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  • Writer's pictureMoorea Hall-Aquitania, MA

A Brief History of the Street Art Museum (SAMA) in Amsterdam

What is SAMA?

The Street Art Museum of Amsterdam (or SAMA) is a contemporary eco-museum in Nieuw-West formed from over 300 brilliant street artworks.

SAMA History

The Street Art Museum of Amsterdam is an open-air, community-based contemporary eco-museum first established in 2012. It’s composed of over 300 street artworks dispersed throughout four kilometres of the Nieuw-West neighbourhood. You can pay for a regular ticket that includes a two-hour guided tour of the collection by a researcher, or opt for a basic ticket, which functions more like a treasure hunt based on a map provided by the museum. While the artworks are in the public domain, and thus freely visible to anyone, the museum emphasises that the tour and map function give a deeper understanding of the collection and help fund the creation and protection of the street art.

SAMA’s mission is to use street art as a social tool for enhancing the development of the local community. Artists are given residence arrangements, and the local economy is stimulated as residents are offered work as tour guides or support crew for events. The collection includes pieces by internationally acclaimed street artists such as El Pez, Bastardilla, Stinkfish, Orticanoodles, Btoy and Kenor as well as local artists such as TeamBlazin and Bunny Brigade. The SAMA collection is visible daily to the local population, who live among these site-based artworks, and brings income and recognition to the neighbourhood via its tours and educational programme. In addition to the site-specific nature of the street art, SAMA aims to make the collection visible to an even wider audience by eventually creating a free online catalogue that will bring the Nieuw-West artworks to an international public.

The collection ranges from 150-metre-high artworks covering the sides of buildings to ten-centimetre pieces that visitors often need a guide to point out to them. Some notable works include the unmissable Smile by Stinkfish, Btoy’s lifelike Superwoman, the fairy-tale imagery of Spring Offering by Skount and Pau, and Glory by El Pez and Danny Recal, an enormous depiction of Johannes Vermeer’s famous Milkmaid framed by a crowd of grinning, colourful South American birds. Many of the pieces deal with themes of immigration, inclusion and environmental justice. The collection was systematically created with the aim of changing perceptions about the area and to draw visitors to it – the artworks in the SAMA collection are all paid for by their NGO, with the goal of stimulating and supporting the artists. Not all artworks remain in situ; the museum also catalogues works that are now gone as intangible cultural heritage. The mission is to protect and document rather than institutionalise and commercialise public art.

While the museum has no formal exhibition space, it does have a headquarters, as well as wings in Schiphol, Amsterdam Oud-West, and Sloterdijk. Complicated legal issues surrounding street art mean that the gallery does not give tours in the city centre, where street art is illegal and strictly temporary. Instead, SAMA focuses on the spaces and community of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, and here you’ll find both a lesser-known area of the city and a treasure trove of street art, whether you choose to visit with a map or a museum guide.

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