A series of articles about smaller, independent art spaces, in an effort to explore the contemporary arts scene through the scope of the various communities of emerging artists all around Europe.
by Eleni Batsoula
Amsterdam is known for many things. Before you start thinking of all the illegal ones, let me clarify that in this case, I am referring to its vibrant arts scene. From the Dutch Masters of the 17th century to street art and contemporary pieces, there is certainly something for everyone. It is always very interesting and fruitful to expand one’s horizons and especially in the Art World, it is vital to be aware of the scenes and events in other countries and cities, so my short trip to Amsterdam was an excellent opportunity to explore the local scene, and more specifically our main point of interest, its independent art spaces. For this chapter, my search led me to RADAR. What is different about Radar, apart from the fact that there is a clearly stated manifesto on their website, outlining their main mission and goals, is that its main function is that of an Architecture office, which, after its founder, Marco de Piaggi’s interest in the arts, opened up to new projects and ideas, of all disciplines and styles, with a focus on promoting emerging, like-wise thinking creators. Radar maintains a global point of view, with projects in various countries all around the world and participation in international art and architecture competitions and events, such as this year’s Architecture Biennale in Krakow, Poland, while also being an active member of the Amsterdam community.
As we wanted to find out more about the gallery and through that, get a small taste of the contemporary arts movement in Amsterdam, we contacted the gallery’s founder and director, Marco de Piaggi. Here is what he had to say:
Art + Thought: How would you describe the space in your own words?
Marco de Piaggi: It is an independent space where anything can happen: from art exhibitions to music experiments to architecture experimentation, we are seeking collaborative experiences out of the regular schemes of an established institution.
A+T: Could you tell us a few things or thoughts on Amsterdam’s independent art scene?
M. P.: The main characteristic is the will to make something exceptional with little or no budget, to
express ideas that are really urgent. I guess it is the same everywhere, but here in Amsterdam it
is really evident.
A+T: What/How do you think your space contributes to it?
M.P: We do exactly this: trying to give space to artists that we feel have really urgent things to
Express, that are looking for a collaborative experience instead of a passive and sometimes
'sterile' relation between the gallerist and the artist.
A+T: Do you have a specific audience/artist target?
M.P: No, not really. Regarding the artists, we are intrigued if in their work there is a relation with the
theme of the city and the urban, but it is not mandatory.
A+T: What drove you to open up a space like this?
M.P: What I would like to make clear is that Radar starts as an architecture office, as I'm a practicing
architect. But because I'm also an art lover and love all the different forms of human expression,
and because I happen to get in contact with different artists here, I decided to devote part of our
time/effort to exhibitions. On top of that the location in the centre of Amsterdam is perfect,
despite our space being quite small. We alternate exhibitions of various forms of art with
architectural work, which also explains our interest in the relation between Art and Architecture and
the name of the space.
A+T: Are you aiming mostly at local or international artists? Is this important to you?
M.P: I think that an international environment is certainly more fertile than a provincial one. The
problem we have as a small enterprise is that we do not want artists from abroad spending a lot of
money to send their material to Amsterdam, pay for hotels and everything. This city is far too
expensive and we cannot afford this money either. That's why we collaborate with artists who live
here no matter what nationality, colour of skin, sexual preference or whatsoever.
A+T: Many claim that contemporary art is quite elitist and exclusive. How do you respond to that? Is a
specific approach to this matter part of your agenda? And if so, how does it affect your functions
as a gallery?
M.P: I think art needs in most of the cases two kinds of attitudes: on one hand you have to love it or at least you have to have no prejudice when you approach it. On the other hand you need to train
yourself in order to fully appreciate it. It is like for example a tennis match: the person who does
not know anything about it sees only two people hitting a ball and that's really boring, but if you
like it, and you watch a lot of matches and eventually you dig in that 'discipline', you'll start to
appreciate it more and more. Of course critics and curators sometimes keep things quite cryptic, I
don't know why... However I always hated people who tend to make art a secret affair. We as
Radar try to write in a very simple way about the artist we present and what his/her work is trying
to say. And in general we keep things in the exhibitions as simple as possible, and when I say
simple I do not mean banal. Of course we need the collaboration of the audience: they should
come here with the right attitude as well.
A+T: In your website you have a manifesto posted, so it seems like you created this space with a
specific purpose in mind. You mention that you aim at supporting emerging artists, however, it
could be said that such a specific context could function as a deterrent for possible applicants who
might be interested. Could you expand a little more on your ‘mission’ as a gallery and tell us your
thoughts on that?
M.P: We have no pre-concepts about what kind of art to expose and who the artists need to be. We're totally open. Of course we like young artists struggling to find a place, but sometimes people have some kind of necessity/expectancy that doesn't meet our possibilities so we're forced to refuse a
project. What we know is that out there, there are some very interesting ideas that need to be caught. Our ambition is to intercept these waves and make them public. That's our purpose. Of course we try to be influenced ourselves by this kind of movements of ideas, and if there is a mutual influence between the artists and Radar, this is the best.
A+T: What’s next for independent art spaces? Do you detect any emerging trends or tendencies and
where do you see RADAR in the next few years?
M.P: We don't know what is next, I hope there will be more and more people trying to do something in art - and architecture - starting with big passion instead of big capital. Sometimes if the goal is
only fame or money things are getting so boring and sterile. We try to stay away from tendencies.
We want to work only with what we feel is real. Sometimes a trendy artist can also be real and
interesting and that's great, but it's not like this very often. The problem with trends is that they
die so easily, while real passion and development are timeless.
For more information visit: http://www.radar-amsterdam.com/
Many thanks to Marco de Piaggi for this interview. All images are courtesy of Radar Gallery.
Copyright © Eleni Batsoula & art plus thought. All Rights Reserved