Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 16: Amsterdam

Day 16:  Amsterdam

QOTD:  It feels a bit like Iceland

Weather: Overcast all day and light rain at times, clearing a bit around 8pm

Breakfast today: pancakes! They are thin, crepe-like, with fruit/curd layered inside: apples and raisins for THB and lemon curd and fresh lemons to squeeze on top for DB, with coffee and water: $32

From there we go to visit a friend of a friend who lives on the outskirts of town. She’s a former stage manager and costume designer from Croatia, has lived in Amsterdam for 20+ years, and now makes bags and unique wraps. THB has an elderberry quaff, very refreshing.



And, back to the museum district for a walk through the Rijksmuesum; like Van Abbemuseum yesterday, it is free on our H70 hosts’ cards, and like many of the museums we have visited, been renovated while retaining the old building. We see the Night Watch, which some say should be title more accurately the Day Watch. It is HUGE! If you get paid by the square meter, Rembrandt asked quite a pretty guilder.
rotate left

rotate right, tulip holder

It’s is not that crowded, you can get quite close to the paintings, which is nice. Most of the work doesn’t do much for THB, at least during renovation it seems like the paintings have been restored to gleam rather than look old and yellowed or darkish.

Lunch in the café is shared meat and cheese platter, a huge amount of very good food (extra dry cheddar, blue of some sort, chorizo, prosciutto) and two lousy breads from a well-respected bakery, a bitter lemon, $30.

Next door: a giant cappuccino, mini espresso

Well, nobody was there...

Stroll about town in a very slight sprinkling (so slight that THB doesn’t put on a jacket), meandering until THB conks out and we head to H70 for a long rest before dinner.

THB believe there is somewhere else where couples leave locks...Paris?

And on a chain to the right, same-same

One of many grills and steakhouse, all over town, not just in tourist areas

Dinnner is at Blauw, at the end of Vondelpark, another 20+ minute tram ride. We have the rijsstafel, at another Mark Bittman recommendation. It is a lot of little dishes, many of them good to pretty good. While it is a good meal, THB and DB agree: it’s a once-every-40-years thing. With two glasses of wine and two draft brewskies, $100. 


 And, one last short video:


Day 15: Eindhoven

 Day 15:  Eindhoven

QOTD1:  Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, Pablo Picasso

QOTD2: Beer washed away the dust of the studios along with washing down the pizza, THB

Weather: Another glorious day, though by time we get back to Amsterdam, it is still and humid again

Light toast and coffee to start, then mosey over a few blocks to have the best (large) pancake in Amsterdam. Oops, they are having some sort of equipment delivery and won’t be serving for at least a half hour (so, maybe never?). Back to H70 for granola and berries.

Today we go to Eindhoven, via the train, $50pp round trip. We are visiting the Van Abbemuseum, and Djim Berger is giving us a tour of his and other artist studios; most of the artists are or were affiliated with the Design Academy Eindhoven, nearby.

Camera in train station with anti-pigeon wire on top (invisible!)

DB found Djim (pronounced Jim) through the internet (Garth Clark profiled his work recently in a newsletter) and they began a correspondence. Eventually that led to an invitation to visit Eindhoven, about 1.5 hours from Amsterdam.

Lunch on the train: leftover paella for THB, DB has sushi and a bit of cheese, a roll and Orangina for THB, water for DB, and an “American” chocolate cookie shared three ways. 

Train food service

Three ways because a young woman sits next to THB and across from DB and we get in a conversation, mostly about the downing of the Malaysian airplane. She knew one of the people on the plane (as did one of the artists we meet later, it’s a small country) through her political activity. She is also one of four people who first spoke to THB today in Dutch, so maybe THB doesn’t look like your typical tourist after all!

