What's that doing here?

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Through the campaign #watdoetdathier we wanted to find out how art in public space in the Netherlands is experienced by the general public.

Campaign #watdoetdathier

After we launched the 100 Key Works announced, continued the anniversary project of BK Information are off with the hashtag #hat'swhat. Through this campaign we wanted to find out how art in public space in the Netherlands is experienced by the general public. What the artist meant by the work of art can stimulate the initial bonding of residents with the work. However, in the long run, the work will have to do on its own (visual) strength. It is in this phase that we were interested; when the artist's story has faded into the background or even into oblivion.

How is art in public space in the Netherlands experienced by the general public?

At that point you can ask the question: How has the work of art 'landed' in society? Have people become attached to the work of art or do they not even see it anymore because it is part of everyday reality? With these questions in mind, we set to work. The campaign #hat'swhat ran from May to the end of October; we placed articles in dozens of door-to-door magazines and asked for reactions on facebook, instagram and twitter.

It will come as no surprise that one of the conclusions is that what the so-called art discourse considers good art is by no means always embraced by the local residents. And the reverse is also true: local residents are extremely enthusiastic about a work of art, while the art discourse shrugs its shoulders. This gap is not easy to bridge and regularly leads to tensions and actions by residents. This conclusion was elaborated on during the symposium on 5 and 6 November by, among others, art critic Joke de Wolf, who conducted a debate on the 'hassle' of art in public space.

What the art discourse considers good art is by no means always embraced by the local residents.

Below is a selection of the many striking reactions that passed by in the past few months during #hat'swhat.

When residents appreciate a work of art, they can go quite far to show their admiration. But one fan of Rachel van Balen's work, a painted lighthouse on Ameland from 2016, went quite far to show his love for this work. He had an image of the temporary artwork tattooed on his arm. Incidentally, we received more images of our own making of this artwork; such as a tray with the painted lighthouse on it.

He had a picture of the temporary artwork tattooed on his arm

Baby artwork

The Funnel, a work of art by Joep van Lieshout, had a baby last April after lying alone along the A50 motorway for some 15 years. He is affectionately referred to in the reactions hopper created by an artist who wishes to remain anonymous. We received pictures on which the little one can be seen. The action is very much appreciated considering all the reactions, people found it funny. Just at the time of the lockdown that was going on at the time, it was seen as a bright spot.

Roundabout sandpit

In the Westland region there is a work of art on a roundabout, and that roundabout is actually (still) one big sandpit of weeds. The artwork is therefore a 'flag on a mud ship'. It is probably recognizable for many artists, you want to influence the environment in which your work is located (or at least that the environment is maintained), but that influence is often minimal or short-lived.

Every now and then a work of art is used as a reason to go crazy on the policy of the municipality in question. The work of art then becomes a symbol for the poor performance of local politics. If someone then posts a compliment about the work of art, he or she is subsequently given a dressing-down. Art as a catalyst for local dissatisfaction.

Every now and then a work of art is a reason to have a go at the policy of the municipality concerned.

Head of a cow

We tried to find out the maker of a plaque in Oude-Tongege. Depicted is the head of a cow with underneath the text "I fought for life, here it was given". We have come a long way, we even get a response from the owner of the house where the plaque is placed. Someone else tells us that two builders found the cow in the attic, where it had fled during the flood. The image of the cow was made on the basis of that. Unfortunately, we still do not know who made the plaque.

More reactions?

Would you like to scroll through all the reactions: the facebook- and instagram-accounts of #hat'swhat are still online for the time being. Are you curious about the debate on fussing about art in public space? then buy a ticket to watch the debate onlineYou can do so until Sunday evening, 6 December. Then you will also have access to the registration of the other five debates, about mediatorship, commissioning, responsibilities in public space, speculative thinking and new monuments.

More information


image: Monument to the Drowned Villages, Colijnsplaat, Lydia Schouten, 2009
Photo: Anda van Riet

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