The City of Amsterdam is building the North-South line, a metro line joining the northern, central and southern parts of the city. It will be ready in 2018. In all the metro stations, artworks will be commissioned. Art distinguishes each station, it makes waiting more agreeable and it has a positive impact on the atmosphere. But above all, art on the go creates an encounter with the unexpected.
In 2012, QKunst was commissioned by the City of Amsterdam to take on the artistic guidance of the art for the North-South line. This entails formulating starting points, selecting artists and guiding the artistic process from design to delivery. QKunst is the link between the artists, the city council, the building contractor, the advisory committee and the architect.
Eight monumental works of art, some of them 200 metres wide, will be installed simultaneously. Mostly integrated in the architecture of Benthem Crouwel Architects, on the wall or on the floor. The artists were asked to translate the direct environment in their art design. Each from a different point of view: from neighbourhood to the world.
QKunst was also asked to do research for a display concept for the artworks in the East metro line, that is currently being renovated.
The North-South line will bring the typical Dutch landscape as it can be found North of Amsterdam closer to the city and easier to access. The artists were therefore asked to take this into consideration in their design. They ought to bring that feeling into the mostly newly built area where their work will be featured. Harmen Liemburg‘s (1966) design was chosen.
In his design, Liemburg tells a visual story about the area north of Amsterdam, from the viewpoint of the birds. He finds inspiration in the shapes of our daily environment, but also in cartography and historical sources. The drawing will be laid in the platform floor and encompasses the whole middle area of the platform, over a length of almost 180 metres. In doing so, it enters a dialogue with the unusual roof of the station.
Several characteristics come together around Noorderpark Station: the working class neighbourhoods on both sides of the station are typical for the hamlets located a little further; part of the creative industry, on the rise in Noord, is at walking distance; two of the many parks in Noord lie on both sides of the station. Enlarging, translating, visualising or adding characteristics that are typical for Noord was therefore the starting point of the commission.
Artistic duo Persijn Broersen (1974) and Margit Lukács (1973) marks the first station in Noord with a monumental work of art. A series of gates in different building stadia embodies a time travel from The Evening Country Amsterdam to the future, The Morning Country in Noord. Illuminated by night, the gates will form a theatre décor giving access to another world.
‘Make a contemporary image story as a counterpart to Cuypers decorations’, that was artist Jennifer Tee‘s (1973) assignment for the entrance area of the Central Station. Indeed, the entrance area is located exactly below the 1889 façade by Cuypers. The façade gives an impression of the position of Amsterdam in the world at the time, with international coats of arms and allegories of trade and travel.
For the entrance hall, Tee designed a palepai made of tulips, bringing two elements together: the tulip, the world famous Dutch icon, and the ‘palepai’, big woven ship cloths from the south of Sumatra with the representation of a ship. The Sumatrian palepai bears witness of the long and rich trading history of the Dutch, Chinese, Javanese, Arabs and Portuguese. The main theme is a ship filled with human figures, animals and a spar turning into a tree of life.
The colourful tapestry is laid in strokes of dried tulip leaves, 100.000 in total. The ship contains symbols and elements of (recent) Amsterdam history: historical lanterns of the Damrak, station clocks by Cuypers, the North-South Line as a walk of life, the Amsterdam lion.
The metro hall is also called ‘the cathedral’, because of the height and monumental pillars. Flemish video artist David Claerbout (1969) immediately thought of Mondriaan when he saw the location for the artwork. He then made a parallel between the painter’s early landscapes and the lines in the landscape north of Amsterdam. This is also where he found the connection for the extensive art location.
Claerbout is working on a digital film about a strongly compositional landscape that is constantly visible on screen. The film is a weather engine: metro users see what kind of weather they can expect the next day around the same time. Within this world lives a character that is constantly taking care of the landscape. The actions and routines form a parallel with the travellers’ routine. Claerbout asked the public for input for this part of the work during a special brainstorming session.
Rokin Station is located where Amsterdam originated. The 700.000 archaeological finds that emerged during the drillings tell us a lot about the River Amstel, that long served as giant bin for the city. How to give the hasty traveller a feel of the city history at a glance? Artistic duo Daniel Dewar (1976) and Grégory Gicquel (1975), together with city archeologist Jerzy Gawronski, found an answer: the objects will be displayed in two monumental installations next to the escalators, organised according to use, as a reflection of the city.
