As one of the best temporary exhibitions at the City Museum (Stedelijk) in recent memory, 'Amsterdam Magisch Centrum' chronicles art, innovation and resistance on and around 1968 in the Dutch Capital.
This exhibition is an absolute looker, with a few really cool artworks that are rarely seen in the wild. So do bring your camera with you!
While all movies are subtitled, and the exhibition has an english audioguide as well as translations of each and every label, the artworks themselves are quite often in Dutch; if you don't have a decent grasp of the language and culture you might get lost amongst the references. For instance, the artwork below links pop-art with Milou/Bobby - Herge's comic masterpiece. Tongue-in-cheek? Maybe. Accessible for foreigners? Probably not, but this is an exhibition about Amsterdam's Magic Center after all.
The really interesting thing about this show - and the Stedelijk in general - is the juxtaposition of historical items (such as John Lennon's original War Is Over banner), with design items, sculptures, movies, prints, and all other kinds of artworks. It definitely works by providing a full immersion in the period at hand.
There's also quite a few interesting politically-charged items. The late '60 where, after all, a time of political turmoil across Europe and the world. This was a time when socialism actually looked like a plausible answer to the scalability issues of a globalized world. That didn't really work out, but it's fun to look at these historical artifacts and get lost in a different past.
It's extraordinarily interesting to see how the spring of 68 actually has its own specific connotations in the Netherlands - lots of drugs, obviously, but also some incredibly cool interactions with the ex-colonies. In the letter above, for instance, Stanley Brown from Curacao writes to a leftist newspaper in Amsterdam asking for some cross-border collaboration for his own publication. "Vito is a left-oriented monthly newspaper, written in Dutch and Papiamento (Aruba Creole), with a circulation of 3000 copies" writes Stanley, which would go on to lead the 1969 Curacao Uprising and have a 30-years-long political career after that.
In the end, 'Amsterdam Magisch Centrum' is just a very small part of the huge amount of art on display at the Stedelijk. With many other temporary exhibitions and at least two floors of permanent items, the Stedelijk manages to keep up with modern art juggernouts such as Tate and Pompidou, carve its own niche in the contemporary art world, and act as a tastemaker for the future - just like the artists involved in the Magisch Centrum counterculture. So go and see this one!
How to visit: Take tram 2 or 12 from Central Station, or just walk through Amsterdam's beautiful historical center.
What to bring: 17,50 euro for the entrance (but 9 for students and free for <18, with the Museumkaart or Iamsterdam card), also your camera - lots of amazing works of art that are incredibly difficult to see otherwise.