about the oude kerk

Laurence Ostyn Nieuws

The Oude Kerk – or Old Church – in Amsterdam’s Red Light District officially became a museum in 2016. Since 2012 it has given a prominent place to contemporary art. The Oude Kerk is a commissioner of large-scale, site-specific installations. It realizes artists’ ideas on a scale that has never been seen before in the Netherlands. This makes the Oude Kerk one of the most important commissioners of work by living artists. On the basis of its heritage, as a church consecrated in 1306 where art and the formulation of ideas were daily bread, the Oude Kerk takes identity and collective memory as the points of departure for its programme. With this programme it wants to encourage reflection and discussion in our rapidly changing society. Following an extensive restoration between 1955 and 2013, the Oude Kerk has been presenting itself as a historical monument with contemporary art.

In the space of three years, the Oude Kerk has evolved into an ambitious commissioner of international artists, such as Tony Oursler, Taturo Atzu and Christian Boltanski, for exceptional projects with a special relationship to the historical location, from radical interventions to reverential tributes. The Oude Kerk’s way of working is highly distinct from what is happening elsewhere in the city, both in the fields of contemporary art and heritage.

the interplay of history and the present day
With its contemporary art programme, in which the emphasis is on interhistoricity(interconnecting various eras), the Oude Kerk investigates the former, current and future meanings of the church and its dynamic environs. The Oude Kerk’s history, cultural-historical properties and architecture are regarded as a constant; the art forms the discontinuous aspect that questions and reconsiders. In the Oude Kerk, art historians and historians work together on high-profile and high-impact presentations.

restoring heritage
Every year intensive maintenance and restoration programs contribute to the preservation of this ancient monument. On 11 May 2019, the restoration of the organ will be completed, and the Vater-Müller Organ (1726) will be festively put into use with a large charity gala for 1000 people with performances by Philip Glass and Nicolás Jaar. Due to the donation from the government, it is possible in 2018/19 to carry out a number of important restorations in the Oude Kerk, such as the restoration of pews, painted wallpaper and front porches. From 2018 onwards, a number of side rooms, that were not previously open to the public, are accessible. Here you find a selection from the collection of the Oude Kerk. A number of paintings have recently been restored and are now on display in the extensive presentation entitled Meer Oude Kerk.

immaterial collection
The Oude Kerk has been officially registered as a museum since 2016. The collection of 200 paintings and about 500 objects is supplemented every year with the immaterialworks of the artists who exhibit here. Such as Gothic Gesturesby Marinus Boezem, for which he had about 40 women embroider the Oude Kerk’s floor plan on a piece of linen measuring 10 by 10 metres during his exhibition in 2016, or the performance ‘..’ by Germaine Kruip, which was embodied as an audio work on the Great Organ before its restoration.

a hotly discussed programme
Every year the Oude Kerk presents two large-scale, highly significant exhibitions:

  • in summer (May-August) around the concept of time
  • in winter (November-April) around the concept of space

A recent selection:
2013 Julianne Swartz, 2014 Tony Oursler, 2015 Taturo Atzu,
2016 Germaine Kruip,
2017 Marinus Boezem, 2018 Christian Boltanski, 2018 Giorgio Andreotta Calò.

Every first Friday of the month there is an early morning concerttitled Silence, starting at 8:00 a.m. Music curator Jacob Lekkerkerker challenges composers, sound artists and musicians to create new work that resonates in the centuries-old building.

An intensive public programmewith lectures, performances, school projects and film screenings questions the current significance of heritage. The pivotal idea here is the fact that the Oude Kerk and its almost eight centuries of history is not frozen in time; history is being made now, too. Our time adds to the centuries of history and leaves new stories, myths and perhaps even legends behind. Radna Rumping is curating the series Come Closer.

As the church seems to be a pars pro toto for sensitivities in society, the projects in the Oude Kerk can regularly count on social critique. The constant challenge is to proceed from this and enter into a meaningful discussion about the world around us.

The Oude Kerk welcomes about 150,000 visitors per year, of which roughly half come from abroad and the other half from Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. The projects in the Oude Kerk attract a predominantly national and local public. This ranks the Oude Kerk as number ten on the list of museums in Amsterdam.
The Oude Kerk receives structural support through the City of Amsterdam’s Arts and Culture Memorandum (Kunstenplan). In addition, it depends on project-specific contributions from foundations, sponsors and private parties. The Oude Kerk is a cultural ANBI (public benefit organization, similar to a charity).
The price of admission to the Oude Kerk is €10.00. The Museumjaarkaart pass is valid for all exhibitions.

about Jacqueline Grandjean
Jacqueline Grandjean (b. Nijmegen, 1968) has been Director of the Oude Kerk since 2012. She studied media and the history of art at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), was a curator at the Amsterdam Museum, and artistic director of an office for cultural innovation. From 2008 to 2012 she served as the founding director of Huize Frankendael in Amsterdam-East, developing this historical country house into a manorial home for contemporary art.
Heritage and art are extensions of each other. Grandjean sees it as her mission to interconnect these by presenting heritage as well as contemporary culture and prompting a discourse: “The strength of art in the Oude Kerk is to view time and space from historical as well as contemporary perspectives. The programme offers both artists and visitors opportunities to investigate cultural meaning. From the past we understand the present. From the present, past and future acquire their significance.”