Thursday, 21 August 2008

Culture Vultures

As a rule, we're not big on museum and exhibitions. It's not so much a lack of interest in art or culture (current reading- Theo : "A History of Europe" J. M. Roberts, Kate "The Master and Margarita" Mikhail Bulgakov) as an unwillingness to pay the high entry fees, when there's beautiful architecture to admire outside, or to be indoors when the weather's nice (and there's beautiful architecture). Plus, too much gallery gazing would clearly impinge on our European-wide backgammon binge.

However, yesterday we vultured the culture to the max. Picking up an Amerstdam Card each (€33 per card which included free public transport for the day) we hit five museums, as well as availing ourselves of the free canal tour, multiple tram rides and a tea & coffee the card also entitled us to. While we haven't totted it up, the card probably saved us in the region of €30 each, which strikes us as a big of a bargain and probably means we now wont feel too guilty if we don't go into another gallery this side of Venice.

As to those we visited yesterday, I think we both preferred the small Vermeers in the Rijksmuseum to the major attraction, Rembrandt's The Nightwatch, remarkable though that is. I think we both find more affinity with paintings executed according to the artist's own desires, rather than those painted in order to flatter the vanities of the commissioning patron(s). Neither of us is particularly sold on Van Gogh, though it was interesting reading about his life and seeing the progression of his style though the years; Kate found the Fauvist paintings in the Van Gogh Museum's permanent collection far more captivating. The digital map demonstrating the growth of Amsterdam over the centuries in the Amsterdam Historisch Museum was fascinating as were many of the displays, despite their obsession with cesspits. They may be archaeological treasure troves but they are still a pile of old shit. Give me maps goddammit!

In the Nieuwe Kirche - itself a gorgeous attraction - the temporary exhibition, Black is Beautiful, was fascinating from a cultural viewpoint, showing the differing roles and representations of black people in art, even if some of the art itself was fairly mediocre. Finally, we made it to the FOAM Photography museum where there was a retrospective of photos by the Dutch photojournalist Jan Van Ekom, a wonderful juxtaposition of social realism (striking builders, immigrants from Surinam), escapism (theatrical portraits) and intimacy (photos of his, apparently naturist, family).

And so ended our day of ultra-culture. We didn't think much of the restaurants offering a 25% discount with our Amsterdam Card, so plumped for a delicious South Indian restaurant instead. Yum!

Oh, and we still found time to play a few trios of backgammon. Most of which Kate won. For a change.

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