Thursday, February 26, 2009


The creative 'high' of 1960s Amsterdam - my birthplace - was certainly exciting! After my high school graduation, while visiting my relatives for the summer, I attended some of these Provo 'happenings' organised by Robert Grootveld at the statue, 't Lievertje, in Spui square. (Oh, to experience those days again!) Ironically, the statue was a gift to the city of Amsterdam by a major tobacco company.

One evening, sitting with my cousin on the outdoor café terrace of the famous Art Deco American Hotel in Leidseplein, we heard a rumour that a 'happening' would take place. Everyone sat in anticipation. You could feel it in the buzz of conversation. Suddenly, we were startled by a loud crash. Had it started !?! No, a nervous waiter serving guests on the terrace had dropped his tray of drinks!

Robert Jasper Grootveld, one of the most emblematic figures of the 60s provo (provocation) movement, has died in a nursing home at the age of 76.

Grootveld was famous for the ‘happenings’ he organised on the Spui (photo), then Amsterdam’s ‘magic centre’. The anti-smoking guru would dance around in a cloud of his own cigarette smoke chanting ugh, ugh, ugh - which became one of his mantras.

Grootveld started out as a window cleaner, then turned to journalism and finally found his feet as an artist in the creative atmosphere of the 1960s. He came up with the famous white bicycle plan which has since been adopted by many cities around the world.

His lifelong devotion to the figure of Sinterklaas may go some way towards explaining his childlike pleasure in inventing such institutions as the Exotic Kitch Museum and the Expertological Laboratory, with fellow-artists and poets. In 2000, he made a present of the floating gardens he created to the city of Amsterdam.

‘He totally changed the Amsterdam street scene,’ friend and filmmaker Herbert Curiel told ANP.

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