Many worlds

In many policy documents about art and culture, the visual arts world is portrayed as an undifferentiated world. Signals from 'the world of art and culture' as well as public opinion are picked up, become leading, and from this follows art policy that steers towards art in general: useful for the economy, for the functioning of other sectors, for 'a broad audience', for the image of our country, etc. The nuance is hidden in the reality of the world of the visual arts.

The world of visual arts is many worlds. To name a few.

There is the world of the visual arts of big money, the art where earnings are made by dealers and gallery owners, for example, and of course - as a cultural entrepreneur - by the artist himself. This is a world where the artist is appreciated and praised, the world that the media pay a lot of attention to and the world that we are proud of. This is the world with a large stage and audience that knows what to expect, but also likes to be surprised.

There is the world of the visual arts that is stimulated by the governments, that fits within the programs and the wishes of the governing policy or that at least manages to hold its own within the lines of that policy. The artists in this world function well there, develop and manage to hold their own - although this has become more difficult in recent years and instrumentalism and profitability thinking are taking over. It is the world that the media occasionally pays attention to and the world that at least the connoisseurs are proud of. It is the world with many different venues and possibilities with an adventurous audience that likes to be surprised.

There is also the world of the visual arts in which artists occasionally receive financial contributions for projects and recidencies from funds and governments, but above all they create their own world in which they live and work. A world in which the media hardly play a role, in which the public is small in number but large in loyalty and a world that manages to achieve a lot on a small scale. A world that sometimes presents itself unexpectedly and in which the public sometimes only realizes afterwards that it was public.

Think of the many small artists' initiatives in the country that create opportunities - often without monetary reward - for fellow artists, that stand up for the interests of artists, the artists who start projects in neighborhoods and are able to bring about real change there, the artists who function in health care institutions, in schools, community centers, the artists who make exchange programs possible and thereby lay the foundation for international networks. The artists whose work cannot be translated and is not translated into euros or dollars. The world where it is not about returns, but about a deeply rooted trust in the importance of what is being done, because it is about integrity, about a desire to touch the world and perhaps change it. Without media attention, without huge rewards, but in very many cases with enormous pleasure, satisfaction and immeasurable results.

Read also Become a manager? Then learn philosophy and history by Ramsey Nasr in NRC Handelsblad (€) and The Value of Nothing: On the value of art by Hugo Bongers in PuntKomma.

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