Amsterdam’s Newest Art Work

I was playing tour guide on Sunday and we wandered up Rokin, the area between Muntplein and the Dam, this area is being redeveloped and is full of restaurants with terraces where people were eating lunch in the sun. At the top of Rokin, just before you get to the Dam is this wonderful sculpture/fountain.

It features two heads facing in opposite directions and water seeps from the top of the heads down their shoulders, across the plinth and spills onto the ground. It was 24 degrees (75F) so it had a pleasant cooling effect, it might be less fun on subzero winter days!

It’s a stunning work of art and the courtyard around it is a peaceful oasis despite being right on a tram route.

The sculpture is by Mark Manders, a Dutch/Belgian sculptor and it was installed on the 31 July 2017.So brand new.

You can see a short movie about the installation from Gemeente Amsterdam (Amsterdam City Council) sorry it’s only in Dutch but the pictures are cool.

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Amsterdam’s Coat of Arms

Amsterdam has an emblem with a bold design, and it’s used in a flag. 
It might be a surprise to learn that in this secular, even sin-filled, city that the crosses
 have religious significance. It’s the cross of St. Andrew, but no-one is sure how it ended up on the Amsterdam flag, it may have been part of the arms of the Persijns, a landowning family. The black centre stripe may represent the Amstel, the river after which Amsterdam is named, or not. The 
flag passes the Roman Mars design criteria and gets a nod in this TED talk on flag design (at about 10 minutes in).

The same design is used in an escutcheon or shield shape, and is applied to tourist souvenirs from key rings
to clogs, to beer mugs.

The shield forms part of the city’s arms, it “wears” a crown, which 
is the Imperial Crown of Austria, and the right to use it was granted to
 Amsterdam by the Emperor Maximilian I  in 1489 as a reward for the money lent in the 
Hook and Cod wars. The same crown sits atop the Westertoren, and turns 
up on the Blauwebrug.

Amsterdam emblem on Westertoren

Sometime in the 16th century two golden lions were added flanking the shield. I can’t find any particular reason for them being added, but it did bring the city’s coat of arms in line with the national coat of arms where the lion comes from the family arms of Nassau – one title still held by today’s Dutch royal family.  This version of the coat of arms is common around Amsterdam on older buildings.

The most recent addition to the coat of arms is less than 100 years old, and it’s 
the city’s motto “Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig”, meaning “Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate”. It was granted to the city by Queen Wilhelmina in 1947, in recognition for the bravery and compassion shown by the city in the General Strike of 1941. So on older buildings you won’t see the motto. Here’s today’s coat of arms for Amsterdam.

So this secular, liberal, anything goes city has a coat of arms that features the crown of a
 Catholic monarch, the cross of a Catholic saint and a motto recognising a very humanitarian protest. It tells you a lot about the city.

The image of the city’s coat of arms is in the public domain, but its use is restricted within 
the city, however there are variants of it created and appearing on buildings around the city, and in local art. Including this by Amsterdammer street artist Hugo Mulder.

Images;

Rijksmuseum Summer Garden

Every summer the Rijksmuseum garden turns into a sculpture exhibit. This year the works are by Jean Dubuffet and from the Stedelijk Museum’s collection. The sculptures are bold, colourful, playful perfect for summer. Here are my two favourites from the gardens this year.


Arbre Biplan (version III)

“Tree Biplane”, this is the first large scale sculpture he made and he was still experimenting with the epoxy materials to find ways to make large scale sculpture. I walked around this several times, because there’s no symmetry the view changes, I love the contrast of the random shape of the sculpture against the formal architecture of the museum.

Le Deviseur I (The Chatterer)

He looks like he’s ready to chat, but there’s also something throne like about his chair. This is a sculpture I would love to have – in the fantasy garden of my fantasy mansion.

The exhibition is in the gardens until the 1 October 2017. There are also daily workshops for kids in a marquee in the garden (probably in Dutch, but hey it’s a craft project kids can figure out instructions). If you want to see more Dubuffet Stedelijk Museum is also exhibiting paintings from its collection (until 24 Sept).

 

Summer Cheesecake

This cheesecake is frozen rather than baked, and it’s perfect for summer. I have a rough method for making this and it comes out different every time but always delicious. You can make it ahead of time, I usually make it a day or two before serving, but I assume it would be fine in the freezer for longer.

Ingredients

Base

  • I packet biscuits to give 250g biscuit crumbs, I use Bastogne because they already have some spice in the biscuit and a nice caramel colour
  • 100-120 grams of butter, melted

Filling

  • cream cheese 200g (full fat)
  • quark or yoghurt 400g (full fat)
  • icing sugar about 100g
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • gelatin 4 sheets

Method

Step 1

Crush the biscuits into a rough crumb, add melted butter, mix together

Cheesecake step 1Step 2

Press the mixture into the base of a springform tin, the one I use is relatively small, 18cm. Put the base in the freezer while you make the filling.

cheesecake step 2Step 3

Blend together all the filling ingredients except the gelatin. I use a wand blender to do this.
Soften the gelatin sheets in a little warm water, add the whole lot to the mixture and blend again. I’ve found the mix of cream cheese and yoghurt/quark makes a lighter filling that’s perfect after a meal.

Step 4

Pour filling into prepared base and put cheesecake into the freezer.

When it’s semi set add any flavouring (see below), you’ll need to wait about an hour to do this otherwise your flavouring will all sink to the bottom of the cheesecake. Put it back in the freezer for at least 3 more hours.

Step 5

I used some raspberry jam thinned with hot water to a coulis consistency in this one, here it is out of the freezer.

