The Amsterdam Light Festival

The Amsterdam Light Festival has come a long way. The first festival in 2012/13 was a very different experience, a very Walt Disney Coca-Cola affair, more of a fun fair than an art experience, very much a Christmas orientated occasion. This winter, celebrating its eleventh edition and entitled Imagine Beyond, the Festival is now a major international art event inviting kinetic artists from all over the world. And the results are really spectacular.

The works of these twenty artists (individuals, duos and collectives) will illuminate Amsterdam’s canals for fifty-three days, from 1st December onward. Their light installations are set in and around the city’s Centre-East and can be seen by boat or on foot. I took the tour by boat and although it’s nice to be sharing the water with the sculptures and to have views that are up close and personal, I think I would have preferred to linger a while at many of them for a closer, longer look. From the boat your view is often restricted as it cruises past, albeit quite slowly. So, when I go back I will go by foot or by bike. Some of the art works go through a sequence of movements so you really need to be able to stand there and watch.

All the pieces are really remarkable and all of them benefit from their location and the shimmering waters in which they stand. Some are huge like Peter Vink’s illuminated Brug 242 on the Amstel which echoes the movement of the bridge rising and lowering. Edwin Baruch’s huge Light Gate arch, through which boats can sail near the station, is another of the larger pieces while other smaller ones are more intimate. The line of grass or reeds swaying in front of the Theater Carré is particularly impressive as are other smaller ones, like the three giant floating light bulbs or the row of flower-like objects which is like a giant window box of tulips.

But the biggest, and for me the most outstanding, is the Inversion Waterfall by UxU Studio which runs up the side of the Nemo Science Museum, situated between the Oosterdokseiland and the Kattenburg. This spectacular installation involves hundreds of small lights cascading down the side of the building and splashing into the water below – except in this waterfall the water/light is going upwards.

Although all these pieces are essentially illuminations, dependent on light, an effort has been made to make them attractive and worth seeing even during the hours of daylight.  Michael Hasted   5th December 2022

Photo by and © Janus van den Eijnden

Until 22nd January the lights are on daily from 17.00 until 23.00 and you can enjoy the special light sculptures on foot or from a boat. On New Year’s Eve the lights will be switched off at 20.00.