In dialogue with the installations, Dewar and Gicquel designed art for the platform walls. The more than life sized contemporary objects they created on the wall tell a light-hearted, short story as a link between the contemporary city at street level and the historical city underground. On the platform of Rokin Station, travellers will be face to face with an alligator, a giant frog and a pair of dice, among others. Apparently randomly chosen, like the stream of images that glides past us on the internet on a daily basis.
On 23 March 2017, there was a preview of the artwork for the walls with introductions by the artists Dewar and Giquel and Jerzy Gawronski. The latter and Véronique Baar gave a lecture that same day in the Allard Pierson Museum about the realisation of the artwork and the exchange between art and archeology.
The entrepreneurial and artistic inhabitants of Amsterdam play an important part in the rich cultural past and present that is reflected in the area of Vijzelgracht Station. A public wish was fulfilled with the Shaffy Art Project, for which artists could register. The project honours Ramses Shaffy (1933-2009), a popular Dutch singer and actor, who lived in the neighbourhood for a ling time. Selected artists were challenged to place Shaffy’s role in a broader context.
Marjan Laaper (1971) won the contest. In her design, she makes a connection between Ramses Shaffy’s life and our own life paths. The LED-light lines light up slowly into a portrait of Ramses Shaffy. Each line stands for a person that was important in Shaffy’s life. Every line represents a person that was important in Shaffy’s life and every junction symbolises an important event in his live. The LED lines light up in different combinations and shapes every time, to form into a portrait of Ramses Shaffy. When the lines are ‘under construction’, a parellel with the metro network arises.
On 8 December 2016, there was a preview of the artwork in the presence of amongst others the project initiators, Nigaio Wijnen and Rob Jansma, and jury members Jeroen Krabbé and Liesbeth List.
De Pijp Station is in the middle of one of Amsterdam’s most beloved neighbourhoods: De Pijp. Artist Amalia Pica (1978) looked for its determining characteristics and translated those to a design for the entrances of the station and the long wall in the entrance hall. Pica, who lived in De Pijp for a while herself, lets the colourful character of the neighbourhood literally flow into the station. She didn’t want an artwork that would force itself upon the traveller, but one that would be key to the atmosphere and show restraint at the same time.
In her previous work, Pica connected several people together by making them hold a garland of coloured flags. After being drenched in water, these same flags later lost their colorant to a broad paper sheet. In Vijzelgracht Station, Pica wants to give the impression that the neighbourhood’s colours sink into the building in the same way. The colours are added to the glass tiles of the entrance hall, becoming part of the station’s skin. The flags will appear in the entrance areas of the station in an abstract form.
For Europaplein Station, Gerald van der Kaap (1959) started working on a design that would strongly influence the atmosphere in the station and refer to the international character of the station, which leads to the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. One sentence from a travel dictionary forms the starting point of Van der Kaap’s design for Europaplein Station: I want a permanent wave / Ich möchte gern eine Dauerwelle / Ik wil graag een permanent. Van der Kaap uses these sentences in his performances as a VJ. He found them in an old travel dictionary. They are exemplary for the different interpretations of language.
When Van der Kaap performs as a VJ, he mixes a great number of images. He uses the same technique for Europaplein Station, but the images seem to have clotted. The design’s rhythm is dictated by the sentence I want a permanent wave and a film-like scenario. On the northern side of the platform wall we see a man, on the southern side a woman. For a short moment they meet in a Brief Encounter. Van der Kaap’s artwork is integrated in the glass tiles of the station.
Zuid Station lies above the ground and is the only already existing station of the North-South line. Only platforms and access gates have yet to be built. Many tramlines and trains will come together here, including the high-speed line (HSL). There will also be a regional bus station. An expected 75.000 passengers will use Zuid Station daily.
Zuid Station will be a traffic, business and science hub; a mobility, power and knowledge centre in the Netherlands. Zuid Station has not been designed yet. The selection of artists will therefore take place later.