Throw out the good with the bad
Cultural entrepreneurship as a myth
Art is instrumental
"Autonomous art does not exist.", said philosopher Henk Oosterling during the past Paradiso Debat in Amsterdam, August 28. An artist can be autonomous concerning relationships, he added, but further art in itself is always considered to be instrumental. He is right. Art really works out in society as it treads a public route through the streets, through the museums and the media. When an artist as a persoon is unable to do so or an institution lacks the funds, they are useless in the eyes of a certain type of entrepreneur, who thinks he can manage without subsidies and forgets that there are cartloads of money driven to commercial companies as innovation grants and related arrangements. Even in the commercial world nothing can be done without the support of the taxpayer.
Therefore, it is a nonsensical argument to blame the arts showing no entrepreneurship. An artist is not an artist, PR marketing specialist and entrepreneur in one. Nobody has all these additional qualities, the entrepreneur as a person as well. When an artist successfully organizes his network, those qualities can be used and his or her network can profit from it. Also museums have an important task in this. And it happens. Of course the world of art and culture in general must be connected socially, in order to be useful inspiring society.
Since the cuts that the first Mark Rutte administration carried through in 2012, something essential changed in the tone in which is spoken about the arts. It is the tone which belonged to the populist and reactionary part of the political spectrum and now has become mainstream. Artists and arts organizations who are unable to draw masses of people with their work are qualified as losers. Even in the more intellectual field the budget cuts were seen as a good incentive to be a cultural entrepreneur.
This is a persistent myth. In November 2011 there was a meeting in the Maritime Museum where State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra emphasized that in his view cultural institutions should be enterprises. A representative of the Dutch association of small entrepreneurs told him that it takes a long time to become an entrepreneur and that you can not just change cultural institutions into enterprises from one day to the other. He showed his worries about the future of the arts. The scale of the planned cuts was not clear yet. A year later we knew that there would be a 20% and therefore disproportional cutting. There was a meeting in The Hague for announcing the new Blockbuster fund of theatre icon Joop van den Ende. Mark Rutte said to his Secretary of State, referring to entrepreneurs as Van den Ende supposed being stimulated by the cuts to show new initiatives: "Halbe, it works!"
It may be that the current Minister speaks about the arts in a different, more convenient tone, in fact nothing has changed. The more than 200 million euro previously been removed from the budget for art and culture never has been reinvested in any way. The paltry 10 million which is reserved for the arts, unless the House of Representatives does show courage at the end of November and desires to contribute substantially even further, will be paid by stopping the subsidy to private monuments. The aftereffects of the devastating cuts will not be stopped at all. Municipalities and provinces are diminishing at their turn the culture budgets.
Throw out the good
It is about time for reflection. This is not a plea for the uncritical scatter of money. It's about the fact that the financial measures have been taken - and still are - with a lack of substantial involvement and a glaring lack of knowledge, insight and historical awareness. Therefore the good will be thrown out with the bad. The medium-sized institutions with a lot of expertise, experience and support from all over the world are threatened. And be sure: once being closed, they are gone for ever.
October 30th, 2016