Stedelijk Museum director quits over private business interests

The director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has resigned with immediate effect following the publication of news articles about her private commercial interests.

Beatrix Ruf is standing down ‘in the interests of the museum, given the recent media speculation, which could have an impact on the museum’s reputation,’ the museum said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the NRC reported that Rus is owner of an art consultancy in addition to her job as director of the city’s modern art museum. The consultancy advised private individuals and companies about lending art to the museum itself.

In 2015, the consultancy made net profit of €430,000, raising questions about how much time she was able to devote to her company in addition to doing her job at the museum, the paper said.

The museum is carrying out its own research into Ruf’s performance in her two years at the museum, the statement said.

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Mata Hari and giant marionettes in Leeuwarden-Fryslân EU city of culture

Photo: LF2018

Major exhibitions on Mata Hari and Escher, a theatre performance involving 100 live horses, a tall ships race and a new fountain in each of the 11 cities of Friesland are among the programme highlights when Leeuwarden becomes European city of culture next year.

The full programme is set to be unveiled early on Tuesday evening, but the festival website already contains a sneak preview of some of the events in store.

‘Potatoes go Wild’, the giant marionettes of French street theatre group Royal de Lux, and landscape art in the mud and sands of the Wadden Sea coast are also on the menu.

The aim of the Leeuwarden-Fryslân organisation is to show ‘how we Frisians celebrate live and in so doing leave behind a healthy planet for generations to come’, the website states.

‘Culture is not the aim, but the means. Our landscape is the stage and everyone is welcome.’

Four million visitors

According to the NRC, the organisers hope to attract four million visitors to the year-long festival, of whom 1.4 million will stay overnight in the region. The focus is on attracting foreign visitors from northern Germany, Belgium and Scandinavia.

The Dutch tourist board Holland Marketing is using the occasion to position not only Leeuwarden as the cultural capital of Europe but Friesland as the ‘Lake District’, NBTC director Conrad van Tiggelen told the paper earlier this year.

The total budget for the event is put at €70m, funded by regional and national government, the EU and various corporate sponsors.

Leeuwarden prepares to be Europe’s capital of culture


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From Russia with love: Rembrandt masterpieces comes home

Rembrandt van Rijn, Flora, 1634 © State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Amsterdam Hermitage museum is showing an unprecedented number of Dutch masters from the Hermitage in St Petersburg in an upcoming exhibition.

The exhibition, which took three years to prepare, includes works by Frans Hals, Gerard Dou and Rembrandt. Of the six paintings by Rembrandt, the portrait of his wife Saskia as Flora is one of the exhibition highlights.

The Hermitage in St Petersburg, with which the Amsterdam Hermitage is partnered, owns the largest collection of Dutch masters outside the Netherlands.

Of this collection of some 1,500 works 63 paintings by 50 artists are making the journey ‘home’ to the Netherlands for the first time in 350 years, the museum’s website writes.

‘Dutch Masters from the Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars’ starts on October 7.

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Archaeologists uncover ‘spectacular’ shipwreck graveyard

The Meuse river near Gennep. Photo: Michielverbeek via Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists have discovered a ‘spectacular’ graveyard of shipwrecks in the flood plains of the river Meuse.

‘It is one of the largest if not the largest graveyard of its kind ever found in the Netherlands,’ a spokesman for cultural heritage organisation RCE told the Volkskrant. .

Apart from the wrecks, archaeologists found the remains of a Roman temple as well as a multitude of other artifacts.

Public broadcaster NOS also mentions the remains of mammoths which were found spread out over the 275 hectare site between Alphen en Dreumel which at present is used for sand and clay extraction.

Dog walker

Nils Kerkhoven, one of the archaeologists involved, regularly walked his dog there and thought the area had possibilities in spite of having been probed to no effect ahead of the extraction work, NOS writes.

He petitioned the project developer for permission to dig. This became the start of what the archaeologists describe as ‘a crazy adventure of 18 volunteers at the biggest and richest archaeological site of the Netherlands’.

The team, consisting of two professional and 16 amateur archaeologists, were active at the site for seven years. That made the project truly ‘archaeology for the people and by the people,’ NOS quotes them as saying.

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Oldest skeleton ever found in the Netherlands goes on show

The new section of the museum will be interactive: Photo: Open Air Museum, Arnhem

The oldest skeleton ever found in the Netherlands is going on show for the first time at the open air museum in Arnhem as part of an exhibition about the history of the Lowlands.

The skeleton belongs to a 60 year-old woman who lived around 7,500 years ago and who had several children.

It was dug up in 1997 during work on the Betuwe railway line and was named Trijntje, a play of words on the name Trijntje and treintje (train). Trijntje represents the first of the ten periods in the Canon van Nederland, a division of Dutch history which was  drawn up in 2006 to aid history education in schools.

Historian Leendert Louwe Kooijmans told broadcaster NOS Trijntje’s bones are remarkably well-preserved. ‘In sand our bones turn to dust within a thousand years. But in bog and clay, where we found Trijntje, bones aren’t affected by oxygen. The more fragile bones are lost but her legs and skull have survived very well,’ he said.

The museum has turned the Canon into an interactive exhibition highlighting the highs and lows of Dutch history with artifacts from all periods.

Read more

Ten key periods in Dutch history which made the Netherlands what it is today

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Meet Van Gogh Experience leaves museum out of pocket

© Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam/© Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

A multi-media 3D presentation of  Vincent van Gogh’s life and works which premiered in Beijing last year has ended in a loss of almost €2m for the Van Gogh Museum, the museum’s annual report shows.

