Moco Museum Review: Banksy, Yayoi Kusama and the Power of Contemporary Art

Moco Museum building in Amsterdam The Netherlands

This article has been written as part of a paid campaign with Moco Museum. All opinions remain my own: I’ve been in the museum before and would wholeheartedly recommend it. 

Today I’m bringing you along with me to the Moco Museum of modern contemporary art, one of the key museums in Amsterdam’s cultural scene. It’s very well known for its exhibition of Banksy, but there are actually many other wonderful artists displayed in the museum. If you’re looking for more information on the museum art, prices and reasons to visit, read on. 

When Moco Museum reached out, I was very excited. Moco is the kind of museum that has something to offer to anyone, whether you’re into photography, modern art or just exploring the city. In fact, I recommend it as a starting point in my alternative Amsterdam guide.  It is hard to believe it’s only been three years since Moco Museum opened its doors on the biggest cultural spot in Amsterdam, the Museumplein. In that short time, it has managed to break out into the art scene. That means a lot when you’re surrounded by such giants as the neighboring Stedelijk, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum.

Banksy cops in the field art in Moco Museum

You will easily find the museum at the side of the Museumplein. Moco is located in a beautiful mansion Villa Alsberg which was designed in 1904 by Eduard Cuypers. Modern Contemporary Museum, better known as Moco, is privately owned and uses an exhibition format. There are different artists featured in the museum, depending on the month. The art is either on loan from private owners or exhibited with permission and participation from the artists. 

Moco’s exhibition constantly changes as they bring works by recognized artists from all around the world. One constant in their lineup up to this moment is their collection of Banksy works. 

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Moco’s Banksy collection

Banksy mural in Moco Museum with quote If Graffiti changed anything it would be illegal

The works that are on display in Moco are on loan from private collectors who have commissioned his art. The museum makes an effort to continuously seek out new works and display favorites. Here you will find different variations of Banksy’s most famous works such as the Balloon Girl, and other artwork in Banksy’s transformative style.

There are several works where Banksy took old classic pastoral paintings and spray painted them, creating a layover image. The result is a re-imagined art piece, such as Banksy’s Home Sweet Home, which is one of my favorites in the entire museum.

Everything Banksy creates reflects back on modern society, and it plays a lot on the contrast between the things we admire and the things we typically don’t tend to see. I found the other artists exhibited in Moco somewhat share this approach. For example, there’s Daniel Arsham whose works I especially loved. 

Daniel Arsham in Moco Museum (18 January 2019 until 30 September 2019)

Daniel Arsham calcified room in Moco Museum Amsterdam

Arsham’s art was my favorite part of the collection. In his work, he delivers unusual combinations of materials in a strange context. For example, walls that bend, or the calcified living room filled with furniture, as shown on the photo above. The room is an interesting take on natural elements, such as the eruption of Pompeii. It was inspired by Arsham’s own experience with the elements.

Yayoi Kusama in Moco Museum (22 March to 30 September 2019)

Yayoi Kusama exhibition in Moco Museum Amsterdam: polka dot pumpkins

Another great exhibition that is on display in Moco right now is the art of Yayoi Kusama. In celebration of Yayoi Kusama’s 90th birthday, Moco displayed her famous polka-dot infused art, complete with her signature pumpkin paintings. 

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Moco Masters

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This exhibition focuses on the signature artists of the era, like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst. It was very interesting to learn more about the relationships between these artists, and I think the audio tour really helped with getting background information, especially for people who aren’t in the scene and are seeing those names for the very first time. Which leads me to my next point…

What if I don’t get modern art? Is it worth it?

Moco is a modern contemporary art museum. If I had to summarize the entire museum collection in one word, I would say “evocative”. It feels as if the whole purpose of the art is to make you think, question, and mull over different interpretations. But also, it’s just incredibly beautiful and visually pleasing. There’s always elements of interactive art and installations you can touch or imagine yourself as a part of.

The Roy Lichtenstein 3D room, for example. It’s such a fun re-imagining of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles painting in a pop art style. Or the new Crystal Cavern by Daniel Arsham.

Daniel Arsham Crystal Cavern installation in Moco Museum

If you’d like some additional commentary, you can take advantage of the audio tour which costs 2,5 EUR. The audio tour completes the ensemble quite well and often crosses with the information placards about individual artwork. There was some useful background information on the Moco Masters exhibition, giving you a bit of historical background on the artists and their outlook on life. The commentary explores possible interpretations of the ideas that the artists wanted to convey. It doesn’t push the interpretation on you, though, leaving you to make your own mind. 

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Of course, no one can be certain of what the artists meant to evoke, right? Well, what if the artist provided the information? I was very impressed to find Daniel Arsham narrated his own exhibition commentary. It was very cool, to hear him talk about his own art and intention. That’s not the case for everyone, though.

Moco Museum staircase

How much time do I need to explore Moco Museum?

You will be able to see the entire museum in an hour. The collection is just large enough to keep you engaged all the way through, without leaving you fatigued. It’s a great change of pace between classic art museums. If you’d like to enjoy the art without crowds of visitors, come in the morning or closer to closing time to avoid the onslaught of visitors.

How much is a ticket? How can I get a Moco Museum discount?

An adult ticket is 15 EUR, and you get 1 euro knocked off the price if you buy online. This will allow you to skip the line to the ticket office which is useful on the busier dates.
Alternatively, you can get a 25% discount on the entry if you get the iAmsterdam card, which also includes free transport around Amsterdam and free entry to over 70 museums. In that case, it’s better to buy your ticket at the door.

You’re now ready to head to the Moco Museum! Let me know which artist has got you most excited. Is it Yayoi Kusama? Banksy?

Moco Museum Review: Banksy, Yayoi Kusama and the Power of Contemporary Art

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