Invited to exhibit in Amsterdam by the Global Art Agency as part of a global group of artists, the reality sets in…
Having visited Amsterdam on several previous occasions, back in 2012 the sole purpose for the visit was very different than travelling. This time, it was to be less than a 2-week sojourn from Australia, with one main objective. Anything else would be a bonus.
Never hearing of this organisation and thinking the email was a scam, of course, I did a little online research. To my delight, discovered that this definitely was a legit organisation. Super excited at this humbling invitation, decided to take some time off work to be a part of an amazing art event, albeit apprehensively. This would only be the second time I exhibited my work.
The first time was submitting my photo just months before this Amsterdam exhibition. Another group exhibition with 59 other artists in the MulticulturArt Exhibition in Shoreditch, London.
With only one photo requested from my portfolio to be exhibited in the MulticulturArt Exhibition, this was relatively easy. Emailing the artwork’s jpg with an artist statement and label to be printed in London, then physically mailing business cards, was a painless process. MulticulturArt organisers hung artwork for artists that couldn’t make the exhibition. The Global Art Agency Amsterdam exhibition would be very different and a lot of work.
The Amsterdam Venue
The fabulous De Oude Kerk venue is an incredible space to exhibit and is steeped amongst gorgeous narrow bicycle roads.
Not only was the wooden church built in 1213 and replaced with an imposing stone church in 1306, but the new church is also an amazing medieval building. Soaring internal stone arches frame incredible brightly-coloured leadlight windows, absorbed in history and absolutely stunning.
Think I can safely say that most people have heard of Amsterdam’s redlight district and frankly, everything you hear is true.
So much so that Jacques Brel wrote this powerful song, Amsterdam in 1964…
…but then David Bowie (one of my all-time favourite artists) sang another excellent version in 1982. Take a listen to both and let me know which one you prefer.
But, I digress, again…
Actually, during the day, windows are closed up and the street looks just like any other street in Amsterdam. The night is a different affair.
The whole area comes alive with red lights blaring everywhere and advertising the availability of women, for a cost. Yes, the windows show women in scanty underwear undergoing various things such as just reading a book and waiting for a customer. Or, luring customers to their windows in a provocative way. Some may be offended by this seductive show of display, but keep an open mind, you’ll be okay, and remember, this is their livelihood.
Besides the personal costs of getting myself and my partner from Brisbane (Australia) to Amsterdam, accommodation in Amsterdam, food, sightseeing, and the usual travel incidentals to be a part of this event, the exhibition stand wasn’t free. In total, this wasn’t a cheap exercise.
Well, someone has to pay for this event and of course, the cost is always borne by the artists.
But c’est la vie. Hang the expense. An experience of a lifetime. And from memory, it was only a couple of hundred British pounds for the exhibition stand.
Although, in addition to these escalating costs (lucky I had a full-time job) you need to remember, is also the cost of printing and framing photos, making professional Didactic labels, an artist summary, and updating business cards. In addition, there are always a few more forgotten incidentals waiting to burn through your pocket.
By the way, the Global Art Agency is still in existence in 2023 and still organises art exhibitions around the world each year. The cost has definitely increased much more for a stand these days. Not sure how an artist can afford some of the costs but exposure is paramount in this field.
How do you prepare for an exhibition?
Back in Brisbane, there’s a ton of work to prepare for an exhibition. Depending on the size of your stand, the artwork (in my case photos) is selected to suit the stand. But, how can you work out the number of photos required when the stand is thousands of miles away in Amsterdam?
Easy. Find a space on your floor at home. Measure and mark the stand’s size. Get some masking tape and mask the size out so it looks like the stand. This then gives a better visual so you can space your artwork out nicely.
I ended up with too many photos for my stand. Guess I was hoping to sell all of my photos. A word of advice, negative space is better. How you display your work depends on the size of the artwork in comparison to the stand. Whether you’re going for the same size artwork for a more uniform look or different sizes. Lay the frames on your marked-out floor space.
Try not to cram too much in and leave a good amount of space between artwork. Then, depending on your stand, do it all over again as with the Amsterdam exhibition, there are two sides to the stand.
For the Global Art Agency exhibition but for any exhibition really, I pay the extra and have everything printed professionally. You must do this as remember, this is your work. Don’t skimp on printing.
When everything was organised, we packed everything safely in bubble wrap to transport inside our luggage to Amsterdam. It helps if two of you are going as you’re allowed 30kgs each on an Emirates flight for checked-in baggage.
The Global Art Agency Event
Sadly, I seem to have lost the photos taken of my actual stand at the Global Art Agency exhibition, including the outside of Oude Kerk. Although managed to find a couple of videos from 2012, so that you can get a feel of what this exhibition was all about.
The official Global Art Agency video includes names of artists – mine displays at around 4:26 minutes.
This Global Art Agency’s review of the event also provides a different perspective.
The after-exhibition party was also excellent. Global Art Agency puts this on for the artists and partners. It’s such an excellent way to network but also catch up and mingle with artists as you just don’t get the time during the exhibition day.
We partied until the early hours of the morning, which was a load of fun. A different country with different people that you’ve just met.
Over one hundred artists gathered from around the globe for this one-day exhibition, which made this a fascinating event. I’m still in contact with some of the artists, eleven years later.
Even got to catch up with an amazing bunch of Dutch friends that took the time to see my work at the exhibition. Met these crazy people the previous year in Bolivia’s Pampas trek while searching for pink dolphins and Anacondas, during a memorable journey through South America that lasted over 9 months.
From Australia, getting to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam is relatively painless as there’s a plethora of available flights, but, it’s not that cheap. Although, no flight is cheap from The Land of Oz. A flight is exceptionally long and typically, broken up across two flights with a layover of a few hours somewhere in a transfer hub.
If you click the Emirates link in this paragraph, you will see today’s price, which is around AUD $600 cheaper.
If you decide to go via Dubai, then 24-plus hours across two flights is a typical but very long flight, from Australia to Amsterdam. Or, anywhere in Europe.
This is just the way it is as Australia is such a long way from anywhere in the world, but not Asia.
As always, the Emirates flight goes smoothly, or at least it did in 2012 and the three-hour wait in Dubai was enough time to do a little shopping for exotic souvenirs. By the way, there’s no such thing as Duty-Free anymore. Sad to say, all shopping in all airports is expensive.
Where to stay
An angular battleaxe room (unbeknownst when booking), but clean and cosy nonetheless, and overlooking lovely picturesque canals. The smallish room came complete with a massive radiator. Amsterdam gets bitterly cold during winter and December is winter.
Compact and bijou, the Singel Hotel room’s rate included an absolutely scrumptious and excellent all-you-can-eat breakfast feast when you stepped from the lobby into the dining area. Rammed solid for a couple of hours every morning with people from around the world, the breakfast buffet was to die for…
Do check back next week for the continuing post on amazing Amsterdam, where I share with you some great sights to explore on your trip to Amsterdam.