No Amsterdam building was safe from his spray cans. Now Dutch street artist Hugo Kaagman paints metro stations, airplanes and trains – with permission. His work is now on show in the Railway Museum in Utrecht. “Now I don’t really climb onto roofs anymore to make a piece of art.”
The Stencil Station exhibition gives an overview of the work of an artist whose pieces can be found all over the world; from St Petersburg to New York and Nagasaki.
“In 1980 Amsterdam was the graffiti capital of the world. There was a lot of freedom and graffiti fit perfectly in the city’s chaotic street scene. Now it’s no longer allowed.”
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Spray paint artist
Through the late 70s and early 80s Hugo Kaagman developed into a spray paint artist with a preference for stencil art - repeated images made with a template. Nowadays Mr Kaagman mainly works where he’s been given permission.
He has, for example, painted the tails of airplanes for British Airways, a shuttle bus of the Hilton Hotel in Athens, metro stations, murals, but also pottery and canvasses. And nowadays he gets paid for doing so.
“When you’re young, you don’t care about money. You have the energy to try out things. Now I don’t really climb onto roofs to make a piece of art.”
Vandalism vs. art
The artist was allowed to paint several railway carriages and an old shunting engine for the Railway Museum in Utrecht. Sadly, they won’t soon be riding through the Netherlands.
"Dutch Rail spends millions of euros every year cleaning graffiti from its regular trains. If people suddenly saw a painted train riding around, it might give them the wrong idea.”
Half joking, half serious he adds, “The division between vandalism and art is still a big problem.”
Stencil Station runs from 21 March 2012 to 24 June 2012 at the Railway Museum in Utrecht