Temporary Museum Amsterdam

Concept, development and design of side program Amsterdam Art Fair, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

The Temporary Museum Amsterdam was the parallel programme to the annual art fair Art Amsterdam‭, ‬2006‭, ‬2007‭, 2008‭ and 2009. ‬The floor plan of this imaginary museum is the entire city and the halls are made up by Amsterdam’s most prominent art institutes‭, ‬like Stedelijk Museum‭, ‬Foam and Appel Arts Centre‭. ‬By means of design the imaginary becomes a temporal reality in an architecture that bears no walls‭, ‬but establishes connections and meaning‭. ‬Visitors of the art fair are provided with a free passe-partout that gives access to all‭ ‬“halls”‭ ‬of the Temporary Museum‭. ‬Each individual institute realizes extra programmes‭, ‬like debates‭, ‬openings‭, ‬performances‭, ‬guided tours‭, ‬dinners and parties‭. ‬Every edition an extended Temporary Museum guide came along‭, ‬including the programme‭, ‬a map and critical‭ ‬articles‭.

The concept and design of this project was developed by Annelys de Vet. The initiative was effected from 2006‭ ‬to 2009 at the request of and in cooperation with Art Amsterdam and the Foundation Art and Public Space‭ (‬SKOR‭). ‬It was generously supported by the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunsten.

Production: Anniek Vrij (’06), Bieneke Bennekers (’07, ’08), Rozanne Kraak (’06, ’07), Nynke Meijer (’09)
Typeface: ADAM by Anton Kovit
Graphic Design: Studio Annelys de Vet, Rianne Petter (’08), Sandberg Instituut Design Department (’09)
Acknowledgements: Anneke Oele, director Art Amsterdam


The first edition in 2006 the concept of the‭ ‬“city as a museum”‭ ‬was developed, together with a suitable design‭. ‬For the institutions it was the first time collaborating in this specific context‭. ‬So we all needed to figure out what this project potentially could be‭, ‬also within the given low budget‭. ‬As a result the focus was on the representation of the temporary museum‭. ‬The following editions there was more‭ ‬space‭, ‬also mentally‭, ‬to deepen the content of the event’s programme‭.

We started to think more and more what a project like the Temporary Museum means in a wider perspective‭. ‬How does it‭ ‬relate to art production‭? ‬What are the strategies behind presenting art‭? ‬How can design conceive new relationships‭? ‬How could graphics create an entity of a very fragmented reality‭? ‬What new perspectives can design offer‭? ‬These questions became starting points for additional programmes and design decisions‭.‬

temporary museum amsterdam 2007

Like the event‭, ‬the graphic design is based on the idea of temporariness and has three main‭ ‬“pillars”‭. ‬The map of the city‭, ‬with only the collaborating art institutions as landmarks including the routes in between‭, ‬forms the basis of the design‭. ‬Although it’s perfectly detailed‭, ‬it looks almost like a hand drawn sketch‭, ‬as if someone has drawn his dream‭. ‬All real facades of the institutions are hatched with white horizontal lines‭, ‬hand painted‭.

‬‬This is a strong eye-catcher and makes the visitor recognize immediately that he is still in the temporary museum‭. ‬At the same time this horizontal hatching is the strongest visual element in all graphics‭, ‬from the logo to posters and t-shirts‭. ‬Type-designer Anton Koovit specially developed the stencil typeface Adam‭, ‬which also became his graduation project for the master course‭ ‬“Type and Media”‭. ‬The type has a unique character and although with monumental elements‭, ‬it’s breading ephemerality‭. ‬All elements‭, ‬from logo to website‭, ‬from car to guide‭, ‬are in black and white‭. ‬

And where possible only untreated materials are used and environmentally friendly paper‭ — being critical in what and how much we can use for a temporary event‭.‬


It’s an extensive project‭, ‬because of its many elements‭, ‬collaborators‭, ‬institutions and media‭, ‬but at the same time only lasting for 5‭ ‬days‭. ‬So the design had to be clear and simple‭, ‬immediately recognizable‭, ‬able to be adjusted in very different circumstances‭ (‬like the facades of the institutions and the TMA-terrace on Art Amsterdam‭, ‬but also on posters‭, ‬as a logo and as a printed passe-partout‭).

