by Dianne Morton
Recently, while traveling with my husband and dear friends, I had the opportunity to visit Huis Marseille in Amsterdam. Though we were all incredibly exhausted and jet-lagged from our long flight from the U.S., I succeeded in talking everyone into joining me. Upon first approach, the lovely façade of the museum appears to be a charming Dutch home, complete with an exquisite garden courtyard. However, once you enter, the oriental architectural structure and bold design will jolt even the weariest traveler wide awake.
Huis Marseille opened its doors in 1999 as the first photography museum in the Netherlands. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, surrounded by city streets bustling with bicycles, the museum resides in a former residence that a French merchant built for himself in 1665. Currently offering 13 exhibition spaces, the structure was restored and extended into a neighboring structure in 2012. The Huis Marseille adopted its name in two parts — using the Dutch word Huis, which translates in English to “home”; and from its original owner, Isaac Focquier, who attached an ornamental stone plaque depicting a map of the French harbor Marseille to the classicist portico.
As a privately owned niche museum, Huis Marseille would probably appeal more to a serious museum-goer, but my husband and friends seemed to enjoy the exhibits as well. The structure lends itself quite well to a museum format, as each of the 13 rooms intuitively and organically open into the exhibited work areas. With beautiful natural light throughout, Huis Marseille offers temporary exhibits by various artists, and the day we visited, it was not crowded at all. This gave my exhausted group time to enjoy the exhibits in relative solitude.
Huis Marseille’s collection includes over 500 globally themed contemporary photographs. One of the exhibited artists that stood out to my group was Andres Serrano (American, b. 1950) whose portraits of the homeless population are included in his series Revealing Reality.
“The oeuvre of the prominent artist Andres Serrano (New York, 1950) is both provocative and fascinating. In terms of scale, composition and subject matter his works of art show strong similarities to the work of the Old Masters, but unlike these old paintings Serrano’s work confronts us powerfully and directly with contemporary reality. Serrano has a deep interest in the condition humaine, which he photographs in ways that are both moving and unsettling, but he passes no judgements. Revealing Reality is the first large Dutch exhibition of Andres Serrano’s work in twenty years. The exhibition includes a collection of works from Serrano’s newest series Torture, Denizens of Brussels and the Residents of New York, together with photographs drawn from the earlier series Bodily Fluids, Cuba, The Church, Nomads and Holy Works, among others. Serrano has a master’s hand that is particularly evident in his portraits. In the various themes explored in his wide-ranging oeuvre Andres Serrano lays bare the reality of human existence, following us from the gutter to the stars.” — Huis Marseille
Address: Keizersgracht 401, 1016 EK Amsterdam, Netherlands
Opening Hours: Tue–Sun, 11:00am–6pm
Price: General Admission — €5 | Students/65+ — €3
If you’re planning to visit several museums while in the Netherlands, it would be wise to consider purchasing the Museumkaart, a card that provides admission to most of the museums and attractions in Amsterdam and throughout the country. It is available at museum counters and is good for 31 days. The card costs €59,90.