against the stream (tegenstroom), the case of Stroom Den Haag and what the artists of this city have to face

Stroom Den Haag , the euphemism of center of visual arts and architecture,  treats the artists of The Hague as their employees and judges them every couple of years (not all of them and not all under same intervals) according to criteria that mainly have to do with earned incomes and commerciality of the work, but also skills (that one has for some years and then loses them), impact qualities (zeggingskracht) and proven achievements (by this, meaning mostly public assignments). Attached to the financial part is a more widespread issue of Holland where artists hang on subsidies in order to realize their ideas/projects and basically do not go ahead without a subsidy; try to belong to commercial clubs that ensures them a minimum of commercial activity (and also ping-pong bills and receipts back and forth between them to show incomes) and all that exactly to avoid being judged as non-artist (?), non-professional artist (?), an amateur (?). The question marks are addressed to Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom.

Stroom Den Haag misuses the authority that the city of The Hague has entrusted them. Arno van Roosmalen, director of Stroom since 2005, uses the money streaming in from the city of The Hague to build his own career as curator. Under pretext of “changing the way people sees art”, he imposes his view of art to the city’s artists instead of supporting theirs, including all those who go along and excluding those who have their own way of thinking.

Stroom Den Haag is an obstacle to the free work of the visual artists of The Hague; artists are requested to comply with the taste and the ideas of the director and his committees (consisted by “fellow” artists and a gallerist!). This is the present  “professionalism testing committee” (toetsingscommissie beroepsmatigheid): Simone van den Heuvel , Maurits van de Laar (the gallerist) , Maarten Schepers , Zagara and Marian Zult .

Stroom Den Haag is a discriminating organization. More on that issue will be written in the near future.

For the ones outside Holland: Stroom Den Haag is the organisation responsible for the visual arts and recently also the architectural matters of the city of The Hague. It is set up as a Stichting (foundation or association) with independent management, but which runs on money subsidized from The Hague. Its mission is to facilitate the work of the visual artists of The Hague by managing the municipal ateliers, the subsidies and the exhibition opportunities. In practice that means that a non-stroom artist can not request a municipal atelier which would be rent at a low price, cannot request a subsidy for his/hers activities and projects, cannot request contribution to exhibition expenses, cannot be listed in the national database for visual artists ( and is not invited to participate in exhibitions because a group exhibition in order to be subsidized by Stroom must have 50% stroom-artists participation.

11 thoughts on “against the stream (tegenstroom), the case of Stroom Den Haag and what the artists of this city have to face

  1. Dear Sofia and Koert,

    I am very sorry to read this and I hope it can be solved. Your contribution to the art scene in The Hague is great with your projects in Geborgen Kamers, it is a pity that this does not count, at least it looks like that.
    Art support is very unequal in The Netherlands. When one lives in a big city one may be able to receive support within the local rules (whatever that may be) like you experienced recently.
    When one lives in a small village there is no art policy nor support.
    I hope you can keep up your great work.

    Best regards,


  2. Hi Tilleke,

    We are indeed aware of this inequality; it will be the subject of an article on this blog very soon. The point is to make these things known. The artists’ silence on the matters that concern them does not help, rather stops any improvement.
    Thank you for bringing it up and for your supportive words. We do keep it up; greetings, Sofia

  3. Once, -many years ago now, -I was “recognised” as an artist by a secret committee set up by Stroom. Once should be sufficient, I’ve no intention of repeating that exercise.
    In the 1990’s Stroom wooed artists to sell their artwork to the Arthoteek, this would be the subsidy, paid for by one’s own work. Stroom incorrectly claimed this would be excempt from taxation. But it was regarded as “income from work”. Following which I was forced to pay the subsidy back TWICE, no one could do anything about it, the taxman plundered my account, and I nearly hit the street.
    Then Stroom asked me to pick up my documentation at their office. Every transparency was destroyed, as if someone had pierced these with a scissors, though the cover of the portfolio was undamaged, proving this was another bad case of their ill will. Stroom knows how to get rid of artists voicing dissent to their disturbing policy.
    Stroom had the walls of their office covered in marble and spent much money on promoting and buying American art, in the mistaken, naieve belief that it is all “new”, which however is highly disputable. Stroom invited James Turrell to draw a design for Den Haag, -it can be shown his design copied European prehistoric circular chambered mounds, albeit without any astronomical orientation. During the neolithic and bronze ages, in what is now the Netherlands, there stood many grand monuments, which are most interesting, having sprung from a viable, meaningful vision, which we ought to honour and celebrate.
    The Netherlands are inhabited by 16 million people. Of these only a half million are variously interested in art. Do you still question why?
    The following was written by John Michell, it is called Bacon and Ruskin, from his ‘An Orthodox Voice’, (Jam publications, 1995).
    All artists hope to influence their contemporaries and, if succesful, will inevitably do so. Music is the most effective of the arts; Plato believed that it determines the future forms of government. Painters may not communicate so widely, but they certainly condition the way in which the rest of us see the world, and we are entitled to remind them of their responsibilities.
    Most of the artists I have met deny having any responsibilities at all. This is understandable, since the success of a modern artist has nothing to do with pleasing the public, but is gained by attracting the fancy of star-makers in the art world. At present there are no standards for judging the quality of an artist other than the opinions of modern art experts. These experts have complete licence to rig the market, and it is not surprising that they do so.
    The most highly praised and rewarded painter of our time was Francis Bacon who died a few weeks ago, aged 82. He was a pleasant character but eccentric, and his predilections attracted him to the low bars of Soho in the company of vicious youths and riff-raff bohemians. When drunk, sick or overtired, he was best able to paint.
    Bacon was quite unpretentious. He attuned his imagination to the abyss, and honestly, skilfully, depicted the disgusting creatures he discerned there. His art was a personal obsession and he never pretended otherwise. He would never have claimed to be ‘the greatest living painter’ or a definitive illustrator of ‘the human predicament’. Those things were said about him by Alan Bowness, director of the Tate Gallery in 1985, when Bacon had his exhibition there.
    It must have been the most extraordinary art show ever. Gravely displayed on the walls of the national art temple was a procession of hellish beings, spattered with gore, slime and ordure, writhing, fighting, copulating, vomiting, defecating and screaming in torture. Some mutilated worms were enacting a crucifixion, and there was an odd creature made up of sexual parts and wearing cricket pads. A portrait of the lovely Henrietta Moraes showed her as a decomposing lump of hair and meat.
    ‘A Genius? I say Rotten!’ cried Bernard Levin in The Times. In 50 years time, he predicted, Bacon’s pictures would be thought worthless. Meanwhile, it is our duty to discriminate in art between the true and the ugly. He was reproved by a critic who stated that it was ‘very old- fashioned’ to consider the subject matter or content of a painting. The correct thing was to ignore the filth and concentrate on Bacon’s mastery of paint and colour.
    This is the exact opposite of what old Ruskin thaught: that we should take the artist’s technical skills for granted and judge pictures by the effect they produce on the soul. His ideal picture was ‘that which conveys to the spectator the greatest number of the greatest ideas’.
    Ruskin is certainly old- fashioned, but unaffected by fashion is the truth in what he said, that pictures influence their viewers. Bacon never thought of himself as a public figure, so he never considered the public effect of his imagery. Less innocent are those who manipulated him, who established his fetid creations as official icons and made them typify ‘the human predicament’. If one did not know that these art experts are merely vain, stupid, greedy and thoroughly confused, one would see them as very sinister people indeed.

