AMSTERDAM / BERLIN – More and more, partisans of street art are creating museum settings for this basically anarchic genre—and the museums are proving to be as rule-breaking as the art. Berlin’s architecturally innovative, soon-to-open Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art—see photo—and the buildingless Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA) are profiled in the latest issue of Public Art Review, along with projects in Paris and Brooklyn (see ordering info below). They’re being joined by two newer initiatives in the Dutch and German capitals: one noticeable for its hugeness, the other doomed to destruction.

Amsterdam: In a huge warehouse on the grounds of the formerly derelict Netherlands Dock and Shipbuilding Company (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij, or NDSM) artist and curator Peter Ernst Coolen is creating what he claims will be the largest street art museum in the world.

Two years ago, the NDSM building was being used as an event center, and, as Coolen tells Hyperallergic, one event promoter asked him if he could provide large-scale street-art works to hang in the cavernous space. Coolen drew on his network of artists to fulfill the request. “Over time, we made a lot of new artworks,” Coolen says. “The space was totally filling up with new art. I proposed making it into a proper exhibition, and that grew into the museum we are working on today.”

He’s assembled more than 100 works on wood and canvas by artists from the US, Africa, South America, and Europe. Eschewing the familiar white-wall approach, the museum will maintain a raw industrial look, and go for size. “We’re not showing canvases that you can put up in your living room,” says Coolen—the biggest ones will measure about 16 by 40 feet. The museum, which has no official name yet, is slated to open in the summer of 2018.

Berlin: There’s a bank building in Berlin that went under the wrecking ball early this summer, to be replaced by—what else?—luxury condominiums. But for one brief moment it was a big pop-up street art museum.

One hundred sixty-five artists from 17 countries (Berliners predominating) have adorned the five-story structure inside and out with colorful murals and installations. Dubbed, bilingually, The Haus (“the house”), the very temporary museum opened on April 1; a demolition crew started work at the end of May. “We’re open here for two months, then everything will disappear for all eternity,” Joern Reiners of Die Dixons (The Dixons), the legal-street-art group behind the project, tells Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Die Dixons learned of the impending teardown, and asked property developer Pandion to turn the property over to them before its demise; they agreed last October.

Admission is free, and the artists have been given a totally free hand too. “What we have here is the space to realise their vision,” Reiners says, “while not having to think about the business of it all like entrance fees, but really just concentrating on the art—to experiencing it and to making it an experience. And that’s the essence of what makes us different from other projects.”

In an age of rampant digital reproduction, the museum is all about direct encounter: visitors are forbidden to photograph the artworks, and the media are allowed only to shoot details. Participating artist Anne Bengard likes the immediacy; she tells AFP that “it’s great that this is done in this manner so everyone who wants to see it has to come personally to view it.”

Until it’s gone.


To read more about street art museums, order a copy of the new print issue of Public Art Review here.