In the late 1990s, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts commissioned the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt to design works of art on Markenplein, Februariplein and Koeriersterplein. However, the designs are not classified as art in public spaces. In this project, we tried to understand the government's perspectives and those of other parties involved in this policymaking. Besides political factors, opinions from neighbours play an important role, and surveys and interviews were conducted to collect them. So far, we are still collecting information from various parties, and some tasks need to be done in the future.
An Outdoor Sol LeWitt
Sol LeWitt, an American conceptual artist, had been creating drawings on walls since 1968, but he also designed floors. Around the 1990s, Amsterdam was going through a city renovation. A building project was conducted between Valkenburgerstraat and Rapengurgerstraat, including the squares. Along with this project, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts commissioned Sol LeWitt to design three floors of Markenplein, Februariplein, and Koeriersterplein. The artwork was titled "Irregular Star ".
Current Issue and the Empathising Phase
Stadscuratorium Amsterdam brought the case with the following issue: the irregular polygon paving is now due for maintenance. However, they are not considered art in public spaces by the Municipality.
We first tried to map out all the possible stakeholders and identify their relation to the squares. Stadscuratorium Amsterdam, Municipality, and the adjacent neighbours were included in the map. Besides those mentioned above, we were told that Sol LeWitt’s former assistant lives in one of the squares. Knowing this, we immediately included him in the stakeholders’ map because he was involved in the designing process and, we believed, emotionally connected to the work deeply as one who witnessed the work alive from paper.
After mapping out the possible stakeholders, we attempted to list their perspectives, wishes, and goals. Stadscuratorium Amsterdam needs to find out how to clean and preserve the work because the pavings are due to maintenance. They also need a way to raise the neighbours’ awareness about the work. On the other hand, neighbours need a way to understand the current situation. As for the Municipality, we barely have any information from them but only know that the negotiation of classifying the squares as public art is ongoing.
At this moment, each group seemed to have only one side of the story, which also applied to us. For example, we barely know the Municipality’s decision-making process and the neighbours’ opinions. In the next phase, we attempt to formulate some actions to acquire more information from the parties involved and transmit information between them.
How might we gather information from different parties involved (the Municipality, Stadscuratorium, neighbours) for each of them so that they can better understand each other’s perspectives? After brainstorming ideas, we devised several actions that would be carried out with different groups. We formed a question list together with Stadscuratorium and sent it to the gebiedsmakelaar. An on-the-street survey was conducted to collect neighbours’ opinions. Flyers with QR codes for the survey were also distributed. An interview was carried out with the former assistant.
Advice and Transfer
So far, we had a few responses, but many still need to be collected. Perspectives from other specialities, such as art historians, could be put on the contact list as well. For example, the curator of the Sol LeWitt exhibition (till March 2024 at the Joods Museum) can address the historical and aesthetic value of the paving patterns. Staff in dagelijks bestuur stadsdeel centrum could also be put into the list.
The complexity of public art needs no explanation. It is important to understand how the government formulated the policy and how the system operates, especially since the structure was decentralised. This will help to accelerate operational efficiency across the government and other parties when a maintenance issue ensues in the future.
Infographic of the project
List of Figures Fig.1-3 Photo: Ju Ying Lin, 29/11/2023 Fig.5 Photo: Ju Ying Lin, 03/12/2023 Fig.6 Photo: Nicole Vassallo, 03/12/2023 Fig.7 Photo: Alice Mezzetti, 04/12/2023