Public House of Art: Amsterdam’s public art hub

Public House of Art is run by Sid Sand, and their Amsterdam-based art hub is the coolest thing on the block. Ever since opening their first hub in Amsterdam are planning to go even further: next stops are Antwerp, Brussels and Paris.

Public House Of Art has been provoking ever since they first opened in Amsterdam. Public House of Art is based in the heart of the art district, surrounded by tons of galleries. PHOA immediately caught the attention during the opening: its owner Sid Sand hired the two eldest prostitutes (who happen to be twin sisters) and turned their gallery into a brothel, grabbing the immediate attention of the media, but mostly of all galleries around them. “We like to take the piss out of the art scene…” says Sid, “I mean, you can imagine I’ve always wanted to be a madame”, he adds, jokingly. People were both shocked and intrigued at the same time, which was all the more reason for us to drop by and see what the fuss is about.

PHOA opening day

Talking about it with the team, we’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lack of cool galleries. Art has to be accessible, and it often feels like an actual step to enter a gallery. Sometimes it’s an attitude thing, you know, when you just feel too low brow to enter a gallery. Is that something you recognize?

Sid: ‘I think we’ve innovated, we’ve innovated the business model of an art gallery. Public House of Art is nothing like an art gallery. Art galleries can be very snooty or snobby and they want it to be that way – staff trained to intimidate customers in terms of art history, people being judged upon on the sole basis of their looks… We actually buy the artworks – own them, including the copyrights for photography – and then sell them from here. That gives trust to people. There’s a limited number of max. 30 pieces per item, people know that on forehand. Why thirty? It just seemed like a good number.’

What’s the mission and vision behind PHOA?

Sid: ‘Our mission is to find a piece of art in every house. Especially young people often are scared of art. I’ve been a collector for a long time, so I thought I’d start asking youngsters why they weren’t into art. “I don’t understand art”, they said. To me, art is something that makes you feel good – it can be anything, and therefore it can be understood by anyone. That’s the message I want to convey.’

How do you distinguish yourself from the other galleries surrounding you?

Sid: ‘We make jokes to make people feel at ease. Walking in here, you should feel like you’re walking into someone’s home rather than into a gallery. We’ve brought a lot of traffic to this street. We’re a mix of Abercrombie & Fitch and the Rijksmuseum: like A&F, we pay attention to all senses, from scent to sound and image. Next to that, we are constantly working on a story, curating new works every six months. It’s fast-paced.’