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  • Writer's pictureMoorea Hall-Aquitania, MA

A Brief History of the Moco Museum in Amsterdam

What is the Moco Museum?

The Moco Museum exhibits modern and contemporary art from celebrated artists such as Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tracey Emin and Yayoi Kusama.

Moco Museum

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Moco Museum History

The Modern Contemporary (or Moco) Museum is an independent venue that shares the Museumplein with the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and Van Gogh Museums, albeit within a slightly smaller building. The Moco’s collection, housed in an early-20th-century villa, presents a wide range of modern, contemporary and street art, including work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and others. The museum’s mission is to attract broader and younger audiences and make modern and contemporary art more accessible to the public.

Moco Amsterdam opened in 2016, founded by Lionel and Kim Logchies, the owners of the Lionel Gallery here in Amsterdam. The opening exhibition was Banksy’s ‘Laugh Now’, which included iconic works by the British street artist including Laugh Now, Barcode, Girl with Balloon, Kids on Guns, Love is in the Air (Flower Thrower) and Kate Moss. The exhibition has since become permanent, and the museum has acquired the reputation of being the unofficial home of Banksy’s work. Aside from this, Moco Amsterdam has a permanent Moco Masters collection, with ongoing exhibitions like the digital immersive ‘Reflecting Forward: In Search of Connectivism’ by Studio Irma, and temporary shows such as JR’s ‘Can Art Change the World?’ and ‘The Future is Old’ by THE KID. The museum has a staple programme of shows alongside new installations, so you can be confident that you’ll see certain pieces whenever you go.

Moco Amsterdam is based in the historic Villa Alsberg, a townhouse designed in the early 20th century by Eduard Cuypers, nephew of the designer of the Amsterdam Centraal train station and the Rijksmuseum, Pierre Cuypers. The house remained in private ownership until 1939, when it housed priests who taught at the Saint Nicholas School, and later became the offices of a law firm before being converted into a museum. In October 2021, Moco Barcelona opened its doors to the public in the Palacio Cervelló in El Born, not far from the Picasso Museum. Both Moco locations are historic buildings (Palacio Cervelló dating back to the 16th century) once occupied by merchants, royals, aristocrats, and other members of the privileged elite. Moco stresses that the repurposing of these formerly exclusive spaces into public museums fulfils one of its primary aims.

The Moco Garden collection is easily recognisable to those who have passed the villa whilst walking between the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk and Van Gogh Museums – the giant red Gummy Bear by WhIsBe and the Freaky Mouse by Fidia are particularly memorable. When you enter the garden, you’ll find further pieces like Banksy’s Heart Boy and KAWS’s Companion (Passing Through) along with a rotating programme of temporary displays. Perhaps most exciting, especially for children, is that some of the works in the outdoor collection are meant to be touched and interacted with, such as Marcel Wanders’ Portrait – a large cork egg to which visitors can add ‘wish pins’. The Moco caters to its audience by offering a mix of photo-worthy backdrops and big-name pieces that will delight fans of contemporary art.

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