Healthy and fresh

The positive sounds fly around when it comes to the state of art in the Netherlands. The sector is resistant and flexible, creative in finding solutions, good at finding new audiences, entering into the desired collaborations, and - after all - delivering quality. There's no end to it. But hearing those noises reminds one of how it sometimes goes with negative events that can happen in life: afterwards we prefer to look at the progression rather than the traces it has left.

Anyone reviewing the art news of the past few weeks might also get a less positive picture of the sector. They might think, for example, that the government's cuts to art and culture are having an increasingly devastating effect.

What happened? At the end of September, GEMAK in The Hague announced that it would close its doors at the end of this year. The financial situation had become too precarious after the cut of no less than 75% for the period 2013-2016. The CBK Drenthe will cease its activities on 1 January and here too, the cause lies in the increasingly deteriorating financial position. In Vlissingen, Willem3 will also close its doors at the end of this year as a result of budget cuts, and the Verkadefabriek in Den Bosch is expected to face €400,000 in cuts. The board of arts centre de Appel in Amsterdam decided to give notice of his resignation to director Lorenzo Benedetti after 15 months of service. The reasons are not entirely clear, but there is much speculation: it is feared that the profit motive has played a role in the board's decision. Museum Arnhem is struggling with tax debts that arose after the museum became independent but is still performing tasks for the municipality in exchange for subsidies. Partly with a view to possible precedents, the municipality took the matter up with the Museum Association, and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities is also involved. Then there was also the - not all that surprising - news published by NRC Handelsblad about the lagging sponsor income: "Many large cultural institutions are still unable to compensate for the government cutbacks with a sufficient increase in their own income. And a Rembrandt was bought.

The sector seems to be in a Catch 22 situation: quality is paramount, but it must be delivered for little, with the necessary entrepreneurship, and with a wide audience reach. That is the policy. In reality, institutions are encountering many impossibilities in their implementation.

So where is the positive message? It is no problem for any manager to find it and to spread it with verve and conviction, so that the sector remains resistant and flexible, and on the surface healthy and fresh. With such an image, the art and culture policy of the past few years can still be described as successful.

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