The venture, thought up by the museum’s commercial department, was meant to introduce Van Gogh to groups that are not able to travel to Amsterdam to see the works, with the added advantage that fragile works would not have to leave museum’s premises.

It also came in the wake of severe cutbacks to the culture budget and the presentation was thought to be a lucrative alternative source of income, the Volkskrant writes.

However, the presentation of the ‘Meet Van Gogh Experience’ in Beijing, which lasted for two months and was to travel to Shanghai and Macau, only drew thousands of visitors when tens of thousands had been expected.

According to commercial director Adriaan Dönszelmann, the museum’s Chinese partner was ‘enthusiastic but not experienced enough’.

‘We did not check thoroughly enough whether this party had the know-how to mount the marketing circus needed to publicise this sort of event. The Chinese market is still a very new one and it takes time to understand it. If we were to find a new Chinese partner we would look more critically at their ability to market a show like this,’ he told the paper.

With a turnover of €4.1m in 2016 the museum’s finances are not in jeopardy, Dönszelmann says, which is why he would rather explain how the loss came about than brush it under the carpet, according to the NRC. The museum, he says, has not financed the business risk with public money but with the money the museum makes from its commercial activities, such as the sale of posters and souvenirs.


Most of all, Dönszelmann says, the loss should serve as a warning that the cultural entrepreneurship so beloved of politicians carries risks.

‘We have had plenty of discussions about what cultural  entrepreneurship entails. People think it is solely about efficient management but there is much more to it than that. If you want to increase turnover, you have to take risks. Fortunately for us, this is a risk we can carry,’ he told the paper.

The Chinese venture is not the end for the Van Gogh Experience. The project, which includes life size replicas of Van Gogh’s works and 3D reproductions which can be felt to appreciate the thickness of the brushstrokes, was given the prestigious Thea award for themed entertainment last year and is expected to continue elsewhere.

The museum has announced it is talking to an, as yet unknown, new partner. ‘The new partner will act as an agent and will not share in the risks but the fee we’ll be paying does depend on whether or not the marketing is up to scratch. It’s no cure, no pay,’ Dönszelmann told the paper.

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One million visitors visit listed buildings during Open Monument Days

The Polderhuis in Amsterdam was one of the attractions. Photo: Bram Bos via Wikimedia Commons

The annual Open Monument Days (heritage days) attracted 950,000 visitors throughout the country this past weekend. The organisation blamed the the rainy weather on the lower than usual visitor numbers.

Some 4,000 listed and historically-important buildings opened their doors over the weekend to welcome visitors free-of-charge. The organisors said there were more families with young children, tourists and expats joining the tour this year.

Open Monument Days has evolved into one of the country’s largest cultural events over the past 30 years. It is part of European Heritage Days in which 50 countries participate.

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Layla M is the Dutch contender for best foreign film at Oscars

Layla M, a film by director Mijke de Jong, is the Dutch entry for best foreign film at the Oscars this year.

The film, which had a triumphant premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, tells the story of an eighteen year-old Muslim girl in Amsterdam West who slowly falls for the ideas of radical Islam.

The Volkskrant called the film ‘a search for the heart rending story behind the headline’. It cites a pivotal scene in which Layla, played by Nora el Koussour, realises that in spite of her academic achievements and the opportunities this gives her, she lacks a sense of belonging.

The film has also been shown at various film festivals worldwide, including Chicago, AFI Fest Los Angeles, BFI London, Marrakech, Goa, Gothenburg, Jeonju IFF, Dubai and Tallinn Black Nights. Netflix has bought the global rights.

The final selection for best foreign film will be announced at the end of January. The Oscars are celebrated on March 4.

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Otter population growth stagnates as a quarter die on the roads or in traps

The number of otters has not grown significantly for the first time in years, researchers at the university of Wageningen report in Nature Today.

The otter population now stands at around 200, 15 up from last year. Wageningen’s environmental research department Alterra has been monitoring the otter population since 2002 when the first group of otters was introduced in nature reserve the Diepen-Weerribben in Overijssel.

With 80 animals, it is now home to the largest otter population in the country but otters are now established in Friesland, Drenthe, Groningen, Flevoland, Gelderland and Zuid-Holland as well.

Cause of the growth stagnation the high mortality rate among otters. A quarter of the population was killed by cars or drowned in fish traps. According to the researchers, more has to be done to make the sites where otters cross the road safer. They also say legislation is needed to adapt fish traps.

The good news is that the otter population is showing greater genetic variation, which will prevent inbreeding. The researchers also found that of the original population the oldest females are still alive.

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Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum reputations are among world’s best: study


The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are second and third place in a ranking of 18 of the world’s top cultural institutions compiled by researchers at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University. The Louvre in Paris topped the list.

The study, led by professor Cees van Riel, surveyed 12,000 people from 10 different countries and compared the opinions of people who had visited the museums with those who knew about them by reputation.

Van Riel has been examining the reputations of Dutch museums for several years but this is the first large-scale comparison of international art institutions.

The study study identified seven drivers of reputation: products and services, innovative capacity, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and financial performance.


The top eight of the top 10 museums with the best reputations are European. The list also includes the Vatican museums, Madrid’s Prado, and the British Museum.

‘Reputation is vitally important for an organisation, because, simply said, it provides a licence to operate,’ Van Riel said.

The ranking itself is unimportant, Van Riel said. ‘People love art museums, they love their collections, they love what distinguishes them from others.’

The researchers also found there was a link between the reputation of the institution and the city is is located in. ‘If you have a sky high reputation as a country, it is easier for your museum to be appreciated,’ he said.

Museums, he added, are also appreciated for the contribution to society, in maintaining heritage and providing education.

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