    With kind regards, John.

  4. Every artist in Den Haag should be entitled to exhibit their artwork in the Haags Gemeentemuseum. But the ‘art experts’ control that too. I myself could not care less.

    With kind regards, John.

  5. Hi John, thanks for your comments. The more I think of it the more it looks like a typical case of abuse of authority. For some reason the municipality of The Hague keeps on allowing a ‘private business’ handling the resources meant to support the artists of the city. Stroom definitely works by excluding rather than supporting; as for the committees, they should know that all serious organisations have boards with elected members which change every two-three years and of course they are not paid whatsoever. But that happens to democratic institutions with some conscience and self-control. Stroom is not this case and unfortunately I don’t see the artists willing or even capable to take any responsibility. I intend to take this further; it takes time because the work itself is always the priority.

    with kind regards, Sofia

  6. Well now, Sofia, yours is an intelligent observation and I tend to agree with you. Every so often, Stroom refers to art in ‘public space’, is there such a thing? A definition of space is qualitative, space is immeasureable, without space nothing can exist, and direction within space is also qualitative. By reason just about everything within this city is owned by the municipality, it is questionable whether there is something like ‘public space’. The energy, gas and water companies pay charges for having their cables running across municipal ground. I happen to know an artist who owns a house, but when he applied for a permit to start a gallery, he was thwarted, they only would allow a gallery ‘by appointment only’.
    Since modern architecture is geared to the abstract meter unit of length, which was incorrectly calculated, this means the dimensions of the buildings fail any reference to human harmonies and cosmic intervals. It’ll never be genuinely beautiful, and is the result of decadence. (prior to the introduction of the abstract meter was in South Holland used the ‘Rijnlandse Roede’; this was similar to the English Rod, made up of 12 feet, subdivided into 12 thumbs. One or two centimetres is not one thumb).
    Once they sent art expert Domeniek Ruyters round, seems he works for the Gemeentemuseum, he failed to comprehend nor appreciate my work, which is unfashionable and disgrees with their art theory which they cling to as if it is a religion.
    With Kind Regards, John.

  7. Voice a complaint about the additude of Stroom, to which every artist in Den Haag is victim, to Mr Matt Payton, of the International Committe for Artists Freedom, (ICAF).

  8. Hi John, thank you for the suggestion. The case of stroom is a matter of political decisions. It is mainly the policy of the city of The Hague which allows such phenomena. I may go further with that, but now I am deep in a making phase. Besides, there are more people who should talk but they seem comfortably numbed, so…

  9. Hi, everyone,
    This is to inform you that Yoko Ono, conceptual artist, musician and activist, widow of the late John Lennon, was curator for the Meltdown Festival 2013 in London. Yoko invited contributions celebrating the theme of activism, the contributions were screened by The Guardian Witness. One says: End Stroom. Free the artists of Den Haag from suppression. An organisation of 40 art theorists called Stroom uses a repressive system according to which artists are deemed to apply for ‘recognition’by a secret committee. Was Vincent Van Gogh a recognised artist? Stroom deals in illusions and exclusions.
    Kind Regards,

    1. Hi John, I ma copying here the link to the action that you are mentioning
      It was not clear to me from the beginning what you meant and I must say I do have a problem with not seeing full names especially when dealing with such important matters. Again I want to point out that though the bad practice of Stroom was revealed to me by personal conflict, I insist that the problem is a matter of principles. If it was just a club that was set up to “recognise” artists for own reasons, or for own market, there would be no issue to argue about. But with Stroom Den Haag we have to deal with an organisation that monopolizes public funds meant for the artists and the cultural identity of a city. It is more to blame the municipality of The Hague for allowing this and the whole art scene not critisizing it; maybe because they are afraid or for being laid back and in comfort. I doubt if anyone outside the Netherlands can grasp the situation, which touches corruption under legal protection. John, if you want to contact me for any relevant reason pls use my email; it is on my website I always write with my real full name

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s