Amsterdam’s forte is a far cry from cannabis cafes and the glow of the red light district. Contemporary Dutch art galleries are now at the beating heart of this charismatic capital and the ‘Dam has become a ‘culturele broedplaatsen’ (cultural breeding ground) for innovative young artists.  

Van Gogh and Mondrian have long since ceased to define Dutch art. Instead, remote galleries that used to be squatting houses and graffiti-covered pavements have taken the reins.
With the recent renovation of distinguished contemporary art institutions such as Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum, there’s no better time to revisit old favourites while also discovering something new.

So, step back from the canal and take your bicycle into the backstreets, towards the future of cutting-edge art in Amsterdam…

Urban art in the ‘Dam | © Stephen VanHorn via Shutterstock.com

The rather dull exterior of the Upstream Gallery in the De Pijp neighbourhood belies the intense, thought-provoking artwork behind the front door. In fact, this Dutch art gallery attracts world-class artists, including Katrina Daschner with her eccentric feminist photography and Ronald Ophuis’ emotive watercolours depicting his time spent in Rwanda. The ‘Underground’ exhibition by Maartje Korstanje, opening on September 7th, comprises a collection of ceramic sculptures that powerfully explore crisis and beauty in nature.

The current exhibition at Annet Gelink Gallery | © ‘Double Projection’, 2013, Annet Gelink Gallery

Bridging the gap between college and life as a professional artist, The Bakery at the Annet Gelink Gallery is a hub for up-and-coming artistic talent. ‘If you will, it is not a dream’ is the latest exhibition on show here, which focuses on the power of dreams and imagination. The Playstation Space in Galerie Fons Welters is also another big name in encouraging and promoting the work of young hopefuls on the Amsterdam art scene.

Who says that art has to be in a gallery? Design shops and cafés throughout Amsterdam also boast impressive contemporary interior design. The Friday Next Concept Store and Café in Overtoom fuses forward-thinking textile exhibitions and modern furniture design with a great caramel latte.

Quirky interior design at The Friday Next Concept Store and Cafe | © Friday Next

The Kallenbach Gallery, one of the more intimate Dutch art galleries in the city, can be found tucked away in popular Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks turned cultural venue. Unique in that it doesn’t identify itself as traditional or contemporary, it exhibits classic art but with an unconventional spin, often labelled as underground and urban. Exhibitions here range from conceptual art from the likes of Diddo to cartoon illustrations like those by Stefan Glerum.

A view into the Kallenbach Gallery | © Kallenbach Gallery

October 2013 will see the newest edition to Amsterdam’s buzzing contemporary art scene. Having already made its mark in Berlin and Budapest, the Art’otel design hotel chain is opening a new Amsterdam outpost. Combining lavish accommodation with world-class art, Art’otel dedicate their interior design to a different artist for each hotel, so far including Andy Warhol and Donald Sultan. Representing Amsterdam will be Atelier Van Lieshout, a highly influential Dutch art collective led by artist Joep Van Lieshout.

The iconic Iamsterdam structure | © Dennis Van De Water via Shutterstock.com

The growth of underground venues and the revamp of renowned Dutch art galleries mean that Amsterdam’s celebration of modern art has never felt so fresh and exhilarating. Foundations such as Urban Stylistix and C&H Art Space have created initiatives to help artists pursue a career in the sector, and with the help of first class art schools and an abundance of project spaces, contemporary art in Amsterdam is on the up.

Words by Bess Browning

View more information in our guide to galleries in Amsterdam

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