The very first graffiti in Amsterdam has now been restored to its former glory

“Old graffiti”: this is how city district president Sebastiaan Capel van Zuid calls the text, as the graffiti artist and pioneer Dr. Rat painted on a wall on Hondecoeterstraat in the South in 1978. According to Capel, this wall art belongs to street art To the city’s cultural heritage and is the last tangible reminder of the work of Dr. Rat. “On Friday, May 6, the restored work of art was unveiled in the presence of some prominent graffiti artists and punks of the time, including Diana Ozon, Shoe, Delta and Hugo Kaagman.

For more than 40 years, this work was hidden behind a holly tree. Capel and the district of Syd took the initiative to make the painting visible again. Behind the punk name Dr. Rat hides Ivar Vics (1960-1981), cult hero, idol and source of inspiration for the squatting and graffiti movement in Amsterdam. From the moment the first tags (signature with decoration) appeared in Gothic letters, he was widely imitated. He took his name from the book Doctor Rat (1976) by the American William Kotzwinkle. Ivar decorated his name with a rat. He used aerosols, markers and block brushes with latex paint.

Angry punk guest

The tag ‘DDT 666’ stands for Dutch Dirty Trix 666, which Dr. Rat refers to the eponymous nightclub for punks on Sarphatistraat. That was in 1978. He painted the letters and numbers in white with a block brush, afterwards another graffiti artist painted orange and blue over them. An angry punk guest at the club who was thrown out later wrote: ‘MUST DEATH’. After the tragic death of Dr. A rat overdose placed many other paint sprayer tags around his name, as a tribute to the artist who “made Amsterdam the European graffiti capital.”


dr. Rat and several punks and graffiti artists grew up in the chic Amsterdam South. They drew their ideas and outlook on life from New York, where the first graffiti art appeared on trains and subway stations in the late 1970s. “Graffiti is hot, late 1979,” writes Martijn Haas in his beautiful biography dr. Rat. Godfather of Dutch graffiti (2011). That still applies.

Angry letters about humiliation

NRCart editor Lien Heyting interviewed Shoe (Niels Meulman), co-street artist for Dr. Rat. Shoe said it was not a transient phenomenon “just a scene”. A couple of angry letters came to the newspaper: Graffiti was pollution and deterioration of public space. Capel is all too aware of this: “The municipality fights graffiti, it is illegal to paint on other people’s property. An official report was published on graffiti as a ‘physical deterioration’. But in this case, I would make an exception because of the cultural-historical significance. ”

Capel asked Italian restaurateur Antonio Rava to clean and coat the work. Rava has also previously repaired Keith Haring’s graffiti at Markthallen. At the unveiling, graffiti artist Kaagman, friend of Dr. Rat, the “street art still hot is from America to Australia ”. His work is included in museum collections, as is Dr. Rat. Sandra Smallenburg, head of culture for this newspaper, also confirms that graffiti (is) a worldwide phenomenon with British Banksy and French JR as the biggest stars ”. And: “The pioneers of that time, artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, are now the heroes of the art market.”

According to Smallenburg, Dr. Rat and Kaagman, the punk fanzine cookie newspaper founded, “defined the design of the Dutch punk scene with their collage-like aesthetics.” The do-it-yourself mentality of the time is again in the spotlight: “See, for example, the attention that the Stedelijk Museum is giving in the new permanent exhibition to Amsterdam’s squatter movement.”

According to Diana Ozon, Dr. Rat a revelation: “The bare, empty, anonymous streets of Amsterdam suddenly became lively and full of abundance.”

Also read: Graffiti thrives on inner city blues

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