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Case studies

Art in Public Spaces and Public Art Commission


Amsterdam is a small but rapidly growing city. Developing new urban areas on the outskirts is essential in order to address the city’s need for expansion, while keeping its uniquely compact and diverse feel. A key challenge for these new urban areas is making the most effective use of public space. Having re-emerged as a hotspot for contemporary art in recent years, one of the ways Amsterdam is responding to this is by installing contemporary art in urban public spaces. However, so far, this has been achieved by the individual efforts of artists and artistic collectives rather than supported through cultural policy. The City has recently developed two cultural programmes aimed at establishing a more integrated and structural approach towards art in public space, by way of substantial investment in public art, and a dedicated Public Art Commission.

Beginning in 2018, Amsterdam will invest an extra €1.8 million towards the provision of art in public spaces. The city’s seven boroughs will also receive €1.5 million to use for urgent maintenance and the commissioning of new art works. Meanwhile a further €300,000 is being allocated towards public arts events, including the proposed Amsterdam Biennale, an art and architecture event that is expected to take place along the banks of the IJ-river in 2021.

The City Council has also established a two year implementation framework for outdoor art. One of its key measures will be the creation of a Public Art Commission, which will act as a curatorial body for art in public space. This Commission was founded on the idea that the city needs dedicated art ambassadors to promote, protect and map its public art in a similar way to institutional art works.

The project brings together the Department for Urban Planning, which is responsible for enabling public art space, the Department for Heritage, responsible for knowledge and maintenance, and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, which will provide the funding for new public art. The new Commission will also help to ensure that these departments work together through a shared vision, in order to create new space for public art and the creation of new work, and to preserve existing public art.