Dutch museums rebel against anti-Covid restrictions: become gyms and beauty salons

Incredible protest from the Dutch cultural world: museums and concert halls, closed due to anti-Covid restrictions, open as gyms and beauty salons (which can work instead). Institutions such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Mauritshuis lead the protest.

The world of culture in the Netherlands is rebelling against the new restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic imposed by the government: museums and concert halls on Wednesday temporarily turned into beauty salons, beauty salons and gyms in protest against government rules under which, as of last week, personal services have been allowed to reopen while the closure requirement remains for cultural venues.

Thus, a barber and two nail artists took care of visitors among the artwork at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam while two barbers set up their chairs on stage at the Concertgebouw also in the capital. Here the Hair salon at the Concertgebouw was staged: an impromptu beauty salon where barbers cut hair while the orchestra played Charles Iver’s Symphony No. 2. At the Mauritshuis Gallery in The Hague, home of Vermeer’s famous painting TheGirl with the Pearl Earring, fitness classes were held, while yoga classes were held at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, and even the Speelklok Museum in Utrecht became a gym between weights and mats. “We wanted to emphasize that a museum is a safe visit and we should be open,” said Van Gogh Museum director Emilie Gordenker. “Of course by taking measures against the pandemic risk, I think large open spaces like the Van Gogh Museum should be able to reopen.”

Dutch authorities distributed notices of enforcement proceedings to seventy institutions that took part in the protest. “After two years of patience and a consistently constructive attitude, the time has come for a fair perspective for the cultural sector,” said Concertgebouw director Simon Renink. The Van Gogh Museum explained it all on its website, “On Wednesday, January 19, 2022,” the site reads, “the Van Gogh Museum will temporarily be a beauty salon. With this playful one-off action we draw attention to the dire situation in the cultural sector.” The activities took place with the public, who could book themselves and pay the professionals for the service (19 euros for a beard cut, 33 euros for a haircut, 25 euros for a nail treatment). All of course in compliance with basic measures: body temperature measurement, masks, disinfectant gel.

The protest by theaters and museums follows similar measures of civil disobedience by bars and restaurants in the Netherlands against some of the harshest Covid measures in Europe. Some cafes and restaurants opened in several cities over the weekend despite a government announcement Friday that they would be closed until at least Jan. 25.

“Visiting a museum,” closed Gordenker, speaking to the BBC, “is safe, and it’s just as important as going to the beautician, maybe even more so. We’re just asking for consistency--to set the rules so that everyone understands them. At this point that seems to be lacking.” Mayors, however, did not like that, as reported by AD, a leading Dutch newspaper. And some of the first citizens of the largest cities have already said that they will also act in the coming days to enforce government-imposed restrictions everywhere, despite protests from the cultural sector. “It is not possible to turn a blind eye and accept the protests,” said a government spokeswoman. “It is not possible to tolerate this. However much one may sympathize with the cultural sector, the protest goes against the anti-Covid rules.” But in some cities the sector is already gearing up to bypass the rules. In Twente, AD also reports, it has been decided to continue the protest action inside hair salons. In Enschede, Hengelo and Haaksbergen, people are organizing to have theater performances held inside venues not affected by the restrictions. In short: there is no shortage of creativity in the Netherlands to point out to Mark Rutte’s government the absurdity of the closures affecting cultural venues.

Below are some photos from the protest.

Hairdressing at the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)
Hairdresser at the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)
Fitness at the Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem)
Fitness at the Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem
Hairdresser at the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam)
Hairdresser at the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam
Fitness at Limburgs Museum (Venlo) Fitness at the
Limburgs Museum (Venlo)
Yoga at the Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo)
Yoga at the Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo)
Fitness at the Nederlandsfotomuseum (Rotterdam) Fitness at the
Nederlandsfotomuseum (Rotterdam
Fitness at Museum JAN (Amstelveen) Fitness at
Museum JAN (Amstelveen)
Fitness at Kunsthal in Rotterdam
Fitness at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam

Dutch museums rebel against anti-Covid restrictions: become gyms and beauty salons
Dutch museums rebel against anti-Covid restrictions: become gyms and beauty salons

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