It was like walking into a university show in Soho in the ’90’s – Kusama, Warhol, Haring, Basquiat, Koons and Hirst – then suddenly it was like street stuff from the aughts: banksy, Stik, Invader.
Then Hayden Kays and KAWS and Takashi Murakami and Abloh is how it morphed into stuff I had only seen over the last five years because Google throws it up on my projector on heavy rotation ad nauseum thousands of miles from here – like Dream. (to old heads, I say big ups to Oaktown DREAM, rest in power). Then there was a Hirst and a Koons and a Warhol and a sweet roomful of Yayoi Kusama.
Moco Amsterdam is housed in the Villa Alsberg, a townhouse overlooking Museumplein in the heart of Amsterdam (between the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum). The building was designed in 1904 by Eduard Cuypers, nephew of Pierre Cuypers, designer of Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum.
It is a good collection of very specifically well-known contemporary art, linked only by their pop. They don’t hide it, Moco calls itself a “boutique museum.” They have a second location in Barcelona. I heard the immersive digital art installation by Studio Irma was the same there.
What is this show exactly? I found out about it from posters slapped around town:
Wait – what? I was standing there in the street thinking that looks like clickbait for a museum exhibition produced by the marketing department. Here’s 4k video of my visit to Moco Amsterdam … check it:
Moco’s building was a privately-owned residence and one of the first family homes built along Museumplein. It was inhabited until 1939. Then, the house was let to priests who taught at the Saint Nicolas School in Amsterdam. Later it was converted into an office for a law firm.
Moco took over the Villa Alsberg and opened the museum in 2016, a traditional Amsterdam townhome on the museumplein, converted into a walk-through collection. But it is densely packed with the art and difficult to navigate when crowded. I was here on a rainy Thursday and it was claustrophobic. They should show less and allow for more space before the art.
Some artists received better purchase, weirdly (read: banksy). The one Warhol inclusion was pretty cool – diamond dust. Kusama is boss. Banksy’s tenner is great. The sculptures in the garden by Marcel Wander were precious. Studio Irma’s digital immersive art was low-tech, high-concept and cool. But it’s a densely installed collection. It was difficult to appreciate a large canvas by Hayden Kays, mounted in a small room. The Harings were also installed in a small square room, jammed with people. It was awkward.
Koons and Hirst were kind of just stuck in the hallways. Rooms were grouped loosely by era, but not distinctly so. They had these vague categories – Modern Masters, Contemporary Masters. It may have been an attempt to contrast-gain through equanimity but the install just felt crammed and poorly considered.
Prints were indicated to have been authenticated by the artists. The provenance for the Invader piece was credited to Jared Leto. Things that were new to me that I enjoyed were the playful works of Marcel Wander, the digital immersive stuff by Studio Irma and the large canvases (panels?) by The Kid.
The Kid, a contemporary painter using oils to create large photocollage-style paintings, had exquisite technique, though the work was conceptually immature. I wondered if there were painters in this land that spawned Rembrandt, Hals and Hooch and Vermeer and Van Gogh – and if so, what were they into? As a young artist, The Kid is into deeply personal concerns at the moment, but he will be good to watch evolve as a painter. I admired his use of pseudonym and rejection of nation-state in the establishment of his identity. Smart kid.
Ultimately, though, the artists were equalized in the hyper-capitalized gift shop that was tragically post-ironic: Campbell Soup Can skate decks beside decks that had banksy’s girl and balloon – where’s that dough going? Basquiat crowns as lapel pins. Is the Basquiat Estate or somebody who owns some weird rights making money here? on hundreds of euros worth of cheap, chinese-made kitschy derivative chunks of plastic? Is this a non-fungible token (NFT) emerging into totally fungible bullshit (TFB) in the museum culture?
Sure enough, the exibit includes NFT: The New Future, which they claim is, “Europe’s first dedicated exhibition space to the NFT phenomenon.” Beeple. It feels half baked. Exhibition spaces for non-fungible things.
Your ticket comes with a free gift from the museum and a discount for the gift shop. The shop was cringe. There were totes and hats and pins and cards and posters, lots of pink and the generalized motto of the museum: In Art We Trust. I mean. Look, it was a decent show or a weird collection of highly successful names in art since like 1990, in a house, but … what is this?
The curatorial sense here seems to be: throw as many recognizable names up as possible to herd in the stoned masses visiting the museumplein. Oh, and cater to the ever-increasing LGBTQ+ tourism euro, by featuring gay cultural icons and the color pink. This show wasn’t so much curated as listicled. Superficial.
By my observation, the corporate partners of high-profile museums in city centers of the colonial era are amidst a reformation, post-George Floyd – a Black Lives Matter effect is international. Woke culture expects more. Millennials are uninterested in the old narratives. Moco seems to seek to fill a void in perspective over traditional museums – that of street art and free expression. But superficial listicle curation for tourist-culture, and capitalist reduction of profound cultural expression, is gauche.
Moco resides somewhere between traditional museum culture and the modern art marketplace. It’s like a brick and mortar pop magazine on the museumplein.