“It’s a happy evening”

Amsterdam Museumnacht celebrates its 20th anniversary in November

By HENRIKE FREYTAG | November 28, 2019

Cover photo by Tjan Ho Lai

A palm tree in Hortus Botanicus in colorful lights by night on November 2nd, 2019.

On Saturday, November 2, 2019, 55 museums in Amsterdam held special night events during the 20th Museumnacht. Visitors could explore museums, attend workshops, listen to poetry, attend seminars and finish their evening at one of the many parties organised and held in the museums. Being the original and largest museum night in the Netherlands, Museumnacht Amsterdam had over 32,000 visitors. 

Usually, Museumnacht is held inside a museum. However, this year, the management of Museumnacht wanted to make the opening accessible to as many people as possible. “The public space is also part of the Museum Night feeling,” says project manager Emma Waslander. Hence, Museumnacht was opened on Saturday evening, just outside the Stedelijk Museum. The event formally began with a performance from an Amsterdam-based artist “Children of the Light”. Virtual artists Christopher Gabriel and Arnout Hulskamp installed a sculpture that consisted of thousands of blinking lights on the glass-facade of Stedelijk museum. After the opening ceremony, which was accompanied by a soundscape by Urban Space Electronics, visitors were allowed to take the lights off the walls and take them around Amsterdam. The artists said that they were inspired by fireflies. Specifically, they wanted the visitors to take the blinking lights with them to their next Museumnacht event so that it would create an image of fireflies flying around Amsterdam.

Video by Henrike Freytag / The Amsterdammer – The Opening Installation by Children of The Light with thousands of blinking lights at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Photo by Henrike Freytag / The Amsterdammer - Visual art on the walls from Het Scheepvaartmuseum by night.

Alongside museums that were already part of Museumnacht (like the Eye Museum, Tropenmuseum, Synagogues, Mosques, the Zoo, and the Hortus Botanicus—among others) this year, new museums like the World Press Photo House, OBA Bijlmerplein, and Fashion For Good joined Museumnacht. This lead to a greater opportunity and space for the visitors to explore Amsterdam’s various museums and neighborhoods. 

Emma Waslander comments: “Museum Night is an event that takes place in the museums of Amsterdam, but just as well in the public space. During the night you will cycle between all participating locations, enjoy the pink illuminated facades, the fun in the queue and perhaps a late-night snack at the FEBO”.

Other visitors appreciated different aspects of Museumnacht: Jewel (20) and Kimberley (27) concluded: “Anne Frank was the best […] because we really went into the museum and saw everything. The other ones only showed a snippet of the museum, a little part of it”. Jewel adds, “I’ve been to a lot of museums as a child but now that I’m older I’m like: let’s make it something fun”. 

Making art fun and approachable, particularly to young people, was the pronounced goal of the Museumnacht campaign. Under the motto ‘The First Time’, Amsterdam-based production company Czar created a campaign that targeted young people that might be hesitant to encounter art. 

There is the impression among young people that an opinion is expected from you as soon as you enter the museum. They see that as a threshold. With this campaign we want to remove that threshold and give the message that there are actually no rules. It’s your own experience and you don’t have to answer for it,” explains Jordy den Haan, project manager of N8, who organised Museumnacht. 

In such regard, Museumnacht was certainly a success because the figures show that over 80% of the visitors were under 35 years-old and half of the visitors attended Museumnacht for the first time.

Photo by Henrike Freytag / The Amsterdammer - The lights, inspired by fireflies that could be picked up from the wall of Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Photo by Tjan Ho Lai - A palm tree in Hortus Botanicus in colorful lights by night.
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