HOW TO MEET AN ANGEL?

Easy! Just go on a walk through the streets of Amsterdam, albeit slightly off the beaten path, and you will see this amazing work of the famous Russian artist Ilja Kabakov.

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Located on the roof of a psychiatric clinic, the sculpture immediately sparked off debates. Doesn’t it provoke suicide in the already unstable patients? Not really, thinks the artist. It symbolizes the patient leaving the clinic, ready to embrace his Guardian Angel.

The sight is interesting for another reason: in the XVII century it was just beyond the newly built city walls, which appeared there as a result of a massive city expansion. And it was precisely on this spot, where the ‘mad house’ was built.

Not so long ago, Kabakov presented another piece of art, which again had to do with angels:

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As you can see, this is a crime scene, and the angel is the victim. Who knows, maybe it is the same angel, for whom the patient on the roof of the clinic is waiting? Well, if so, the patient needs to be told that the angel is not coming …

Meeting an angel seems to be an important topic for Kabakov. He comes back to it again and again:

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In this fuller installation of “How to meet an angel” Kabakov shows that not only the ladder, but the angel too, are within the man himself, and it is all in his power to make the ascent and meet the caged angel, who, according to Kabakov, has always been inside.
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The Third Eye

Around 1635 in Amsterdam Rene Descartes wrote about the pineal gland. Located in the brain in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes, Descartes believed this ‘third eye’ to be the ‘principal seat of the soul’.

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‘H’ marks the pineal gland. Diagram found in Descartes’ “Treaty of Man”.

Roughly 300 years later, in 1965, Amsterdam medical student and a Provo Bart Huges drilled a small hole in the middle of his forehead. Thus releasing brain pressure, Huges believed this trepanation would ‘enhance brain functionality’ and ‘expand consciousness’ resulting in a ‘permanent high’.
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Bart Huges just after his self-trepanation.

Join us to find more about Amsterdam’s mystics, occultists, and esotericists on our Amsterdam Mystic Walk! 

The Vrolik Museum, A Well-Hidden Gem of Amsterdam

Not only is the Vrolik Museum well beyond the usual touristy scope of Amsterdam, it also seems to be hiding itself quite well on the premises of the Academic Medical Center.

One way to find it is to use the central entrance of the Medical Center, and then follow the signs:

Follow the Vrolik

Follow the Vrolik

Another option, is to veer to the left once off the Holendrecht metro station, and then use the entrance, which will take you straight to the museum. You will see this sculpture to the left of the entrance:

All is vanity

All is vanity

The Museum originated as a private collection of anatomical curiosities of Gerardus Vrolik (1775-1859), a professor of botany and anatomy in the predecessor of the current University of Amsterdam, then known as Athenaeum Illustre. Then his son, Willem Vrolik (1801-1863), the surgeon and anatomist, took over and enriched the collection greatly.

Quite ironically, “vrolijk” also means “happy” in Dutch. These skeletons, featured in the museum, seem to be laughing at such coincidence.

A Laughing Matter

A Laughing Matter

All parts of human body can be found in the museum, neatly dissected and just as neatly put on display. All kinds of deformities are exhibited here as well.

The Hand Of Doom

The 6-Fingered Hand Of Doom

The Museum is free, but this skeleton at the entrance is asking for any spare change you might have. Don’t make the skeleton sad, throw him a coin:

Have you got any spare change?

Have you got change?

MODERN MAGICIANS

HET LIEVERDJE – “THE LITTLE DARLING”

Het Lieverdje Cor Jaring

Het Lieverdje (with Cor Jaring, author unknown)

“The Little Darling”, or “The Sweetie” is a good-natured rascal, running through Amsterdam, scheming all kinds of treacheries upon his neighbors. The character makes his first literary appearance in a series of magazine installations. In one of them the little No Good reveals he has a Heart of Gold, when he saves a puppy from drowning.

Grootveld and The Sweetie, by Cor Jaring

Robert Jasper Grootveld at the Magical Circle, by Cor Jaring

“The Sweetie” becomes so popular with the public that soon there is a statue of him, unveiled in 1959 on the most bookwormish square of Amstredam, the Spui Square. All went well, until almost exactly 5 years later, strange things began happening on the Spui Square. And it seems like it was the Little Rascal‘s fault again!

THE ANTI-SMOKE MAGICIAN

Robert Jasper Grootveld by Cor Jaring

Robert Jasper Grootveld, by Cor Jaring

After learning that the statue was presented to the city by the prosperous tobacco company, Robert Jasper Grootveld (1932 – 2009), an artist and performer, starts his world-famous Happenings. Grootveld would appear on the Spui Square at midnight, dressed as the Anti-Smoke Magician, which only Grootveld knew what he dressed like. He walked around what he called the Magical Circle, located at the Center of Magic, the circle around the Statue of the boy. Puffing out heavy clouds of smoke, he would chant: “Uche, uche, Klaas Komt!” The first two utterances stand for the cough of the smoker, the other two proclaim the Coming of Klaas. Which Klaas? But Sinter Klaas, of course – the Apocalyptic Santa, who will come to reward the good, and punish the bad!

Modern Graffiti

Modern Graffiti, by Mystic A’dam

What happened to be known as the “Anti-Smoking Campaign” had very little to do with smoking itself. It only saw the tobacco magnate as a symbol for the age of consumerism and its many addictions. Though the campaign lasted only a year, its echo is still quite strong. Quite whimsically, it predicted the tobacco ban that all restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam have now adopted. Also, to this day the iconical “Klaas Komt” tags can be seen in Amsterdam, expressing due praise to the Great Anti-Smoke Magician.