‬Next to that‭, ‬parts of it needed also to be easily adapted by collaborating institutions‭ (‬imagine painting 15‭ ‬facades on your own‭) ‬and not to mention the fact that there wasn’t much budget to execute everything‭. ‬So much of the outcome is based on goodwill and enthusiasm of third parties‭. ‬


In 2009 ‬the Temporary Museum was not only connected to Art Amsterdam‭, ‬but also part of an art manifestation dedicated to the‭ ‬17th century Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza‭. ‬This edition was for the first time designed by a third party‭; ‬the Sandberg Institute’s master’s students‭. ‬Since January 2009‭ ‬Annelys de Vet is head of the design department there‭, ‬and collaborating in this project which formed an exceptional way to work together on an equal level and to get very deep into the project‭. ‬De Vet had to redefine her position‭, ‬which became‭ ‬more reflective‭, ‬and the students developed their own concept‭, ‬partly using the existing design-elements‭, ‬but made their own statement with it‭. ‬

‬Starting point for the research this year was Baruch de Spinoza‭, ‬who is said to have‭ ‬been the modern era’s first political thinker‭. ‬He called himself a democrat and openly expressed his preference for the democratic state‭. ‬According‭ ‬to him‭, ‬the true state is one that offers liberty to everyone‭, ‬even‭ ‬–‭ ‬or perhaps especially‭ ‬–‭ ‬those who think differently‭, ‬practice other religions or express conflicting ideas‭. ‬Some call Spinoza the founder of our democracy‭. ‬But is that democracy still stable today‭? ‬In a crisis‭, ‬such as the current financial one‭, ‬democracy is at its most vulnerable‭. ‬We can still vote‭, ‬speak freely and criticise the government‭, ‬but‭, ‬according to fascism expert Emilio Gentile‭ (‬NRC Handelsblad‭, ‬2‭ ‬October 2008‭), ‬nothing we think and say has any effect on what the government does‭. ‬“Many of the democratically elected leaders do not behave according to democratic principles‭. ‬They no longer have the moral authority to defend democracy‭.‬”‭ ‬In addition‭, ‬journalism‭, ‬out of the fear of losing attention‭, ‬becomes increasingly terse across the board‭. ‬“The breakneck pace that is the norm on TV means public debate is strongly determined by people who are willing and able to argue‭ ‬exclusively in sound bites‭,‬”‭ ‬says philosopher Rob Wijnberg‭ (‬NRC Handelsblad‭, ‬7‭ ‬March 2009‭). ‬Unambiguous‭, ‬decisive politicians are invited to speak more often than their more intellectual and nuanced colleagues‭. ‬“The unfortunate consequence is that the inclination to reflect diminishes in everyone‭,‬”‭ ‬

Art is perhaps the ideal domain of those who think differently‭, ‬of new ideas and untested forms‭. ‬In this view‭, ‬the field literally makes space for democracy‭. ‬This serves as the driving idea behind the design of the Temporary Museum Amsterdam 2009‭.‬

The students have responded to the contemporary hyper-democracy in which politicians increasingly use power quotes and make populist statements to constantly demand attention from the public‭. ‬In their designs‭, ‬the students highlight this tendency by lifting arresting sound bites from their contexts and replacing key words with‭ ‬“art”‭ ‬or‭ ‬“artist”‭. ‬The result is startling sentences linking the idea of freedom of expression with the domain of art‭. ‬Banners and posters graced‭ ‬the facades and entrances of contemporary art institutions in a temporary protest‭. ‬Those institutions reflected whit their side‭ ‬programme on the field of tension between art and democracy‭, ‬and organized extra events‭. ‬The TMA sound installation was audible‭ ‬at numerous spots‭, ‬with the latest international news processed through a filter‭. ‬Suddenly‭, ‬“Iraqi artists were in combat”‭. ‬Students also designed the TMA pass‭. ‬They knew immediately that it should take the form of a bag‭. ‬“The bag gives you free entry to all the institutions‭, ‬which means that‭, ‬in a sense‭, ‬visitors are forced to carry it around‭, ‬and‭ ‬therefore identify with the power quote on the bag‭,‬”‭ ‬explains one of the students‭. ‬“There’s hardly any choice‭. ‬We treat the visitors in the same way that politicians treat democracy‭. ‬We force them to carry the bag‭ ‬–‭ ‬otherwise‭, ‬they can’t get into the special taxi cars‭, ‬or go to the institutions or parties for free‭.‬”‭

‬Altogether‭, ‬the design became a unique one that evinces an ineffable tension‭. ‬The students’‭ ‬approach made the design real and unreal at the same time‭, ‬both serious and at the edge of irony‭, ‬political and beyond the political‭. ‬It was a tension no designer could have achieved alone‭; ‬its power lies in the sum of the different mentalities‭. ‬The dialogue between the students continued in the design‭. ‬It constituted a discussion about‭ ‬‘democratic space’‭ ‬as well as an invitation for visitors to look at art in this context and to take the conversation forward‭. ‬In this decade of crisis‭, ‬it is particularly important to emphasize what art and design can mean for public discourse and thereby for democratic culture‭.‬

Annelys de Vet