Take the cheesecake out of the freezer before the meal, on a warm day it will defrost to a refreshing temperature in about 2 hours. If you get it wrong it’s more like an ice cream cake which is still delicious.

Step 5

Serve on your prettiest plate.

serve cheesecakeFlavouring Ideas

I’ve experimented with adding some flavourings to the filling, add them to a semi-set cheesecake, I used raspberry ripple

  • Raspberry Ripple; stir in some raspberry coulis
  • Cherry Delight; macerate fresh cherries (without stones) in kirsch
  • Apricot Appeal; macerate dried apricots in Grand Marnier
  • Citrus Scented; double up on the lemon zest, add candied peel, decorate with caramelised orange segments

Pimp My Bike #31

I was wandering home and spotted this bike, I was amused at the makeshift figurehead so I pulled out my phone and took this photo.

The bikes owner came up to me and told me I had to pay him fifty cents saying “it’s my property”.

I refused on the basis that it’s “on the street, in public.

He then demanded that I delete the photo. I declined, but promised to publish the photo. So, here it is. The figurehead bike.

Anne Frank House – Annual Advice 2017

Riding my bike along Keizergracht last night I noticed a very long queue and decided it’s time to issue my annual (well, almost annual) advice on visiting Anne Frank House.

Here’s the queue – at least 250 people waiting in line to visit.

They have changed their system since I last wrote about this so here’s the up-to-date advice.

You can buy tickets for a specific time-slot online, the entry time will be between the museum opening and 3.30pm. These tickets are released two months in advance.

If you can’t get an online ticket you can queue for door ticket, these allow entry from 3.30pm until 30 minutes before closing (10pm from April to October).

The ticket price is 9 Euro for an adult and 4.50 Euro for a child between 10-17 (and free for the under 10s).

You can find more details on the Anne Frank House website. If you can’t manage a visit to the annex, there’s a wonderful 3D version online that you can explore.

The museum is going to be extended in the coming year so be prepared for some disruption as a new entrance and facilities are built.

Good Hope at the Rijksmuseum

There’s an exhibition on at the Rijksmuseum that documents the relationship between South Africa and the Netherlands, which goes back to 1600. The exhibition is titled; Good Hope. South Africa and The Netherlands from 1600. I went, I was very curious about how the Dutch national museum would present their history.

It starts with the “postal stones”, which were stones used by passing ships as a safe place to leave mail by passing ships in the pre-colonial times, and moves quickly into the colonial period. Here’s Deed of Purchase from 1672, by which the Dutch acquired the Cape Peninsula. To Europeans it makes sense, to the local Khoekhoe the contract meant nothing – in their minds no-one owned the land, water or sky.

Initially the colony started by Jan van Riebeeck was tiny, and confined to one bay on the Cape of Good Hope, but it soon grew. The colonialists traded tobacco and alcohol for the cows of the local Khoekhoe people, this eroded their financial independence. The colonialists also imported slaves from Indonesia, India and Madagascar, the locals being considered too likely to run away. On display is a slave bell – the bell by which slaves would begin and end working in the fields. Also on display are pieces of furniture and clothes that seem European but in fact owe much to Asian connections. This colony might have been small but it was right in the middle of trading routes and connected the world.


In the 1770s the colony was mapped and documented, largely by Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutchman of Scottish descent.

His maps and scenes were incredibly accurate and his sketches of wildlife are charming. (His whole collection has been made available online by the Rijksmuseum)

The colony was constantly at war, acquiring or defending land from the local tribes, and with the British who wanted to control the trade routes and later fought to unify and control the country including the diamond mines. At the time European colonisers from Belgium, Germany, Portugal were also expanding their influence. The piece of trivia that struck me about these wars was that the brothers of Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan fought there. It was to escape these wars that Dutch settlers, who by then thought of themselves as Afrikaaners, embarked on a series of internal migrations to found new states to the east, away from the British, this has become known as “the Great Trek” and is a cultural watershed for the Afrikaaners, in one room two flags hang, the one in the background belongs to the Orange Free State, the one in the foreground is from the South African Republic, also know as the Transvaal.

The last section of the exhibition bring us up to the present time, and looks at the period of apartheid, sometime in the second half of the 20th century sentiment in the Netherlands changed, moving from colonial pride to “sympathy with the black and coloured South Africans”. There are protests, fundraising, hiding of ANC leaders and more, but the feelings aren’t universal and one video of an interview shows that some colonial pride remained. The exhibition points to “post-colonial feelings of guilt and shame” among Dutch people even as the Dutch government took a position of non-interference. The exhibition features some of the Dutch protest signs, some call for boycotts against Dutch companies that I am a customer – or have been employed by.

The final images of the exhibition are from the post-apartheid era, one series features images of young people born in this era and seems hopeful. Those born in the year apartheid ended turn 23 this year, they’re the students, and new employees entering the workforce of a new country. But the colonial legacy remains troubling, this image is of a protest sign “I stole your land, so what?” being hung around the neck of a statue in Cape Town. The statue is of that original colonial settler, Jan van Riebeeck.

It’s a good exhibition, and is clear about the disturbing and painful colonial relationship between the two countries.The point of view is still largely that of the coloniser, but there are images of and artifacts from the local tribes, and the language is clear about who was colonising, importing and owning slaves. There is more to be explored about the Dutch colonial history, but this exhibition offers a beginning, and events around the exhibition explore in more depth the changes in culture and diversity in South Africa.

The Good Hope exhibition is on in the Philips’ wing of the Rijksmuseum until 21 May.