We are at Amsterdam’s museum district, a very impressive area in town. Think of the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk, – some of the most renowned museums in Europe. Think of Concert Gebouw, where the most acclaimed concerts are held. Picture the art-galleries where, for one reason or another, you feel intimidated to get in. Think of the surrounding streets and their very exclusive shops, only available for very specific people at very peculiar prices. Think of the Oud-Zuid area, where you find astonishing upper class manor-houses and impeccably maintained burgher streets.
Right there, in the heart of the Museumkwartier, almost on the opposite side of the Concert Gebouw, there is a glass door displaying in hand-painted white letters ‘Home of Art’.
Inside, a huge black and white mural of a woman nested in her own hair makes an impression on you. The ceilings are very high with a mezzanine that overlooks the main hall. There is artwork, usually from a few different artists, all around, which creates a sea of colour – eclectic and harmonious at the same time.
This is the art gallery where you are always greeted with an open smile when coming in and where someone will always make time to explain what’s on display or to chitchat about literally anything. Really. More often than not, you’ll find a concert, some sort of performance or even an yoga class going on.
Son of Town Hall were playing at Home of Art, last time i dropped by. They are a singer-songwriter duo that joyfully takes you into their wild sailing universe. From ghost ships to drunk evenings under stars. From a love left behind to all sorts of adventures in firm land or in high seas. By the way, ‘Son of Town Hall’ is a name that has its roots in actual facts. It was the first homemade junk raft to successfully navigate from North America to Europe by the hands of its creator, Poppa Neutrino, in 1997-98. This makes this band’s imaginary all the more interesting.
I poured myself a cup of tea at the drinks corner, despite the presence of beer, wine and rakija – that lovely Balkanic potion –, and got cosy on a gigantic orange futon. I felt cradled in those folk-ish melodies, at times properly mellow, other times witty and energetic. These guys not only sing in perfect harmony, they also are great storytellers. In between songs, they describe us how they met crossing the Atlantic on a junk raft and started singing their own tales together.
In that intimistic atmosphere, i think about how the duo really connects to the spirit of Home of Art. A place that brings people together to share art, stories, ideas. It is not rare that musicians just gather there, with their instruments, for a jam. The events run, for the most part, on a donation-basis and the organization is always open to new proposals from artists. Because of that openness, for being so welcoming to people from all sorts of backgrounds, and helping make art accessible to everyone, this gallery managed to build a diverse and well engaged community around it. As for my part, I am now one of those who has two ‘homes’ in Amsterdam. How fortunate is that?