Glad Rags and Vodka in Bags: The Grand Opening of The Public House of Art

Last Thursday was not your average Thursday night in Amsterdam. It was an awesome Thursday Night. From the moment I laid eyes on the flowery patterned envelope encasing the invitation that arrived in the post, I knew I was in for a treat. Even being accustomed to the red lights and the shocking laws of this controversial capital city, I was not fully prepared for the opening of the first store of The Public House of Art, which left Amsterdam shaking on its many piles.

As twilight was setting in, De Nieuwe Spiegelstraat was buzzing with anticipation of what was in store for the evening ahead. Behind the red velour draped, glowing windows of number 39, paraded scantily clad models, all with the intent of catching your eye and blowing you a kiss. I immediately found myself wondering if I had taken the wrong turn and ended up in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, instead of its famous fine art quarter.

 Photo: Iina Turoma for the Public House of Art

The first surprise of the evening came in the form of The Public House of Art’s ‘mascots’, two mischievous monkeys armed with water pistols filled with vodka. Upon entry you were handed a shot of vodka in a small cup upon which was written, ‘This is not a Gallery’, and with that the thought that this was not going to be a night to forget easily.

As soon as I entered the building I was instantly attended to and offered another glass of vodka (the perfect start to kick off the night). To prove that this ‘gallery’ likes to go against the stereotypes that one would usually expect at an event such as this, nobody was drinking wine, and as I took a sip of my drink I noticed it said ‘wine is for snobs’ (hopefully not, or maybe intentionally, offending too many of the gallery owners also in attendance…). A few moments after being offered a drink by this waitress, she suddenly reappeared, microphone in hand, singing Tina Turner’s ‘Big Wheels Keep on Turning’ whilst slowing strutting down the golden staircase, with such amazing flair and an incredible voice. Queue round of applause.

These golden staircases lead you onwards and upwards to the 3 floors that make up this house for art, each with it’s own quirky touch and defining factor. Whether that be hanging out on a net suspended over the bar below (sometimes decked out with a semi-naked model) or finding myself getting lost in the blacked out maze on the second floor, The Public House of Art certainly has many features to keep you constantly entertained and amazed.


Photo: Iina Turoma for the Public House of Art

Also found amidst the maze on the second floor, I struck gold when I discovered the ‘fish and tonic’ bar, where G&Ts were served in plastic bags and came equipped with a jelly sweet in the shape of a fish, frog or some other sea aquatic creature (yes I did visit it several times throughout the evening…). Whilst strolling around and enjoying my unusually contained beverage, there was one piece of art that I found myself revisiting again and again.  

The piece was called Elina, 6.09 p.m. Whilst studying this unusual photograph of what seemed to be a young girl trapped behind a string of cobwebs, someone tapped me on my shoulder and asked me what I thought of it. As I expressed my admiration (luckily) for the beguiling image, before I knew it my mysterious guy introduced himself as Henri Senders, the photographer himself! We delved into conversation of the process behind how he captured the photograph and he explained how emotionally attached he was to it. Being able to hear about the work from the artist himself gave the piece an extra dimension, as if I almost was there in person when he made the picture. 

As the night got darker, fish bags were flying, waitresses were warbling, models were… modeling and monkeys were plying me with more and more vodka (sometimes without even using a cup) I can hands down say I, along with the 600 plus other guests, was blown away by the overall evening and left knowing that this ‘gallery’ had big things set in its sights. This place ladies and gentlemen, is one to watch…


Written by: Anne Koe for the Public House of Art