From Eelco van der Lingen, Director Mondriaan Fund, May 12
Dear visual arts and cultural heritage professional,
We find ourselves in a time filled with impossibilities. What was normal two months ago is now suddenly a threat. A kiss or a handshake to greet someone or show recognition: they are things we can no longer do. We dance around each other, not from our desire to dance, but in order to keep a meter and a half apart. How good it was to hear the news that the museums will be allowed to open again from the 1st of June! It offers a first glimmer of light, a promise that we will ultimately all come out of the corona crisis, not unscathed, and not at full speed, but full of hope and energy.
At the start of the crisis, the Mondriaan Fund, together with the other national culture funds (Rijkscultuurfondsen), examined how we can help affected institutions and artists. Together with the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science (OCW), we quickly agreed on a package of leniency measures. In addition, we took a look at which sectors need to receive extra support in order to come through this crisis at least partially intact.
The generic support measures taken by the government and the 300 million euros support package for culture bring some relief. A great deal of catastrophe can be averted for national museums and institutions that receive long-term support. At the same time, artists, curators, galleries and small institutes were unable to see how these packages offered them any solution. Their need was tangible and evident right from the beginning. Projects were postponed and sales dissolved, with no reserves to fall back on and no elimination of rents and overhead. Residencies were cancelled, as homes had already been sublet. Savings accounts were never abundant in the first place. Art initiatives are having a very hard time. Arts subsidies from other countries, through which galleries sometimes earn half of their annual income, were cancelled, and despite the galleries keeping their doors ajar in hope, almost no one comes in to purchase the work. Midsized museums find themselves between a rock and a hard place. This is a major crisis, with a great deal of personal suffering.
Through redirecting budgets and calling on reserves, the national culture funds have been able to free up extra funding for the smaller parties. A total of 15 million euros have been made available for the six national culture funds, of which just over 4 million euros have been allocated to the Mondriaan Fund.
Artists and mediators who have seen their activites brought to a halt or projects cancelled can submit applications for funding for working periods of up to six months, in order to develop new plans and produce new works. For three Dutch art fairs with international reputations – Art Rotterdam, Unseen and PAN Amsterdam – the Mondriaan Fund will be taking over a large portion of the rental costs for participator stands. Art initiatives will receive an increase in the grants already awarded, and for the small museums, we are looking for a suitable complement to the large national arrangements for museums that are currently being developed by the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science (OCW).
We will do everything we can with the means available to us. Four million euros is undoubtedly not enough, but it does hopefully offer more than 120 artists and mediators, a number of galleries, and a selection of art initiatives and small museums enough support to better be able to continue on into the near future.
Ultimately, when we are all truly able to dance once again, we can continue to contribute to a healthy, robust and vital chain of culture. I wish this most heartily, for all of you, because the vitality of the society to which you are such self-evident contributors is now clearly and sorely missed.
Eelco van der Lingen
Director, Mondriaan Fund