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Amsterdam Light Festival

January 31, 2017/ BY Frank van Poorten

The Amsterdam Light Festival 2017 is a returning yearly event by artists who play with light as an art form. Every year different artists create the most wonderful light art in the streets of the Dutch capital.

Light Art

The Light art is a relatively young art form that is experiencing a rapid growth as a result of the LED revolution. So light is a versatile and highly visual ‘material’ that can be used both abstract and figurative. Both forms also reflected in the artworks Amsterdam Light Festival.


In the sixties of Californian artists like Robert Irwin, James Turrell and Dan Flavin turned their back to abstract painting and focused on experience in a sensory way of art. Light was an important element here. Light came in their works in the most varied forms: from fire to flood lights and projections to neon lights. Their work, however, came not from the context of the museum.

Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam Light Festival


The current group of light artists considers the city just to its main territory. They see where billboards, traffic lights and flashing neon tubes scream for the loudest attention, inspire and challenge their own work. All these talents find the ever-advancing technology on their side. Using LED lighting and advanced projections they can tell you anything they want. They speak an international language.


Amsterdam Light Festival is a producing festival: the works are almost all site-specifically for Amsterdam. For two months it offers a platform for light artists from all over the world to present their work in the city. The festival encourages the artists to push their limits. Through a globally distributed Call for Concepts they send new groundbreaking concepts. A jury will select the works that are part of the festival. 1800 artists from 93 different directions expressed interest to participate in the upcoming edition. This resulted in submissions from 500 artists from more than 45 countries. The Call for Concepts is closed in March and the jury has selected 35 concepts and is led by Rogier van der Heide.

Themes 2016-2017

The festival consists of two different routes.
Watercolor, the route by boat, takes place in the canals of Amsterdam and allows visitors to enjoy the works of art from a water perspective.
Illuminate, the walking trail, exhibits works of art and installations in the “Plantation” neighborhood.
Amsterdam Light Festival launches each year a new theme where the artists base their work on.

These two themes are selected for this edition:

Watercolors, boat route

A glance at Amsterdam
Artists are challenged to give a new look at the city, its architecture, its future and role in the world.
Amsterdam acts as a canvas for new art and light installations that are connected to the specific characteristics of the city.
The theme is interpreted by the artists in their own way, sometimes historic, futuristic or with humor and irony.
The works offer new perspectives to the visitors and let them ask questions about the city. This is the case for both residents and visitors, which should lead to a dialogue.

Illuminate, trail

Biomimicry is the science in which the logic and the structure of nature be applied to human problems.
Consider energy-efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds or antibacterial surfaces inspired by red seaweed.
The artworks selected engage in a dialogue together on all aspects of biomimicry theme.

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