In Amsterdam, Art Is Therapy


As I sit here in transit, in the library at Schipol Airport, my mind wanders back to the last time I was in Amsterdam, and not in transit. It was my maiden European adventure and I intended to make great use of it. Since travel is a journey not only for the body, but also for the mind and soul, I meant to use this trip to rekindle connections as well as indulge in culture and the arts. Amsterdam was the last of a tour of two cities.

A truly cosmopolitan city with wonderful people, plenty of bicycles, wonderful beer and a fantastical cycle of unending museum exhibitions. A true arts and culture galore!

Amsterdam has set a new tone for itself as a throwback to that time when art was ambitious enough to change lives, and inspire change in a person. As you walk about, you cannot help but notice the presence of exhibitions, temporary or permanent, just about everywhere. Vondelpark, in a space of an hour offered an open air theatre, random material installations, and unplanned tree climbing!

Open Air Theatre

Alien Brain

African Tree Climbing Lions

This got me rather excited for the museums. Queue the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, and Van Gogh museums.

As luck would have it, the first exhibition I went to was “Art is Therapy” at the Rijksmuseum. A wonderful curation inspired by Visual Healing, by one of my favorite philosophers, Alain de Botton, and John Armstrong. The goal is to raise - and then answer in a distinctive way - the question of what the purpose of art really is. Mostly to propose that art can be looked to, and enjoyed for, its powerful therapeutic effect. In their own words:

Art is Therapy

This exhibitions had plenty of fantastic paintings and pieces but here’s a few of those that stood out to me:

The White Swan A Scholar Man wooing lady A modern family. Then. Correctional Facility Officers

The next day, I sauntered on to the Stedelijk museum, which prides as the largest museum of modern and contemporary art and design in the Netherlands. It is huge, and now with world renowned collections, experimental exhibitions and engaging public programs, since moving into the new museum building. Some of the pieces I found intriguing:

Strawberry Fields Forever Magical Stationary Device Outgrowths Linking scales Diabolical Chainsaw Erotica Boat Spark's toy

What was most exciting, but equally draining was how open each and every piece was to one’s interpretation. My thoughts were lukewarm at best, and remained unspoken. However, situations like these help one appreciate beauty in the unknown, or un-understood.

I highly recommend that anyone travel to Amsterdam, if not for the canals and coffeeshops, then for the art and culture. Looking forward to the next time.