The Trouble with Art and the Netherlands

I wasn’t particularly keen on attending the International Film Festival Rotterdam, where I had been invited for the sixth time, for a bunch of reasons. In the end, I decided to go on one condition; that for the first time, I would take some time off to explore at least one of the city’s art museums, possibly the biggest one in town.

The biggest museum in Rotterdam happens to be the Museum of Boijmans Van Beuningen. It boasts an eviable collection of artworks from many varied art eras and of many varied art movements. Yet, it also happened to be closed for renovations.

I did not mind. I opted insteas for the Chabot Museum, named after Hendrikus “Henk” Chabot, an Expressionist Dutch painter and sculptor I did not know much about but looked forward to learning about upon my visit. Yet, it was only after paying for the ticket that I realized there would be no works of his exhibited there – despite the museum carrying his name!

Even worse, the exhibition was just a bunch of drawings collected by this Dutch art afficionado, stacked like books on bookshelves. It was a very disappointing and alienating experience.

Hence, disappointed and alienated, I walked to the nearby Kursaal where no temporary exhibition was that interested me. I asked one who worked there whether she could recommend any nearby art museums but she simply said that she couldn’t.

So, I just spent half-an-hour admiring the Cube Houses instead, as I have many times and paid three euro to get into one for the first time. I enjoyed the experience but the day did not go as planned.

I had suddenly realized something. Holland is indeed a pretty country and arguably the greatest country in the universe below sea level since Atlantis. Foreigners also perceive it as some type of artistic epicentre. Yet, the country’s efforts to promote artists to outsiders beyond the usual names (Van Gogh, Rembrandt etc.) are quite underwhelming.

The verity of this statement is reflected in the little things. In bookstores at airports, there are no books by Dutch authors translated into English besides The Diary of Anne Frank. This is odd, as especially European countries love to show off their greatest writers – rightfully and thankfully so. And even when the Bojimans Museum closes for renovantions, information about where some of the works exhibited are in nearby locations is loose and scattered. Not to mention that Museums tend to close disappointingly early – many at around 5:30 p.m.

Perhaps it is because I had just spent a whole month in various cities of Italy, a country that lives off of art more than spaghetti. But while many things work better in the Netherlands than on the Italian territory, the former loses out on the proliferation of its culture beyond borders. Could it be that it consciously prefers to not-so-silently promote its sex-positive and weed-head tourism instead?

Those too, after all, are cultural happenings…

The Netherlands are perceived as culturally and artistically dense. But there's a problem...

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