By John Dunkelgrün.

The Netherlands has many surprising hidden gems, from “Hofjes” to small ancient cities, seemingly unchanged over hundreds of years. One of these gems is Huize Frankendael, the last remaining manor house within Amsterdam. It was built in the middle of the 17th century in the new polder of Watergraafsmeer deeper below sea level than any other point in Amsterdam. At the time more than 50 such estates were built outside the ring of canals to escape the stink and pestilence of the city center in summer. Frankendael, which was privately owned and inhabited until 2006, is the only such house still standing. Today it is beautifully restored with gold colored brocade wall covering and is used as an exhibition space. It also houses Merkelbach, a remarkable restaurant that serves slow cooked seasonal foods from the best purveyors and some great wines.

At this moment there is an exposition curated by the Frankendael curator Nathanja van Dijk together with Carolyn Drake. The theme is “My third land” after a poem by the Dutch (former) Poet Laureate Gerrit Komrij, “Counterweight” (Contragewicht). The poem deals eloquently with the problem of having moved to another country and not feeling totally at home in either place. This is something that must resonate with the expat community anywhere. Komrij solves it by creating an imaginary “third” country in his head.

The exhibition shows works of such imaginary countries, ranging from a child’s private world in a tent made from a sheet over a couple of chairs by Ryan Gander (executed in marble!) to a marvelous series of maps of non-existent islands that date from classical Greek times to the 19th century. There are the haunting pictures of the islands of Charles Avery as well as his mesmerizing imaginary tree. Of course there are far more works to see, but the house itself and its 17th century garden are in themselves well worth a visit, as is restaurant Merkelbach.

The exhibition runs until December 2nd and is open from Thursday through Sunday from 12.00 to 18.00. There is a film evening and several night openings. It is located on the Middelweg 72 in the Watergraafsmeer area of Amsterdam. For more information see www.huizefrankendael.nl

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