Interpreting Amsterdam Street Art

My (slight) obsession with street art led me seek out where I could find street art during my visit to Amsterdam. I found out that the majority of concentrated street art in the center of Amsterdam was located in Spuistraat and the adjoining alleyway of Wijdesteeg. I decided to schedule the street art search into my itinerary in Amsterdam and made my way to the Spui area. After a few minutes of getting lost in the Spui neighborhood, I was finally directed by a shopkeeper on the exact location of the murals  that made the area come alive.

I have often looked at street art without giving any consideration as to what the images might represent or mean.I have also never really considered why an artist might have created a particular piece; instead, I have been more focused on the way an image looks or makes me feel. To me, street art is about creativity and beauty; I really enjoy looking at creative and colorful images, symbols, and representations of everyday life.

In Amsterdam, I came across different kinds of street art: from colorful symbolic pieces, to political pieces, to cartoon characters. I took more of an interest when looking at the art of the messages that the different artists were trying to convey and I decided to attempt to interpret them.

The Art & The Interpretations

Hero de Janeiro hard at work

I was pretty fortunate to run into Amsterdam artist Hero de Janeiro hard at work in the Wijdesteeg alley. When I approached him, he was hard at work spraying his famed puzzle pieces onto the wall of a parking garage. I told him that I really liked the way that the pieces were put together and the way it looked. Unfortunately at that time, I did not think to ask him why he chose to use puzzle pieces in his creation, but I came across an article done by him on Citinerary which explains that he a movie he watched inspired him to paint them. We chatted for a few minutes about some of the other artwork he had done in the area, about the legality of street art in Amsterdam, and about his other job as a DJ. 


‘Untitled’ by SiMiS x Adler Baby

According to my research, the characters in the background are called Bimimonsters and the characters in the foreground (monkeys and cats) are by artist SiMiS. It is really difficult to find information on the artists SiMis and Alder Baby. Looking further at the image, you will notice that both the cats and the monkeys are saying either ‘miau’ or ‘yo’. To me it seems that the monkeys are just repeating what the cats are saying, which reminded me of the term ‘monkey see, monkey do’. In the background, there is the seemingly political statement ‘Anti Nazi’, the word ‘Merda’, which means poop in Italian, and the term ‘Spray Action Power of Love’. All of these things together honestly leave me confused.


A boy blowing bubble gum by artist C215

C215 is a street artist from Paris whose work is pretty easily recognizable. I have seen his work before in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London when I took a street art tour. In this picture, it looks like a little boy is blowing a piece of bubble gum and his eyes are engaging with the artist, as many works by C215 do. The artist generally captures the lives of normal everyday people, and I wonder who this little boy is that he captured in this painting.



This particular work, which covers the face of an entire building, is actually illegal (information I found out from the people across the street in the Snakehouse.) I find it interesting that part of this building has been whitewashed and the words “Still not loving the police” (pictured here) have been removed. I am really curious to know why the artist wrote the word ‘boom’ across the front of the building, which to me symbolizes the destruction of the building.


A tribute to Nelson Mandela by Bustart

I really like this tribute to Nelson Mandela by street artist Bustart. I am curious to know however why he chose to use Nelson as his first tributary piece and what his connection is with the former leader. I like the sweeping colors in the background of the painting and I like the particular image that was chosen of a smiling Mandela looking ahead instead of directly at the audience.


A political piece by artist Bustart

This political piece is another by Bustart. When I saw this, I was curious to know what it meant. The man gripping the EU flag is falling to the ground as the police officer holding a baton with the Netherlands flag waving from it seems to be preparing himself to beat the man down. Is this a symbol of the Netherlands saying they want to gain control of the European Union?


What are your thoughts on these images? What message do you think the artists were trying to convey?

By |2017-07-30T01:10:09+00:00August 4th, 2014|Street Art, The Netherlands|19 Comments


  1. Ryan Zieman Aug 4, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

    I LOVE the bright colors! How do you find these urban gems? I love street art, but you just seem to stumble upon it *pun intended* wherever you go.

    • Chanel Aug 5, 2014 at 4:17 am - Reply

      Thanks Ryan! I just look for bloggers who have discovered street art and make my way there 😀

  2. Macca Sherifi Aug 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Nice piece Chanel, and I’m loving the photos! I have to admit that I know nothing about Bustart but he’s firmly now firmly on my radar. Next time I’m in the ‘Dam I’ll have to search for some of his stuff.

    • Chanel Aug 5, 2014 at 4:18 am - Reply

      You definitely should Macca! He has some great stuff!!

  3. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers Aug 4, 2014 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    You have a great eye for street art. I especially love how you caught Hero de Janeiro in action.

    • Chanel Aug 5, 2014 at 4:19 am - Reply

      Thanks Mindi! I was so happy to bump into him working!

  4. Suzanne Fluhr Aug 5, 2014 at 4:59 am - Reply

    These are great and is nice to have a focus when visiting a city beyond the usual “must sees”. Have you every done a mural arts tour in Philadelphia? Philly is quite committed to mural art. (Philly? Who woulda thought ?!) Let me know if you come for a visit to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection). I’m overdue for a mural tour.

    • Chanel Aug 7, 2014 at 4:51 am - Reply

      Hi Suzanne, I have not but now I will look into them! Philly is so close so I would love to go on a mural tour! I will be in contact 😀

  5. Susan Aug 5, 2014 at 5:06 am - Reply

    I’m with Mindi! I love the Hero de Janeiro. I am often in Amsterdam and will look more closely next time to the street art!

    • Chanel Aug 7, 2014 at 4:52 am - Reply

      Hey Susan, you definitely should! You might even bump into him when you are out there 😀

  6. LaRoux Aug 5, 2014 at 5:31 am - Reply

    So niiiice !!!!
    If you want, you can to read my article about street Art (sorry its just in french :/) but i speak of an barcelona’s association to make discover the street Art of bcn’s boroughts. And i write some selection of Artist thaht i loooove ! !

    • Chanel Aug 7, 2014 at 4:53 am - Reply

      Hi Amelie, I will check it out (and maybe put a word or two into Google Translate) 🙂

  7. Rachel@safari254 Aug 5, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Lovely photos, love the vibrant colors. The tribute to Mandela is inspirational and the monkey in the untitled by SiMiS and Adler Baby reminds me of a character in the power puff girls cartoon.

    • Chanel Aug 7, 2014 at 4:55 am - Reply

      Thanks Rachel! I thought the same thing! 😀

  8. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) Aug 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    I’m guilty of analyzing everything – from television shows to street art. But, as you said about the SiMis and Alder Baby piece, often I’m left confused, too. I try not to think *too* much about it and instead just enjoy the art and the environment.

    • Chanel Aug 7, 2014 at 4:56 am - Reply

      Agreed Francesca, it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the art sometimes too! 😀

  9. Nick (Nick's Travel Bug) Aug 9, 2014 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    I love all the street art you find, especially the colorful Mandela piece!

  10. Troll101 Apr 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    A bit late to the party, but “Boom” is obviously inspired by Roy Liechtenstein. Also, it’s not a Dutch flag but a Russian flag and the EU flag is in the colours of the Ukranian flag, so I think it’s pretty clear what the message is…

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 1, 2015 at 11:12 am - Reply

      Hello Troll and thank you for your insight. Some of the information in your comment I was unaware of, so thank you for pointing it out.

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