NDSM Wharf: An Art Haven

On Sunday, the weather was drizzly, cold and rainy.

We grabbed the free ferry to NDSM Wharf, an artistic space with an industrial history. Long story short, in the 19th century, it started off as Amsterdam’s largest shipyard. As shipbuilding declined in the late 1900’s, so did NDSM (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij, or Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company) until it was eventually bought by Amsterdam-Noord.

Since then, it had been converted into an art haven, a home for creatives.


The original structures remained: the cranes, docks, warehouses, slipways. But they had been revitalized. Now, there were galleries, homes, company headquarters, street art.

There was a massive warehouse turned into an art community, called Art City. In the center of Art City was, what we later found out, an art demonstration of Ukrainian women against the war. As the director cried out instructions, the group of women, dressed in all-black, posed accordingly.


Around the warehouse were artist studios, all housed in old shipping containers. Posters, paintings, sculptures, displays. I felt a twinge of envy. I wished I had a space to make art. With nowhere to store canvases, I had shifted mostly to digital art. But it’s different, working with physical mediums vs. a screen.

Upstairs, there was a gallery dedicated to insects and nature and AI. One of the bug drawings reminded me of Gregor Samsa and what I remembered to be the first line of The Metamorphosis: Gregor Samsa woke up to find that he had turned into a giant bug. Something like that. It was very direct. I’d appreciated how Frank had gotten immediately to the point. I told this to le beau, who knows Kafka mostly from engineering, and he gave a little smile.

We left the art gallery and went to the grocery store. The moment we walked outside, guess who passed by? Flower bike man! We blinked. Right at that moment, too. Later we looked him up online, and saw that he was famous. His story was widely known – he and his wife had moved to Amsterdam from Florida, but she now suffered from epilepsy, and he was raising funds to help her. He made and sold flower bikes.

After a brief visit to the grocery store, where I grabbed some snacks, we went to Straat, a street art museum. It was housed in a former ship shed of 8000 m2 with towering graffiti works. The artists, I later read, came from all over the world – 150 works by 130+ artists.

Upstairs, on the café balcony, we took in the sights, munched on sandwiches, and set out to view the art. At the entrance, the exhibit posed an interesting question: is it still street art if it’s no longer on the street?

The last exhibit was my favorite. It was interactive. Le beau discovered that, if you tapped parts of the wall, it broke out into song. I spent the next ten minutes tapping this wall, leaping from one side to the other. I must have dropped my glove doing so, because I left with only one. When I returned, a kind attendant helped me locate it: someone had picked my glove up and left it on the door.

The ferry arrived right as we showed up.

On the ferry, I noticed a flock of seagulls following us. I tossed snack crumbs, which egged on the crowd of seagulls, who religiously trailed behind us – twenty or thirty of them. They flapped in the rain, hungry for potato chips.

Category: Trips


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