On June 17, the Amsterdam Museum opened its newest exhibition: “De Mooiste Stad,” or “The Most Beautiful City.” The gallery on a passageway has been turned into an exhibition about the wonders of the Dutch capital city.
“We all have a huge problem: we live in the most beautiful and nicest city in the world,” said the late mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan. The Dutch politician, who passed away in 2017 to lung cancer, was mayor of the city from 2010 until his death. During the last period of his life, van der Laan had been working on an exhibition about the city he loved so dearly. A selection of more than 80 paintings, pictures and objects from the collection of the Amsterdam Museum and the city’s archives portraits how the inhabitants of the city have dealt with as fast population growth throughout the years. Through the exhibition, the late mayor hoped to initiate a conversation on the city’s future. The decoration of the “The Most Beautiful City,” mainly done out of scaffolding, symbolizes that Amsterdam is never completely finished.
Van der Laan’s exhibit shows that living in such a place can indeed be a problem; an increase in residents and tourists is leading to a housing market that is on the verge of collapsing and to streets that are too crowded for anyone’s good. But these aren’t just contemporary problems. In “The Most Beautiful City,” the much-loved mayor demonstrates that issues such as high immigration numbers and tourism have been around for centuries in our country’s capital. For instance, the exposition demonstrates the issues with bad living conditions through the centuries; whole families would live in a damp basement because there was no affordable housing available. In addition, many problems are presented to the audience such as the social housing system intervention, making decent housing possible for even the poorest of the city’s inhabitants. As an eulogy of the city, its progressiveness is represented by remembering the first December 21, 2001, when a law to allow same-sex marriage was signed in the Netherlands for the first time in history. As a result, the exhibition pays homage to administrators of the city who had a great influence on its developments, including Monne de Miranda, Jan Schaefer and Floor Wibaut.
Many locals joined the exhibit. Among them, 63-year-old visitor Marion van der Kleij, who was born and raised in Amsterdam, admits the has suffered from a large crowd over the years. “Here, you can see that all these developments and expansions actually pay off,” she comforts herself. “It changes your perspective, to be more positive.” Like van der Kleij, her friend and fellow citizen of Amsterdam, Paulien van Gijn, 59, believes the exhibition taught her that people have been complaining about problems in the city for centuries. “Even years ago, people would write angry letters about fences that were in their way or expansion of the city,” van Gijn said. The two women admit being fans of former mayor Eberhard van der Laan. Van der Kleij. “The exhibition was quite moving,” van der Kleij adds, “I kept tearing up. I suppose it was a combination of the exhibition and the late mayor.”
The exposition is open to the public from 10am and 5pm every day until November 4. The display is the result of a partnership with the festival “We Make the City” that takes place from June 20 to June 24 across Amsterdam.