SMART art centre in former laboratory
If you are visiting the SMART Project Space in Amsterdam for the first time, make sure you take a printed map with you. Even though the spacious art centre is located just a breath away from Vondelpark, small streets and paths make it a bit tricky to spot. However, once you drop by the former Pathological Anatomical Laboratory where it is located, you will visit it again and again.
The SMART Project Space seems to be one of the best cultural places for expats not only due to the fact that their promotional material is in English (despite the criticism), but also because their activities are targeting the English speaking community. Una Henry, Creative Director, is an expat herself and admits that even after 16 years, her Dutch language skills are not perfect.
From one exhibition to another
"Rather than having programmers, we work with artists directly. The artists are programming everything for us," says Una Henry when asked to describe the SMART Project Space.
That explains the idea of their last project, which was prepared by Russian collective Chto Delat? (What is to be done?). For three months, numerous Russian contemporary artists from Saint-Petersburg stayed in Amsterdam and developed an exhibition which combines visual art, films, statistics, collection of clothes as a story about migrants and debate. They even invited their friends "Etcetera..." from Argentina to prepare the exhibition "From the Relative Truth to the Absolute Error!" that Amsterdammers can enjoy right now.
In May, Argentinians will give their place to four international young artists from Rotterdam and Amsterdam, who have been shortlisted for the Dutch state visual arts prize (Prix de Rome 2011) and in September, the space will host another expat, the Amsterdam-based, British artist and musician Nathaniel Mellors, who will create a dynamic exhibition of his art combined with 18th century paintings.
Back to the past
What makes the SMART Project Space even more special is its changing environment; this building - just like the last two SMART locations - used to be a laboratory!
"We were asked to be pioneers in different areas, we were asked to go north and also way west, but we did not want to go that far," remembers Una Henry and reveals that back in 2004 the current location was not considered as close to the city centre as it is now.
After moving for the third (and hopefully last) time, the former laboratory has changed quite a lot, although visitors may still sense a feeling of being in a "special place," especially when one notices the huge doors downstairs that lead to a chapel, a small cinema and the toilets.
Next time, when you watch a film, see an exhibition, attend one of the special events or just sip a cup of coffee in the cafe, imagine what was happening in these premises. Say, 50 years ago?