public display and sees the artist examining the now precarious position of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. We are also delighted that De Uitkijk cinema at Prinsengracht 452 will be including two thoroughly fitting films – Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011) – in its programming during the exhibition.

Shared history

Chambres des CanauxIt has been a great joy to see the large number of Amsterdammers and Amsterdam institutions (both public and private) that have agreed to open their doors for the exhibition. The Hendrick de Keyser Foundation has been extremely generous, making two of its properties available, including the well-known Huis Van Brienen at Herengracht 284. And so have the Goethe-Institut, the offices of Manifesta and the Mayor’s Official Residence. All located within the famous Golden Bend of the Herengracht canal, they perfectly illustrate the wealth and creativity that inspired the third city expansion in 1613 and the fourth in 1662.

But it is also the owners of the private residences that will participate and welcome members of the public into their homes that are the ultimate manifestation of the tolerance for which the city is famed.


Where to buy a ticket

  1. Available for purchase now at Visitor Information Centres and at several other locations during the exhibition.
  2. Buy the voucher online, then you will be sent your online voucher by email. Print your voucher and exchange this for your Chambres des Canaux visitor pass at one of two Visitor Information Centres from 21 October 2013.

1. Sales locations