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KunstRAI is an annual art fair for modern and contemporary art held in spring or early summer at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre in Amsterdam, Netherlands. From 2006 to 2011 it was known as Art Amsterdam. The 2012 Art Amsterdam was to have been held at a different time and location but was cancelled; a KunstRAI did however take place in May 2012. Since 2016, each edition of KunstRAI has included a focus on a particular foreign city or country.


The fair, which encompasses post-war and contemporary art, has been held annually since 1985, traditionally in the second week of May.[1][2][3][4] Wim van Krimpen founded the Art Fair Foundation with Martijn Sanders and was the first director;[5] he was succeeded in 1989 by Jacob Witzenhausen, and then a year later by Erik Hermida. In 1992 the RAI Centre acquired the fair from the foundation.[6] The fair was international in scope from the beginning and was a pioneer of European art fairs, few of which existed when it began. At RAI's request, Hermida introduced more of a Dutch national focus during his tenure.[6]

Art Amsterdam[edit]

Art Amsterdam was begun as a rival event in 1994 by galleries with a more radical and internationalist focus, originally in the former stock exchange building. In 1996, it merged with KunstRAI, and under Anneke Oele, the former curator of the Arnhem Museum of Modern Art, who became director in 2002, participation was reduced to a smaller number of galleries selected by a committee.[6] Beginning in 2006, KunstRAI changed its name to Art Amsterdam to better reflect its international character and emphasise its connection to the city.[7][8] In 2007, galleries showing crafts and ethnographica were excluded.[6] The 25th anniversary fair, in 2009, was celebrated with the publication of an anniversary book and solo shows by all 120 participating galleries.[1]

Edo Dijksterhuis, who became director with the 2010 fair succeeding Oele,[9] instituted a section of special 25 square metre exhibit spaces for the more outrageous exhibits called "No Holds Barred".[10][11][12]

The 26th fair, in 2011, was the first in the world to experiment with an online version, through Open Art Collection, in which 70 dealers offered works.[10][13]

Revival of KunstRAI[edit]

Hoping to raise the prestige of the fair and fit it better into the international art calendar, for the 27th edition in 2012 the organisers reduced the number of participating galleries from 135 to approximately 90, over one third of those from outside the Netherlands. They moved the time of the fair from May to September, and relocated it from the RAI Centre to the Kromhouthal, an event space in a former factory at the Nieuwendammerham in North Amsterdam.[14][15][16] Since this format accommodated fewer Dutch galleries, the name KunstRAI was revived for an art fair in May at the RAI Centre under the former director Erik Hermida, at which 70 galleries, all from the Netherlands, showed art.[7][17][18][19] This was more loosely organised; one gallery owner said: "It's a spontaneous fair with a lot of freedom... There are no rules, everybody can show what they want to."[20] Having attracted fewer registrants than expected, Art Amsterdam 2012 was cancelled.[16]

At the 2012 KunstRAI, international press attention was attracted by an artwork by Bart Jansen consisting of his dead cat, Orville, converted into a radio-controlled helicopter, the Orvillecopter.[21][22][23]

Since 2016, with a focus on Berlin,[24] each edition of KunstRAI has had a special focus on a foreign "guest city" or country, including Antwerp,[25] Barcelona,[26] Japan and Morocco.[27][28]

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, KunstRAI 2020 was twice postponed[29][30] and then cancelled.[31]


The KDR KunstRAI prize for the young artist showing the most promise, later the Thieme Art Award,[1] became the Lecturis Award in 2011. The 2011 winner was Edward Clydesdale Thomson; past winners have included Folkert de Jong, Karen Sargsyan, Rachid Ben Ali, Gijs van Lith and Jasper de Beijer.[10][12][32]


