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Cultural Embassy



Haco de Ridder Officer International Visitors Program Mondriaan Fund
Since 2007 the guests of the International Visitors Program stay at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy.

I work for the Visitors Programme and the yearly Orientation Trips organized by the Mondriaan Fund, the Dutch public cultural funding organization focusing on visual arts and cultural heritage. We invite around 20 people a year, mostly on an individual basis but sometimes as a group. The idea is to provide them an insight into the Dutch art field. Together with them I prepare a tailor-made programme of artists and institutions that they would like to meet.

I started out doing the Hotel school Maastricht and later in Heerlen. This was not a very conscious choice; it was more where I ended up when I had to choose between Religious Studies, Physiotherapy and Hotel school. After my studies I worked in posh hotels for quite a while but got fed up with it. I left the hotel business to travel through Southern Europe and Northern Africa for three years, working for a couple of whom the man was a writer and his wife was a gallery owner. They lived in Italy where they had a large house with a medieval tower in the garden. Here they had visits from Bruce Chatwin, David Hockney and many other artists. That is how I got involved with the art world. It made me decide to see how I could fit that in with my hotel experience. When back in the Netherlands, I studied Art Management at the Reinwardt Academy, later CBV (Culturele Bedrijfsvoering).

In my job right now, my background in hospitality is really useful. I like to facilitate the visitors in gaining a good idea of the contemporary art world in the Netherlands. I noticed recently I have to do more research on alternative spaces. There is a new scene of smaller initiatives who are very low-profile financially but have a very interesting program.

The way the visitors program comes together is by following the international art world, for example via the e-flux messages we receive when a curator is appointed for a big biennale. For instance we invited the Artistic Director Juliana Engberg of the Sydney Biennale, which opens 21 March. She was in the visitors program and decided to invite nine Dutch artists for the biennale, which on 72 artists is a good result. The Lyon Biennual of 2011 also had a lot of input from the visitors program.
We also receive emails from people who do a request to take part, and from Dutch institutions. Together with director Birgit Donker of the Mondriaan Fund we compile a long list which is sent through the organization. Then we decide on the short list. Usually about six months ahead we invite visitors.

In the last years, there has been a huge discussion about the budget cuts in the cultural sector. But people from abroad are still impressed by the cultural infrastructure in the Netherlands. The art world is still layered, with a good offer of bigger and smaller museums and alternative spaces. You can see the importance of institutions like the Ateliers, Jan van Eyck Academy, the Rijksakademie. There are so many people from abroad working here, and they have a huge influence on the art scene.

Next week we have a group of eight people from cities we visited during our last Orientation Trip, in Eastern Europe. We visited their institutions, so now it is very nice that we can reconnect them with the group who visited them, but also to introduce them to new people. And they will take part in the symposium on Thursday 20th March at the Stedelijk Museum. ‘Heading East, new institutional models in Middle and Eastern Europe’, where they will present their institution and of course the situation in the Ukraine will be a topic.