For many people Amsterdam is associated with alternative culture, different progressive subcultures, street art and fresh view on the society. It used to be so, when anti-capitalistic youth often with an anarchic approach were striving in the city, keeping creative spirit alive, adding a soul to the streets and making a community with like-minded individuals. It was also the time when squatting was huge in Amsterdam, expanding the alternative scene and making the city more liberal. Spuistraat and Wijdesteeg once were two very important places in the history of squatting in Amsterdam. Want to know why then keep on reading.
While some of you might be familiar with the idea of squatting (maybe you’ve even tried it yourself!), others could be interested in learning more. Usually it refers to occupying an abandoned building with a purpose of residing there. One claims the building without any lawful permission for it, not for renting or owning the new home. Squatting usually comes with a certain mentality, often with a rebellious spirit against the system. That leads to transformation of it from just living in the unoccupied area into a special movement of people sharing the same ideas. It’s estimated that there are around 1 billion squatters around the globe, and this number is expected to grow.
How does it work in Amsterdam?
As expected from open-minded Amsterdam, it has a large community of squatters, who tend to be creative, free-spirited people, with strong values and beliefs. There are even special sessions (kraakspreekuur) organized by squatters, where one can get advice on how and where to do it, rather than just go for the option of “wild” squatting. However, what used to be a city paradise for squatters is there no more, as squatting was criminalized in the Netherlands in 2010. Once legal activity and lifestyle turned into a forbidden action that lead to protests, arrests and some buildings’ demolition. The squatting ban also killed lots of creativity and street art in Amsterdam, as cultural centers and galleries got closed, pieces of wall art got painted over or the walls got destroyed.
One of the most iconic squatted spaces in Amsterdam was De Slang, a famous building at Spuistraat with a magnificent colorful snake mural on it. It was well loved by locals, as lots of art events took place there with a great vibe and nice people. The Snakehouse was squatted by artists, which also attracted other creative minds, and beautiful results were born on the walls of Spuistraat and Wijdesteeg. There were covered with astonishing artworks, admired by tourists and locals alike. The narrow street of Wijdesteeg was like an open air street art museum. It used to be one of the most photographed alley of the city, but it has seen its times, as the squatted buildings were taken over by the municipality. The fight between Amsterdam squatters and the municipality lasted long, but the city won with lots of art sacrifices.
Hero de Janeiro
One of the local street heroes that added color to Amsterdam and particularly Wijdesteeg is Hero de Janeiro. This talented artist is known for painting bright puzzle pieces on the dull concrete. Although many of his bigger cool projects are gone with the knocked down or fenced off buildings, some of his work still makes Spuistraat more colorful and joyful. He creates the smaller art by pasting different frames against the city walls, while the larger pieces are mainly made out of stencils that this street artist attaches to Amsterdam walls.
Hero de Janeiro’s most recognizable characters are Jip & Janneke, Karl Lagerfeld with a ghetto blaster (a sign of Hero’s music aspirations, as he’s also an experience DJ), the Dutch milkmaid, Andy Warhol and the tough penguin. All of them intend to make you happier and add more vibrant life to daily routines. These charismatic art pieces appear not only in Amsterdam, but also around the world. And guess where the next one will be! That’s right, Amsterdam Teleport Hotel! Next week Hero de Janeiro will decorate the sidewalk in front of our hotel with his stunning artwork. And even more, he will join us for the Street Art Event at Teleport on 27-28 November, when we’ll be celebrating art with graffiti workshops, live DJ and free Mojitos! You’re invited too! Discover! Create! Inspire!