  1. ^ a b c "Art Amsterdam celebrates 25th Anniversary with 120 solo exhibitions", Europa Regina, retrieved 13 June 2012.
  2. ^ Karoline Densley and Martin Dunford, The Rough Guide to Amsterdam, London: Rough Guides, 2010, ISBN 9781405381772, p. 250.
  3. ^ Christopher Catling and Robin Pascoe, Amsterdam, Eyewitness travel, rev. ed. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2011, ISBN 9781405358798, p. 50.
  4. ^ Daniel R. Gould, "Kunst RAI Review", Gould's 3D List 31 May 2012.
  5. ^ Bart Jungmann and Anneke Stoffelen, "Dwingende, ideeënrijke spullenbaas", de Volkskrant, 18 December 2007 (in Dutch)
  6. ^ a b c d "New Dutch Art at KunstRAI", Artkabinett, n.d.
  7. ^ a b "De KunstRAI is weer terug: De KunstRAI is terug van weggeweest. Zo'n 70 Nederlandse galerieën exposeren en verkopen tot en met zondag hedendaagse kunst in de RAI", Cultuur, AT5, 30 May 2012 (in Dutch).
  8. ^ "KunstRai heet Art Amsterdam", Binnenland, Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant, 4 May 2006 (in Dutch).
  9. ^ "Edo Dijksterhuis nieuwe directeur Art Amsterdam", Brabants Dagblad, 4 June 2009 (in Dutch).
  10. ^ a b c "Sprungbrett für Talente: Die Art Amsterdam präsentiert sich als erste Messe auch virtuell", Weltkunst 4, 2011, Die Zeit (in German).
  11. ^ "Art Amsterdam: spannend en sexy", Algemeen Dagblad, 21 May 2010 (in Dutch).
  12. ^ a b "Abre sus puertas la vigésimo sexta edición de ART AMSTERDAM: Participarán en la feria 129 galerías procedentes de Bélgica, Holanda, Alemania, Francia, Reino Unido, Dinamarca y Corea del Sur", masdearte.com, 26 May 2010 (in Spanish).
  13. ^ "Art Amsterdam 2011 nu ook virtueel", De Couturekrant, 8 March 2011 (in Dutch).
  14. ^ "Art Amsterdam weg uit RAI", Nederlands Dagblad, 12 January 2012 (in Dutch).
  15. ^ "Art Amsterdam weg uit de RAI", Het Parool, 12 January 2012 (in Dutch).
  16. ^ a b "Art Amsterdam 2012 Cancelled", Art Amsterdam, archived from the original on 5 June 2012.
  17. ^ Simone Lautenbach, ANP, "Na 5 jaar weer KunstRAI in Amsterdam", de Volkskrant, 29 May 2012 (in Dutch).
  18. ^ ANP, "Kunst in de Amsterdam RAI", Het Parool, [1 June 2012] (slideshow) (in Dutch).
  19. ^ Viktor Lamme, "Elastische Kunst", NRC Next, 1 June 2012 (in Dutch).
  20. ^ "De KunstRAI is weer terug", AT5, quoting Willy Hoogland of Jaski Art Gallery: "Het is een spontane beurs met veel vrijheid ... Er zijn geen regels, iedereen mag laten zien wat hij wil."
  21. ^ "Fur Flying: Dutch Artist Shocks with Dead Cat Helicopter", Der Spiegel, 5 June 2012.
  22. ^ Abigail R. Esman, A Dead Cat Flies. But Is It Art?", op-ed, Forbes, 6 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Artist honors dead cat by turning it into helicopter", Discussions, The Washington Post, n.d., slideshow with video, retrieved 13 June 2012.
  24. ^ Jantien de Boor, "Antwerpen, Maastricht of Amsterdam? Dit is er allemaal gaande: Kunst kijken in RAI", Elle Netherlands, 24 June 2016 (in Dutch).
  25. ^ "33e editie KunstRAI legt focus op Antwerpen", Events.nl, 24 February 2017 (in Dutch).
  26. ^ "Guide: Kunst Rai", Hello Amsterdam, 2018, retrieved 28 March 2024.
  27. ^ "Fairs: KunstRAI", Onderneming & Kunst / Enterprise & Art, 2023, retrieved 28 March 2024.
  28. ^ "About KunstRAI Art Fair 2023", Hue & Eye, 2023, retrieved 28 March 2024.
  29. ^ "KunstRAI, de beurs voor moderne- en hedendaagse kunst", Amsterdam magazine, 2020, retrieved 28 March 2024 (in Dutch).
  30. ^ "KunstRai verplaatst naar 10 december 2020", Janknegt Galerie, 2020, retrieved 28 March 2024 (in Dutch).
  31. ^ "KunstRAI 2021", Press release, via Artmajeur, retrieved 28 March 2024.
  32. ^ ANP, "Kunstprijs voor Edward Clydesdale Thomson", Het Parool, 12 May 2011 (in Dutch)

Further reading[edit]

  • Wim van der Beek, Karel Ankerman and Anneke Oele. Photographs by Koos Breukel. Art Amsterdam: 25 jaar in 50 portretten - 25 years in 50 portraits. Deventer: Thieme Art, 2009. ISBN 9789078964315