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PEOPLEText: Ania Markham

Walking around Amsterdam, chances are you’ll have seen examples of Michael A. de Feo‘s street art all over the city. Although a resident New Yorker, Michael is a great fan of Amsterdam and on each visit tries to leave his mark as much as possible.

He is best known and respected for his distinctive flower design which has graced streets in cities across the US and most recently here in the Netherlands as well. Michael came up with the design back in 1993 and through his love of print-making decided to print off hundreds of images of the flower and paste them across various street surfaces in New York. Since then, Michael estimates he’s put up thousands of flowers in New York City alone and that’s not counting other cities where his other designs can also be seen including a very beautiful series of blueprint paintings.

Featured in both mainstream publications and also specialist street art books, Michael’s work is a source of great interest and curiosity and he kindly agreed to talk to us about the designs he left behind in Amsterdam…

So why Amsterdam? Is it good for the art or good for the soul?

I’ve been to Amsterdam four times since 1997. It’s a city that keeps calling me back. I’m truly in love with it and so is my wife. Street art really looks alive on the streets of Amsterdam… and the diversity of the streets is astounding. Like New York, Amsterdam is a walking town and that really works well when you want to go out and wheat paste. I really want to get back to Amsterdam soon… we’ve been tempted to move there, however, now that we have a new-born daughter, that’s a much more difficult decision to make. When I returned in 2003, I came for my show at 90Sqm. Essentially, my plan was to plaster as much of the city as I could. I brought a lot of work with me and I painted many pieces while during my stay. Some of those pieces were glued up in Amsterdam while others made it back to New York to be glued up here.

Do you find street art a lot more accessible in Europe?

There is a growing clampdown on street art in the US. Is it easier to practice street art over here? I think it all depends on the city you’re in. Here in the U.S., for example, it’s much easier to do work in the streets of New York than, say, Seattle. New York is so physically dense and busy that it’s relatively easy to go unnoticed. Boston is small and very clean… you really stand out when you’re attempting to glue something up. Cities in Europe are entirely different. When I’m in another city for the first time, I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know the tolerance level of the police or the citizens. Naturally, I’m used to running around New York… I’m very comfortable here. There’s also the fact that Europe is vastly older than the U.S. so it makes me very conscience of the architectural environment. Being surrounded by all of that history is very magical. I respect that.

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