by Paola Pirovano
Photocredit: ©Martina Bertola
A yellow and white flag waves in Amsterdam Noord, among the ferries to the city center, bars made of containers and an abandoned submarine.
It is the Flag of Compassion, a collective work that represents the meaning of the word “compassion”. The idea of exposing it in this neighborhood comes from the gallery of Nieuw Dakota, a contemporary art space and surprise lab.
Nieuw Dakota has adventure embedded in its name, which refers to something exotic and far away, the American Mid-West. There is no specific connection but the desire to embark on something new, “nieuw” indeed. “Dakota” also means “friend” in the Sioux language, but the gallery founders discovered it later.
Which neighborhood could be more suitable than the “new” Noord? A former industrial area on the NDSM shipyards area, which is not used anymore today. Noord is a work in progress, and constantly changing. The Nieuw Dakota gallery is well suited to this spirit, with an artistic programme that grows on different inputs and the desire to build bridges with the neighborhood.
Anchoring to local reality is fundamental to the artistic direction of the gallery, which aims to be a trans-local reality, weaving a deep bond with the neighborhood, artists and people living there, and proposing a more global reflection. The idea is an art that has its roots in the local reality and it’s open to the outside world without becoming “globalized”.
As pointed out by the director Tanja Karreman, Nieuw Dakota is not a commercial gallery, but an artistic experiment site that aims to be as independent as possible, giving an alternative to the mainstream galleries and the institutional world. An independent reality in a seemingly anonymous building – one of the many industrial spaces linked to NDSM shipyards – and full of surprises.
The space inside changes into the hands of artists, and at the same time the projects change according to the actors involved. Nieuw Dakota is permeable to every artistic proposition, and built long-term relationships with art schools, artists living in Noord, the NDSM Foundation responsible for the area and neighborhood residents.
In addition, it established an important link with district schools, offering educational programs that then led to public presentations.
The exhibitions and events calender is constantly in progress, balancing between local and global. It is difficult to summarize the activity of Nieuw Dakota: a concept lab, a constantly changing gallery, as it is the space around.
An unconventional choice that provoked some perplexity to its debut, because the public could not identify a clear and straightforward direction. Today, Nieuw Dakota has been able to take advantage of this specificity: it is a place where you’re surprised each time, in a different way.