Most here refer to the tragedy as an accident (THB thinks of it as an act of war, in multiple ways). The Dutch are being very careful as their first priority was to recover the bodies and they are being tactful in their approach to avoid antagonizing the Ukrainian separatists and Russians and Putin (who THB thinks is an outright thug with a lot of muscle he can flex).
Huge stadium on edge of Eindhoven centrum

We enter from rear, so we don't see the old building where the main entrance is located

From the Eindhoven train station DB leads us in a very direct path to Van Abbemuseum, another contemporary art museum that has grafted on a new wing to an older building, again very successfully. The temporary exhibits are built around the theme of artistic interpretations of disruption (e.g., earthquake and nuclear plant accident in Japan, an industrial plant repurposed by the NSA for interrogations), and the permanent exhibits are actually groupings by time periods of pieces from the museum’s collection. 

The work looks really good (consistent with the Stedelijk and the CODA, the Dutch appear to have a great understanding of how to make art look really good…something many, many museums do not).
THB is reading a book on Lucian Freud, along with Bacon the top two British artists of the 20th century

And, some of it is even interactive: THB goes for a spin!

Blogspot gets it right: THB up, car down

What THB sees when "driving"

From the museum, it is another well-navigated short walk to an industrial building that has been repurposed into artist studios (we meet one artist who also lives there, that’s an exception here) and a café on the ground floor that takes advantage of the large interior courtyard.

Djim and two other artists, Victoria and Nicolette are eating a late lunch in the courtyard. It is Djim’s birthday as well, he’s 34. While enjoying a bitter lemon soft drink (THB) and water (DB), the three artists give us an overview of the Design Academy. Internationally known (there are Americans, per Nicolette, partly because it is cheaper than US equivalents), it is an eclectic school from our perspective. For example, Djim is part of the Well Being department, one of eight disciplines the school offers. Students take courses in all 8 during their first year, and must pass all each semester of their first year in order to move on; if they don’t pass all eight they have to repeat the entire semester. It is a four year program; most students take 5-6 years to graduate. Approximately 150-175 start each year, and approximately 80 graduate each year. The goal is more to free up students to follow their own paths more than to give a deep knowledge in one traditional discipline.

Djim and a partner set up the cooperative studios around eight years ago, finding a large city-owned (yep!) space that can be shared. This is either the second or third space they’ve occupied, and it has been sold and will at some point be turned into living space for seniors.
The installation in front of the cafe

Djim and Nicolette give us a tour of the space, then Djim show us his studio space and we discuss some of his most ceramic work, including benches and stools made out of clay and Styrofoam in unique way that both creates small craters on the surface and reduces weight.  He has a gallery that is selling the pieces in a variety of colors around the world.
B'day boy and DB (she's on one of Djim's bench)

Djim's rope pieces and Nicolette's urn, color coordinated

Next we visit with Victoria, a very recent graduate who is already getting commissions. Her approach is to learn something from the beginning of the process before moving to a completed product. Her bags are made of the unused parts of the cow (e.g., head, hoof, ear, tail) turned into leather, then crafted into a functional (and, in this case, fashion) item; she started in the slaughterhouse! Clearly on that edgy point between make use of all animal parts (no waste!) while having to deal with animasl as fashion.

On to Tarek’s studio, where we find out he is a skateboarder, graffiti artist, graphic designer, and now a painter combining tar, spray paint and oils. THB likes several of pieces a lot, his favorite is an unfinished piece that Tarek is going to slice in thirds and a skateboard company will use to decorate their boards.

Out to the back patio for a pizza dinner; the café started a few years back and on Thursdays it is pizza, Friday is fish, and on Saturday a three course French menu. It is jammed, good thing Djim made a reservation; Individual pizzas all around, lots of beer, a couple of very good glasses of wine for DB, we pick up the tab: $80. 

What a great day chasing art, minglng with a young crowd starting out on the journey and willing to talk about it and life in The Netherlands with two of the older generation. 

The "tab" kept like you would see in a dim sum place

Djim gets a bit of his pizza and then is interrupted to get some b'day love

And, for you baseball fans: a Sean Doolittle sighting, going incognito in shades:

Back to Amsterdam and in the door at 10pm, in time for the sunset.