Amsterdam is famous for dead artists. Rembrandt to Van Gogh (historic artists), Herman Brood to Sylvia Kristel and Van Gogh again (modern artists). Riches and poverty, fame and obscurity, suicide, disease and assassination ended lives made famous with their art in Amsterdam.
Debra Hill’s shop is located in a small booth beneath some of the largest trees in Amsterdam. Her sales shop for t-shirts and prints is located beside the quiet canal across from Holland Casino in a city center tree-covered green space between Leidseplein and Marriott Amsterdam.
Saying Debra Hill is my favorite living artist in Amsterdam is probably an insult to Dutch artists. Debra is American. Lack of knowledge about modern Dutch art keeps my candidate pool of living artists in Amsterdam extremely small for my vote.
On our way to the Rijksmuseum from Andaz Amsterdam at the end of a sunny and not too cold February winter day, we stopped by Debra Hill’s booth. Rain was heading into Amsterdam for the next day and wind gusts blew. Debra’s clothing and signs hanging around the booth swayed. She was dismantling and taking into the booth some of her art and clothes before the wind knocked things over.
Nobody else was hanging around her booth, so Debra chatted us up and was talking like a ‘speedball on fairy dust’ as she moved around the cramped interior, telling stories of her art, pets, challenges in selling art in Amsterdam and her desire to be creating rather than selling art.
We had these conversations before with Debra. Kelley and I are simply customers and not personal friends of Debra Hill. Who knows how many thousands of other tourists in Amsterdam she has chatted with over the years? Her conversation is always memorable to me.
We originally bought art from Debra Hill more than ten years ago as paper prints, t-shirts and sweatshirts. My trip to Amsterdam last month included a third generation t-shirt purchase from Debra Hill.
The t-shirt is Fruit of the Loom and sturdy and 20 EUR, I think. I guess I got about five years use wearing the fabric out of the clothing in my two former purchases.
Last month Debra told us the story of Picasso, a cat who wandered around the streets of Amsterdam and visited her shop regularly. Picasso passed away a few years ago. We had seen Picasso many years before in Debra’s booth. Kelley takes time to visit with animals she encounters and we have had lots of memorable animal encounters in our travels together.
Debra’s Picasso story was worth a 30 EUR cat portrait print purchase.