Five years ago this month ‘The Dutch Assembly
’ took place. In 2012, the Netherlands was the guest country of ARCOmadrid
and with the collaboration of the Mondriaan Fund and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Spain, Latitudes convened this representation of Dutch art organisations.
Latitudes invited Jasper Niens and Thijs Ewalts to design the helical wooden ‘Superstructure
’ that, for each hour of the five days of the fair, hosted a programme
of thirty consecutive talks, readings, artists presentations, performances, book launches, in-conversations and screenings.
‘The Dutch Assembly’ transpired in the teeth of a storm
surrounding the slashing
of the Dutch cultural budget by a State Secretary of Culture (Halbe Zijlstra) who openly flaunted his disdain for the arts. In February 2012, the Mondriaan Fund
itself was a newly-minted entity, having been formed the previous month from a cost-saving merger of the former Mondriaan Foundation and Fonds BKVB, the Dutch funding bodies for artists and art institutions. Many of the depositions and dispatches from artists, art spaces, museums, and research initiatives courageously expressed anger and concern. (Recordings of several of the contributions are here
How have the participating organisations faired in the last five years? Thankfully ‘Dutch Assembly’ participants such as Witte de With
, the Van Abbemuseum
, or the Van Eyck
Academie, to name just three, continue to shine. Beyond the musical chairs of changing jobs – whether Beatrix Ruf
arriving at the Stedelijk Museum (then closed, awaiting its expansion), Anke Bangma
moving from the Tropenmuseum to TENT, or Xander Karskens
leaving De Hallen for the CobraMuseum – perhaps the most tumultuous years have been weathered by De Appel
Arts Center. De Appel was represented at ‘The Dutch Assembly’ by its then-Director Ann Demeester
(now heading the Frans Hals Museum) and at the time called a former primary school
its temporary home. Since then a director has come and gone (Lorenzo Benedetti
, who represented De Vleeshal, Middelburg, at ‘The Dutch Assembly’). Gone too is the school, and now the subsequent Prins Hendrikkade townhouse
premises is a thing of the past – De Appel moves
to its next home from March this year.
Three organisations have since disappeared entirely. The Museum De Paviljoens, Almere, closed
its doors in July 2013. With its structural funding also discontinued in 2013, SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain has also ceased to exist. Its archive, including material related to Latitudes’s Portscapes
project, is now housed at LAPS
. The Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA) was also defunded in 2013, yet hung on until July 2016 when its stoppage
The year after in the Madrid event, the wooden ‘Superstructure’ travelled to Moscow, where it hosted
‘How do we want to be curated?’ as part of the fringe programme of the Moscow Biennale against the backdrop of a number of “major protagonists of the art scene [that had] closed down or redirected their activities”. Jump to today, and as the elimination
of arts’ funding remains a vengeful probability wherever foxes
are advising on henhouse security, we might well ponder, not only the limits of cultural diplomacy, but more pointedly, how we might democratise democracy.