How to survive as an artist without government subsidy

Sanne van Oosten

Since the current government of the Netherlandshas been instated, many budget cuts for the cultural sector have been announced. Cultural activities, that are now often subsidized by the government, were belittled as “left wing hobbies” and it was argued that they should no longer receive compensation from the government. This set into motion a wave of protests throughout the country. A manifestation titled “The Netherlands is screaming for culture” gathered thousands of people to, literally, scream for culture. Last June, a “march of civilisation” was organised, in which 3000 people marched from Rotterdam to The Hague. Also, with the slogan “against cultural demolition” activities were organised throughout the entire country. Unfortunately, it now seems like it was all for nothing. Protests are dwindling and the budget cuts are going on as planned. Therefore, it is time to look forward and try to find solutions to counterbalance the loss of livelihood Dutch artists are about to face.

I can’t claim to have the solution for all of the museums, theatres, and filmmakers out there, but I have stumbled into a refreshing example of an artist who has kept a museum of his own work up and running for the last 24 years without receiving a drop of subsidy from the Dutch government. Last summer Davey and I, along with two others, made a short documentary on this artist. His name is Nick, he moved to Amsterdam in the 80s and has a museum called Electric Ladyland in the Jordaan district. He might not even have known about the possibility to receive government subsidy since he was just looking for a place to do his thing. And his thing is somewhat out of the ordinary. He makes fluorescent paintings and life size installations that you can walk around in. His museum consists of this life size fluorescent installation, the first fluorescent art pieces made in history and many rare rocks that are naturally fluorescent. He sells his own artwork and gives tours through his museum to just about any visitor that comes by.

When I visited there for the first time I noticed he was troubled. Despite the fact that he was an independent artist that did not face the fear of immense budget cuts, he seemed bitter. Bothered by the reputation his style of art has. What do you associate fluorescent colours with? Back to the sixties? Well, you are not the only one. He hears that all the time and is sick of it. He is bitter that his art form is not taken seriously and is always seen as a spin-off of the hippy-era. Interested in this independent troubled artist, we decided to make a small documentary about him. Here is the result. Enjoy!

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