A few months ago, I went hunting for street art in Amsterdam. Returning to London, I came across a few artists in my photos who I wasn’t familiar with, so I did a bit of research to find out more. That’s when I stumbled upon Nicole and her passion for the street art scene. She leads street art tours in Amsterdam so I had to pick her brain about what’s going on in this creative city that’s embracing its street art culture more and more these days. Read on to find out more about which who is making a mark on Amsterdam’s walls, a city in Italy that is a street art haven and Nicole’s Street Art in Europe book that’s just getting underway.
LO: Give us an idea of your background and interests in five sentences or less.
NB: I am originally from Arnhem in The Netherlands but have been living in Haarlem now for over three years. I am more often to be found in Amsterdam. Currently I am without a job and enjoying my ‘freedom’. I have always had a huge passion for music (writing, dj-ing, concerts, etc.), but since five years street art became a bigger passion.
LO: What sparked your initial fascination with street art and when?
NB: It was at the Cans Festival in London where street art caught my attention. A visiting friend from back home was a huge Banksy fan. I read about this Banksy organized festival, so I took her there. I was living in East London at the time and suddenly started to notice the art around me. I got fascinated by it.
LO: Tell us a bit about the Amsterdam Street Art (ASA) Foundation you helped set up in 2009 and what you hoped to accomplish with this project. Is it still active?
NB: During my last year in London I visited quite a few street art related events (also outside London). These events got me very excited. When moving away from London, I wondered if similar events took place in Amsterdam. Via the internet I got to know Ives.One, who already organized small events. We met up and discussed ideas. That is how ASA was born. Yes, ASA is still alive and kicking, but without me. Due to being busy with work and studying at the same time, I decided to focus my mind on my study and said goodbye to ASA.
LO: As a street art tour guide, which street artists are currently the most prolific in Amsterdam and where are the best places to see their work? And in London?
NB: Bustart and Zaira are most definitely the most active street artists in Amsterdam. They are an artist couple from Switzerland, but moved to Amsterdam about two years ago. I am a big fan of Zaira’s art. If you would join my street art tour, you will also see a lot of artworks by C215. When he is in town, he is a busy man. I also keep seeing a lot of ‘happy monsters’ by Bortusk Leer. It is like he goes out on his bike every day to paste new artworks around town.
As for London… I have no idea! The last time I visited London was in October. London has most definitely much more street art to offer than Amsterdam. It is more alive for sure.
LO: You’ve travelled quite a bit. Do you go out hunting for street art in each new city? Do you research first? Which has been your favourite trip with respect to street art and why?
NB: It depends. I recently went to Brussels and decided to also go out hunting for Space Invaders. I found 14 of them. Last year my trips to Berlin and Grottaglie (Italy) had a street art focus. Yes, I always do a bit of research before I take the train or plane. Of course, I could join a street art tour (if there is one), but I like doing the research and go my own way. My visit to Grottaglie has been my best street art related trip so far. I went there for the Fame Festival. Oh my, this small Italian town is like a paradise. The weather was good. The people were nice. The street art was and still is absolutely amazing. So many amazing mural artworks by the likes of Conor Harrington, Blu, Os Gemeos, Bastardilla, Vhils and many, many more. A definitive must visit. Can I go again?
LO: You’re working on a street art Europe book project? Exciting! Tell us a bit about what to expect.
NB: At the moment this project is still in my head. Nothing has been written on paper, yet. If all goes as planned, it will take me a few years before I realize this idea. Exciting. I have just graduated, so I now finally have the time to start working on it. The project will have a platform (website/social media), which will help me get attention and find people from all over Europe who are willing to help me to realize this book. In case you are wondering, it will not be a photo book. There are already enough street art books with just photography. I want it to be more than that.
LO: The scene seems to be changing a bit with more street artists doing commissioned work, showing in galleries and selling their art. We’ve also seen the development of street art tours. What are your thoughts on the commercialisation of street art over the last few years?
NB: I don’t like to use the word commercialisation. I have to admit that I have only been in the middle of this scene since 2008. I have never seen it any different. I simply am aware that when an artist such as C215 paints his art outside on the streets that this artwork can also be bought in a gallery. It is not just an artwork that can only be seen outside, but you can buy it for your own collection at home. More and more people want to join a street art tour and be guided by an expert who knows where to find the street art in (for example) London, Berlin, Lisbon or Amsterdam. Street art got a broader audience over the last years.
LO: I hear Amsterdam is expecting a few new murals very soon. Tell us what you know?
NB: There are a few projects in Amsterdam that are realizing mural artworks. In Amsterdam Nieuw-West there is the Tales of the Nine mural project. Artists such as Stinkfish and Skount have recently finished a wall. In the north of Amsterdam there is the Made Creative wall and the Amsterdamwalls project. I am very satisfied with the fact that so many individuals are trying to make Amsterdam a bit more beautiful, and give artists the opportunity to paint bigger walls.
LO: For the visitors to your city, give us your best must-see Amsterdam discovery and your favourite recommendations on where to eat and drink away from the tourist trail.
NB: My favourite area in Amsterdam has to be NDSM. It is a former ship wharf that is quickly becoming an interesting creative hub. A must visit for sure. Take the free ferry from behind central station and you are there in 15 minutes.
LO: In a word or two, tell us about what most inspires each of your senses:
Sight: view from a train
Smell: rain after sunshine
Taste: homemade juice
Sound: whatever is playing on my Spotify
Touch: my digital camera