Laugh Now: Banksy in Amsterdam

by - 6:00 PM

No, Banksy didn't leave one of his famous Laugh Now monkeys on the streets of my country's capital. Sadly. We don't have that kind of luck in the Netherlands. We have a different kind of luck here: the Modern Contemporary Museum in Amsterdam, Moco for short, brought a Banksy exhibition to Holland. And you know me, I can't let a Banksy exhibition slide.

The exhibition seems to be a permanent one for now, but each source has something different to say on that matter. I'd read somewhere it's only last till June (which is false, apparently) and I had a coupon for a free ticket that I could use till May, so on the last Saturday of April my boyfriend had the questionable honor of being dragged to the capital in the name of art and blog posts. It was his first Banksy exhibition, but my second: I'd been to The Art of Banksy in Antwerp in 2017 and to be honest, I expected Laugh Now to be more of the same sort of street art awesomeness. I'd loved the dark ambiance of the Antwerp exhibition that made it feel like you were actually on the streets. Moco, as it turned out, couldn't have been more different from that place though. The museum is located in Villa Alsberg, a town hours in the middle of Amsterdam's Museumplein. It looked very small from the outside and there was a long line in front of the building. I feared we'd be waiting for hours, but we soon passed the front gates, above which two heart-shaped balloons were floating like in one of Banksy's most famous works. 

Once inside, I immediately noticed how far away I was from the street art world. Moco is a serious museum of the kind that has signs with interpretations and materials listed. Works on white walls without any distractions. Middle-aged and old people looking to buy some more risky stuff for their personal collection. Let me tell you, people like that were nowhere to be found in Antwerp. Not that it bothered me. I was too busy checking out all the art.

The first piece I saw couldn't have been more perfectly placed: facing the entrance, right above the staircase to the first floor. It looked like it truly belonged there. It was also a piece I'd never seen before, which took away some of my concern regarding the exhibition. I'd been afraid there wouldn't be a whole lot of new stuff for me to see after visiting The Art of Banksy and reading Banksy's book Wall and Piece. Luckily, that wasn't the case at all. We walked up to the first floor, where the majority of the artworks was on display. Now I'm used to seeing prints and pictures of Banksy's work, but Moco has more to offer: you get to see the pieces on the actual walls, doors and in one case street sign they were originally made on. I could barely wrap my mind around the fact that I was facing surfaces the same way Banksy had done years before when he went out with his stencils and spray cans. It was a weird and kind of magical sensation.

We wandered from room to room and soon I found myself straying away from the more well-known pieces like Girl With Balloon. Okay, it was cool to see that one in real life, next to the phone case I bought just because it had that image on it. But I was more interested in the pieces I hadn't seen yet, the pieces that had carefully been removed from the sides of buildings and the pieces I'd only seen in pictures from Wall and Piece. Even if you've been to a Banksy exhibition before, you won't get bored for a second during your visit to Moco.

Time flew by without me even noticing. I enjoyed the second floor as much as the first and I have to say that the curators did an amazing job at arranging and displaying the pieces in a way that worked so well for all of them. The only thing that got under my skin after a while where the explanations and interpretations on the signs next to the art. Those are two things I don't associate with street art at all. When I'm on the streets and notice something cool, there's never an explanation of the artist's intentions - at least not with guerilla pieces like Banksy's. And even though Banksy very clearly uses his work to spread his messages, I prefer the message to be open to personal interpretation instead of being summarized by some art professors who think their opinion is the only right interpretation. I genuinely dislike such practices and since lack thereof is what got me so interested in street art, I didn't like seeing signs telling me how to interpret Banksy's monkeys, rats and anti-war pieces.

After about two hours, we'd seen the entire exhibition. We also quickly walked through the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition on the ground floor and in the basement. You don't have to pay separately for the exhibitions, so we mainly took a look because we'd already paid anyway. Roy Lichtenstein is known for his pop art pieces. I usually love pop art, but wasn't too impressed with the works on display there. I personally preferred the gift shop in the basement, because that's where I finally got my hands on a new book about Banksy's career. There was also a lot of clothing with his works on it, but since I'd already bought some in Bangkok, I went for postcards instead. They're now on my postcard wall, which was severely lacking some street art images.

I left the place in a great mood. Along with all the stuff I bought, my boyfriend and I got a Wish Pin, which we could stick in the new installation in the museum's garden. They're now at the bottom of a gigantic egg made from cork. And of course I made a wish while pushing it in; it's a Wish Pin after all. The whole thing made me happy, from the art to the book to the Wish Pin. I hope you get to experience the same thing if you get the chance to visit the Laugh Now exhibition at Moco in Amsterdam.

x Envy

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6 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Although I'm a bit apprehensive about removing street art and musealising it or selling it for a profit; which, now I come to think about it, I wrote a blogpost about many many MANY lightyears ago ( I'm also very excited about street art or 'lower arts' infiltrating classical formats such as museums and changing the idea of what belongs where.

    I've never actually seen a Banksy irl and certainly will put this exhibition on my 'must see list'. I hope it will hang there a little longer so I don't miss it! ;)


    1. I remember we had a really good discussion on this topic!
      About three weeks ago I saw my first Banksy irl and it's so much better than seeing his work in a museum.

  2. thats incredible. I hope I get to see some of his work some day. thats beautiful

    1. I really hope you get to see his work too, preferibly 'in the wild'!

  3. I absolutely love Banksy, I have this years calendar and some prints on my walls. I think it’s all very clever and so talented. I would love to visit this exhibition, it looks amazing! Thanks for sharing your experience 💖 xx

    Bexa |

    1. I think Banksy is so special because of how clever his work is. I have two prinst on my wall now and I'm still stoked that I got to see his work in Palestine!


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