Amsterdam Canal Houses
The Biddington's Bentley Takes to the Road

Amsterdam Museums & Restaurants
Winter 2003

Editor's Note: Shortly after Jake Biddington's return from researching this piece, both the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk undertook renovations. Our understanding is that major works remain on view, but in slightly different locations.

An art education devoted to the myriad charms of the Italian Renaissance can leave one a touch behind the curve on knowledge of the Northern European painters. A Thanksgiving pilgrimage to museum-rich Amsterdam seemed just the ticket for a little catch-up ball . Of course, to go into the museums requires a focus besides exploring the beautiful city and the fascinating detail and variety of the canal-side townhouses.
Amsterdam Canal Houses


Located on the northern part of the Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum is approached from the south via a walkway next to the 2-lane bicycle freeway. The Museumplein masks a massive underground parking garage--a perfect spot to stable the Bentley for the duration of the visit. Bicycles, trams or feet are the only sensible way to explore the city. Everyone recognizes this; so, Amsterdam is diesel-fumes free and its inhabitants attractively fit.

In the Rijksmuseum, the dutiful pilgrim follows the arrows to Rembrandt's "Night Watch". Sometimes famous artworks deserve their reputations. A painting so arresting that it rivets the attention from 200 feet is worth a transatlantic trip. Interestingly, the painting was cropped on both the right and left sides to fit a prior site. This chopping may have concentrated the focus of the composition. (A small painting hanging nearby shows the original composition; it's an amusing comparison.) Along the same grand hall hangs Rembrandt's group portrait of the heads of the Drapers Guild--surely the finest corporate directors' portrait ever painted.
Willem Claesz Heda still life with gilt goblet

Willem Claesz Heda
"Still Life with Gilt Goblet"
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Room after room of the Rijksmuseum offers ample breadth and depth to compensate for anyone's blind spots on Northern painting--from the fabulous Vermeers, to Frans Hals' portraits to delightful alive, and dead, animal paintings by obscure artists. Perhaps the most unexpectedly wonderful painting there is a Willem Claesz Heda still life. The cool control of space and the crisp detail and differentiation of materials make it a standout in the realm of realism. For a secular humanist, the Rijksmuseum's collection particularly appeals in offering miles of Old Masters without the persistent presence of Baby Jesus.

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh painting Fishing Boats on the Beach As well as Van Gogh paintings, the Van Gogh Museum houses works that Vincent and his brother Theo collected including a substantial group of Japanese woodblock prints. It has long been recognized that Van Gogh learned from such images. Of course, other late 19th century painters such as the Nabis group were influenced by the linear and decorative elements in Japanese printmaking. Seeing examples of Van Gogh paintings with large undifferentiated blocks of color and poetically non-naturalistic spatial organization literally next door to his own collection of Japanese woodblocks, we appreciate the magnitude of Van Gogh's engagement with an Asian aesthetic. This cross-pollination may help explain Japanese art collectors' interest in late 19th century European paintings in general and Van Gogh in particular.

Vincent Van Gogh
"Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer"
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
In its temporary exhibitions, the Van Gogh Museum features themes and artworks that explicate the creative milieu of the late 19th century.

Stedelijk Museum

Nam June Paik image from Global Groove video Stedelijk is home to 20th century and contemporary art and ephemera. On view was a temporary exhibit of Amnesty International posters made by famous artists during the Vietnam War. The variety of presentations within a proscribed size and format structure could have made an amusing exercise in comparing and contrasting styles, but the pained and outraged expressive content of the posters is far too timely and dwarfs technical issues. Highlighting the museum's selective 1960-70's retrospective was Global Groove the amazing, seminal 1973 video by Nam June Paik. The audacity and visionary quality of this piece in its image-blending and cutting shows how an artist can anticipate popular culture and how he can mold its visual expectations.

Nam June Paik
"Global Groove"
Stedelijk, Amsterdam
The Stedelijk Museum does a nice job of surveying recent art by nation. (Conclusion: Short the UK.) Jan Dibbets, a Dutch artist with a conceptual bias, makes a solid showing for the home team.

Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/Time Based Art

A low-key artist-friendly spot with frequently changing exhibitions, Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst, Montevideo/TBA is a venue for presenting and conserving new media and techology-based artworks. The Artlab is meant as a resource for art students and working artists who create via new media.

Food, Drink, Etcetera

Arc--hot, sophisticated award-winning restaurant & bar that tips to gay as the night wears on. Whatever your proclivity, groom carefully lest you feel like a toad. Reguliersdwarstraat 44, near the Flower Market.
Le Garage--chic restaurant, bar & gallery. A grown-up power scene near the Museumplein with kitchen open fairly late. Ruysdaelstraat 54-46.
De Knijp--bistro with seasonal cooking and acceptable wines in what is, fundamentally, a beer-drinking city. Van Baerlestraat 134 near Museumplein.
Teheran--divine Persian cooking and pleasant Shiraz wines in a modest, yet comfortable setting at Noorderstraat 19-21 (between Wetering Circuit and Prinsengracht). Oh, for a magic carpet to return to this mid-eastern homecooking!
Puri Mas--pleasant introduction to Indonesian 'rijsttafel'. Lange Leidsewarstraat 37-41 at Leidesplein.
Frenzi--carefully prepared Italian-ish food for lunch or casual dinner. Zwanenburgwal 232, near Waterlooplein.
Dos--relaxing lunch spot and tapas bar off Marnixstraat in the hip Jordaan "9 Streets" area home to many small eating, drinking & music venues and boutiques.
EscapeVenue--endless lines on the Rembrandtplein to enter the biggest disco in town.
De Rokerij--two locations with a selection of indulgences, one at Leidseplein and one downtown. Described, not inaccurately, by a sculptor friend, as "the bar scene in Star Wars".
Pulitzers--hotel composed of twenty-five 17th and 18th century houses on a canal with comfortable cafe, elegant restaurant and real art on its walls. Keizergracht 234 convenient to Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA.

More Art & Antiques Destinations with Jake Biddington:
Art Tourism New York City 2005: Christo's Gates
Art Museums, Neighborhoods & Dining in Buenos Aires
Art and Touring along Italy's Amalfi Coast
Art Museums & Restaurants in Amsterdam
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Art Touring in Lisbon
Art Touring in Milan
Art Touring in Antwerp
Art Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City Art & Antiques
Art Tourism New York City 2003 (Archive)
Art Tourism New York City 2002 (Archive)
Art & Antiques in Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Art & Restaurants in Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey

Jake Biddington's 2005 Art Collecting Series:
Art Appraisals and Valautions
Investment Grade Contempory Art

Jake Biddington Art Investing (Archives):
PPP Test: Judging Quality in Contemporary Art
Art, Time and Technology
American vs. European Paintings
Jake Biddington's Art as Entertainment
Jake Biddington's Vetted Antiques & Art Shows
Jake Biddington's Patent Numbers as a Dating Tool
Jake Biddington's Hard Assets as Portfolio Diversification
Jake Biddington's Buying Fine Jewelry at Auction
Jake Biddington's Long Term Investing
Jake Biddington's Short-Term Investing
Jake Biddington's The Craft of Art


Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art & antiques online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums all over the world.

In this article, Jake Biddington offers suggestions and descriptions of interesting art tourism destinations. Some of these venues are always in open; others revolve around special or seasonal events. These are art travel excursions we at BIDDINGTON'S--upmarket, online art & antiques auctions and Contemporary Art Gallery--have enjoyed making. We hope you'll like them, too.

Contact Jake Biddington about His Travels

COPYRIGHT: Images and information within are Copyright Biddington's, Inc. 1997-2005--except where superceded by individual copyrights of the artists.
Downloading or printing for online or print reproduction of any materials without specific written permission from Biddington's, Inc. is prohibited.

PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE--art words & terms defined. CREATIVE PROCESS--artists' studio visits.
JAKE BIDDINGTON'S INVESTING--financial advice on art & antiques collecting. MY ART--art for kids.