Friday, October 28, 2016

FGA Art Map Arnhem

Was tut Arnhem für die Kunst?
Arnhem now has around 25 artists’ initiatives. You will not believe it, but that means Arnhem has more initiatives than art capital Berlin in relation to the number of inhabitants! 
In the beginning of the 1980s there were only a few artists’ initiatives in the Netherlands. Amsterdam had W139, Den Bosch V2 (both transformed into institutions) and Arnhem had Paleis voor Schoone Kunsten. This was followed by Plaatsmaken, Hooghuis and Oceaan. The reason for this DIY mentality was simple: there was only one professional white-cube space for presentation, Arnhem’s museum for modern art (now: Museum Arnhem). We had no choice but doing it ourselves or leave. And today this in fact didn’t really change. Arnhem is still lacking a proper Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) and the spirit of self-organisation is still very present today. And, apperently, for our generation of artists running a project space is an important, inherent part of artistic practice. It gives agency, creates discourse and gives meaning to existence in general. It activates opportunities to reinvent and shape new forms of art. Certainly there must be economic reasons too. Running a project space can be the cork that keeps your art practice afloat. 

Arnhem might not be the most obvious choice to settle down if you want to set up an art practice. There is Rotterdam, The Hague or Amsterdam, and the more adventurous move to Brussels, London, or Berlin where 40,000 creatives try to make it, somehow. And what about the Ruhr Metropolis? In one hour you’re smack in the middle of the excitement of Dortmund, Düsseldorf, and Cologne. Just across the border you’ll find Artist-residency Schloss Ringenberg in Hamminkeln, the Ruhr Trienale, Emscherkunst, and Hardware MedienKunstVerein Dortmund. 
Is Arnhem more a place for making art than for presentating it? To our surprise Stichting atelierbeheer SLAK is the largest organisation for studio spaces in the Netherlands, managing 175 buildings and providing more than 1000 affordable studios. This can be a good reason to move here. Another good reason to be in the periphery, away from the international artworld and power galleries, is the opportunity for creativity and experimentation… the good life in the lee. But creativity and experimentation don’t exist all on their own. Can artists earn money here? Why are there (almost) no galleries?
Arnhem, Velp, Oosterbeek and Rozen-daal are very rich municipalities, so are there art collectors? Why is there no funding for individual art projects and artistic research? Why is there no budget for a ‘professional’ subsidised artist-residency program or exchange with other European cities? All these questions come to mind.

In the Nieuwe Arnhemse Krant #12, we read about the imbalance in the cultural sector and that most of the money stays with the managers. In the cultural sector most people still think it is normal that artists are not paid. It’s outrageous! Everyone is paid, the minister of culture, the directors of the art institutes and museums, the curators, the tea lady, the cleaners... so why not the artists? It’s time the subsidies for culture will be fairly redistributed: the managers get less and the artists more, a lot more, and also the tea-lady. Check out the New York-based activist organisation W.A.G.E. (
We wanted to map what is happening in Arnhem because we asked ourselves: is Arnhem a good “home base” for artists to live and work? Given the number of project spaces and affordable ateliers, Arnhem could become the first city in Europe where artists do not live in poverty, but may have a sustainable or even a profitable art practice. If we look at the list of initiatives it is clear that the artists do most of the work. And they are doing it already for over 30 years. Yes, project spaces are fun, but ‘fun’ is simply not good enough! 

Why spend 11 million on the expansion of a nice small provincial museum (aka the Dick Ket museum) that never has been really interested in contemporary artists from the region as far as I know? Why not just spend it on more structural support for the existing, miraculously resilient, informal, precarious, no-or low budget artist-run spaces to go next level? And/or on a serious (CCA) Centre for Contemporary Art? If part of that money had been given—for example—to the initiators of the Melksalon years ago, such an art institute could already be standing on the banks of the river Rhine; artist-run, bottom-up. Part of this 11 million could also have been put into funding for project & research grants, artists’ fees, artist-in-residences or an exchange program. But apparently the cultural-policy makers have quite a different vision and ambition. 

Rob Hamelijnck, 24 September 2016