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  • Writer's pictureMoorea Hall-Aquitania, MA

A Brief History of Foam (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam)

What is Foam?

The Foam photography museum (also known as Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) is an International photography museum in Amsterdam with a focus on making the medium accessible to all.

foam sign amsterdam

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Foam Museum History

The Foam photography museum is located on the Keizersgracht canal at number 609, just around a bend in the canal from the city’s other major photography museum, the Huis Marseille. Foam resides in three historic, adjoining canalside buildings and hosts two to four exhibitions at a time with an average of 16 shows throughout the year. It aims to present all aspects of contemporary photography to the public. The mixture of centuries-old architectural details with more modern glass and steel elements inside gives the museum an energetic, studio-like atmosphere. The Foam organisation hosts international events, exhibitions, debates and educational projects, and publishes its own magazine. By running multiple smaller exhibitions simultaneously, Foam allows viewers to compare world-famous photographers with newcomers to the field.

However, it’s not the first museum to reside in this building. In the 1860s, the entrepreneur and art collector Carel Joseph Fodor, whose money came from the coal trade, left the warehouse Keizersgracht 609 and his extensive art collection (then worth two million guilders) to the city of Amsterdam on condition that the building was turned into Museum Fodor. His wishes were honoured and the museum opened its doors in 1863. In 1993, however, it was dissolved and the collection was split between the Stedelijk Museum and the Amsterdam Museum.

The Dutch Design Institute moved into the building from 1994 until 2001, when Foam took over. After its inaugural exhibition Dutch Delight in 2001, it closed for a year so that the architects Benthem Crouwel could update the building. Foam reopened the following summer with the exhibition Regie: Paul Huf.

Foam aims to cultivate new talent in photography and does so through multiple avenues. Alongside rotating international exhibitions, it has a dedicated project space called Foam 3h, where recent photography graduates are invited to display their work. The annual Foam Talent Call searches for exceptional photographers between the ages of 18 and 40 and gives them a platform in Foam Magazine, whilst the Foam Paul Huf Award is given every year to a photographer under the age of 35 and consists of a €20,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition in the museum. All this new energy is balanced and contrasted with exhibitions showcasing the work of established artists in the field like Santu Mofokeng and Alex Prager as well as retrospective shows such as Brassaï or Vivian Maier – Works in Colour.

The layout of the museum is often described as labyrinthine, which means you might need to wander off course or double back to catch everything. After your meandering walk, the Foam Café offers a place to rest between exhibits with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. The museum also hosts a gallery, Foam Editions, where you can purchase limited-edition signed prints from young photographers. Further prints, postcards and publications can be found in the bookshop, and to enjoy some greenery and sunshine there is a lush garden behind the museum where you can admire your purchases and reflect on the cutting-edge photography featured in the galleries.

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