For all of you familiar with the Netherlands, you may not be so familiar with this location. The GEM gallery is situated on the outskirts of The Hague [Den Haag to the locals]. It’s damn hard to find for the first time! But it is worth it when you get there.

The title of the exhibition is; Dutch Masters – Street Art & Urban Painting, and the GEM Museum invited fourteen Dutch-based artists to “explore the tension between private places and public spaces, both inside & outside of the GEM building” and “is the first major group show of it’s kind ever held in the Netherlands”.

Ok, so that’s enough of the official blurb, this is what you can expect from the show. It is a highly professional and detailed exposition, from the outside in. The first collaborative 3D piece from the 14 artists, sits like an open gash, on the lawn of the GEM, forcing people to stop & question what it is. It then subsequently draws you into the interior, where there are two main rooms that hold the bulk of the exhibition.

Room 1 featured the dark & gothic work of Antistrot. It’s where Kiss meets graffiti…on a horse. It has amazing attention to detail with deathly overtones, [including a customized Nike Air Force One…nice!]. The second highlight is the humorous comic-porn work of Waynehorse. I loved the minimal use of colour, essentially black, white & brown, & it reminded me of the style of Frank Miller’s Sin City. It was also accompanied by a bizarre & creative black & white film; got to be seen to be believed!!

Room 2 was fantastic. It somehow gave the viewers a sense of alternative realities, veering from the transformer-type, sci-fi work from The Boghe a bleak landscape of black & white speakers & buildings from Morcky. There was the miniaturized NYC metropolitan world of the London Police, with accompanying sounds of the streets & miniaturized graf, the industrial/video game inspired paintings & 3D pieces of Super A…Genius! And finally to the thought-provoking work of Laser 3.14, who showed some unbelievably disturbing images, of a decaying Marilyn Monroe & a smoking Twin Towers.

Other highlights of the show are the German documentary on street art, and another collaborative piece between rooms 1 & 2. Finally in the basement, there was an exhibition of designer toys, the most notable being from Michael Lau & Futura.

The show certainly lived up to it’s intention to explore the tension between private & public spaces, as at times it felt as if the work was there for the sophisticated & mature ‘gallery-going’ public maybe to the alienation of the graffiti public. It’s always strange to be in these spaces, seeing work that would normally be adorning buildings, in the grit & grime of everyday reality, now in a serene & sterile location.

That said there’s no taking away from the great variety & creativity of work shown at the GEM. The show is on until the 8th October 2006. Dutch-based street art & urban painting, is in good creative hands. I just hope that if you’re in the Netherlands, that you can find it!!

Dutch Masters – Street Art & Urban Painting

Date: 8th July – 8th October, 2006
Place: Gemeente Museum
Address: Stadhouderslaan 43, 2517 HV Den Haag
Open: 12:00 – 18:00
Close: Sunday

Text: Slite
Photos: Slite and Mark Visser

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