The importance of graffiti and contemporary function in the city. Is it sustainable?

The importance of graffiti and contemporary function in the city. Is it sustainable?

My name is Anna and I am a founder and managing director of Foundation Glamorous Outcasts, project Street Art Museum Amsterdam.

Graffiti within the context of Street Art Museum is a magic potion that helps me to transform Shreck into Prince. OR. Geuzenveld/Slotermeer into a place to be. I also use art in public space as a tool to create opportunities for a dialogue between people who otherwise would not talk to each other. The Glamorous Outcasts.

Why did I choose to refer to the medium of Graffiti? Simple: it’s cheap, it’s viral and it’s sustainable. It fits the purpose: Zichtbaarheid door Kunst – putting Nieuw-West on the city map.

During the course of my normal profession - project manager of online media campaigns for advertising agencies - I have to design and produce campaigns that would drive online traffic to the clients website. If Alicia Keys stands on stage for 15 minutes – Western Union gets to be seen as a caring sustainable business. This costs a lot of money, and normally discarded after 6 months.

What made me curious as a producer was the opposite effect of Graffiti. Bastradilla (Bogota, Colombia) does not need one million dollars to make an impact. She can get away with 8: a bottle of wooden glue and a bag of glitter. And BOOM! The little silver Calibri is born. People fly from around the world to hunt her artworks. Organisations like mine are working overtime to preserve them. Suso33 (Madrid, Spain) only need 2 cans of spray to create an effect that trendy blogs, galleries and newspapers will be talking for weeks about.

“The museum is a colossal mirror in which man contemplates himself, in short, in all his aspects.” Georges Bataille

Over the last 5 years our organization created more than 30 artworks in openbaar ruimte, predominantly of Stadsdeel Nieuw-West, a place where ‘tweede rang burgers buiten de ring’ live. Turning the green belts of the back streets into an eclectic collection and a walk through gallery would not be possible without the altruistic nature of this form of art. Graffiti is more than a tag on the wall or a perfect line. Graffiti is also a performance and an exercise: “it keeps me fit. Some go to gym, I go to rail tracks”, it is a puzzle and a game, it is lyrical and romantic. Graffiti is symbolic. Graffiti is collaborative. It is a team activity.

 “In graffiti there are challenges more exciting and endless beyond having money; as to be the owner of a city, the king of a neighbourhood or of an avenue; to makr with your name the whole world, to appropriate some spots, walls, high roofs, cars or to be the owner of train models around the world” Cazdos, Por Amor la Colectividad

The origin of Graffiti is traced to the neighbourhoods of New York where latin immigrants lived. To the first graffiteros, most of whom come from social housing estates, public space belongs to the public. The mélange of neglect, creativity and innovation, sparked the movement. And it is precisely this element of activism that ignited my passion for graffiti.

“the whole art form questions private property. A political crime of passion.” Promoe, Freedom Fighters

 The first graffiteros that wanted to play on the streets of undergoing gentrification Nieuw-West were latin artists who visited Amsterdam for the first time. They did not know the difference between ‘good and bad’ areas. They just wanted to paint. Where came the first, followed many. “If I don’t do this, I’m blocked” MATAONE (BE)

Their colours, their stories, their visions inspired the residents as well as those following the movement so much that we have a demand for daily tours.

How do the “liquidity” of the contemporary art and the solidity of the museum function together?

Well, in our case,

  • Art made an aesthetical impact – polite gentrification
  • Art generated positive publicity for the area
  • Art created jobs and micro-economy
  • Art inspired housing corporations to install lights on our paintings – safety!
  • Art kicked off a ripple effect to neighbouring areas – Amsterdam West and Schiphol

 The question of the future of museums is also the question about the future role of art. We like to believe that our Street Art Museum gives art a role in society rather than simply consumes it. The art of impact!


“Action. Reaction. And total Repeat.” Kenor


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