Published on Open!, July 2014 Animosity and mutual miscomprehension have come to characterise the relationship between journalists and the modern art world in the Netherlands. At the core of this discord is a recurring discussion […]
“No one is safe.” With these words Halbe Zijlstra, the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science, announced the slashing of the cultural budget on the Dutch national news in December 2010. Whereas cutbacks are generally accompanied by at least the pretension of reluctance or regret, Zijlstra delivered the message with a sardonic smile. It’s a rather uncommon spectacle: a State Secretary of Culture who publicly flaunts his disdain for culture. Zijlstra described artists as being on a “subsidy drip” and took care to present himself as an avowed fan of Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, McDonalds and Metallica. Known amongst artists as “Halbe the Wrecker,” he has become the embodiment of the anti-artistic and anti-intellectual sentiment in the Netherlands. Zijlstra became the figure of the philistine that the cultured classes love to hate. And he welcomes that hatred.