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Rijksakademie van beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, NL []

'The Rijksakadmie is unique in the way it combines the extraordinary qualities of 'artists in residencies', research centres and 'postgraduate' programs, on a high international level.' (1)

The structure of the 'Rijksakademie van beeldende Kunsten', founded in 1870, was revised by the sociologist Janwillem Schrofer in 1986 for the last time. The new building and the generous enhancement of the facilities (2) was funded by the 'Ministry of Education, Culture and Science' and lent the Rijksakademie its current representative form.(3) On a mid-term basis, FL 75000 a year (1997) were made available for each of the 60 academy places.(4)

A reorganisation of the scholarship practice preceded this enormous financial support: the practice from the '70s, to buy from each artist works equivalent to the amount of FL 1500, was replaced by a 'performance-oriented' and 'selective' scholarship landscape.

Vis-à-vis the Dutch government, the Rijksakademie is obliged to accept approximately 50% Dutch applicants. The rest is from Europe and overseas. (5) Like no other institute, the Rijksakademie integrates students from non-Western countries.

Postgraduate institutes invent different names for their 'participants': here, the 33 art advisors are called 'advisors'. They visit the Rijksakademie at irregular intervals for one or more days. Three 'facilitators', (they used to be called 'co-ordinators'), organise, among other things, contacts ('appointments') to the 'participants'. These usually consist of one-and-a-half hour studio discussions.

All 'participants' are allotted a studio with name-plate and telephone. A bank account is set up for them, they receive a personally-coded magnetic key for accessing the complex which is equipped with security technology. Attendance and absentee times can be retrieved any time on the house computer at the reception - really nice, like in a company.

The 'advisors' who are artists, curators and theorists stem from different generations and are more or less established.(6) This heterogeneous spectrum and the relatively high fluctuation of advisors result in a flexible structure that can partially be influenced by the 'participants' as well. Since the traditional art disciplines were abolished two years ago, a broad range of communication possibilities and workshops promote an interdisciplinary method of working.

The relatively open structure of the Rijksakademie could encourage a flexible program. But if one compares the lists of 'advisors' in the past few years, fluctuation has been rather low. The institute is afraid of putting the once reached and publicly perceived status quo at risk. (7)

The Rijksakademie has partially taken on forms of a private enterprise: the 'advisors' are not civil servants, but have mid- to short-term contracts like all other employees. The cafeteria was contracted out in 1996 and 1997.(8) The future 'participant' signs a contract (there are no records of study or transcripts). Films and videos are distributed under the label Rijksakadmie. The postgraduate commits himself/herself to pay the Rijksakademie 10% of the purchase price, should a work produced there be sold.

The Rijksakademie stepped up its 'independence' from the state and since November 1, 1999, is an enterprise of its own. But it is nonetheless difficult to describe its current status. It is still subsidised.(9) To maintain the expensive standard of its production and service apparatus and to forestall a possible cutback of state subsidies, several employees seek to win over financial backers and sponsors and access EU money.(10) Especially vis-à-vis their private financial backers, the Rijksakademie is under pressure to achieve, meaning the quantity and quality of public success of their products. On a quarterly basis, a sort of annual report is sent out. 'Extra' lists the exhibition activities of 'advisors' and 'participants', even if they have long since left the academy. (11)

As opposed to many other institutes, the Rijksakademie attempts to organise a monthly support of 1250 Gulden (1998) for each 'participant' without a scholarship. Some 'participants' are sponsored. As quid pro quo for the monthly FL 1250, the sponsoring contract provides for three visits, a presentation in the company building and the transfer of ownership of an artwork worth FL 2000. 'All one's life', reference to the company label must be made in the CV, and during 'open studios' the label must stand next to the 'participant's' name on the studio door. (12)

The open studios are extremely important for the Rijksakademie. More than 5000 invitations are sent out, and about 3000 guests come for a visit in three days. In 1997, the open studios were supervised by a curator. (13) There are special fees, additional staff is employed in the workshops, the 'apparatus' operates at double speed. An institution bound to mid-term financial contracts must inevitably view and utilise the open studios as a show safeguarding the contracts and aimed at expanding the existing network between artists, art mediators, politics, industry and commerce. Because so many staff members were involved in producing the works of the 'participants', the open studios are celebrated like a big party.

  • (1) cf. info brochure 2000
  • (2) Apart from generously equipped workshops for wood, metal, ceramics and printing, there are two film studios, computer facilities and, since 1997, a digital editing station.
  • (3) DM 15000 per student are allotted per semester at German art academies (94).
  • (4) Many graduates receive a 'basic scholarship' (FL 60000/2 years), and there are also the 'werkbeurs' (work scholarships) (Fl 45000/year).
  • (5) cf. the statistics in "Academy", in: NRC-Handelsblad, web site from 10/28/99: In 1999, there were 208 applicants from the Netherlands, 24 were accepted, the rest of Europe 249 to 21, Asia 50 to 7, Latin America 44 to 4, Africa 64 to 1, North America 35 to 1, Australia, Oceania 5 to 0. (
  • (6) For publicity reasons, all advisors are listed on the back of the envelope in which the application documents are sent out.
  • (7) This fear is true of staff members who are in worry about their short-term contracts.
  • (8) The reason being that the cafeteria of the exclusive academy was turned into an 'exquisite' restaurant. The chef recruited for this purpose was offered the opportunity to open the restaurant space, which is attractively located alongside a canal, to the public on weekends and bring guests across the canal to the premises on a boat. But the idea turned out to be impractical. The institute had to subsidise the expensive meals (salmon several times a week) for the students.
  • (9) The contract with the director, due to be terminated after 10 years, was therefore no longer applicable.
  • (10) The subsidies amounted to FL 6000000 in 2000. The so-called Stichting Trustfonds Rijksakademie (earlier Stichting Intendance) deals with sponsoring.
  • (11) The chance to 'use distribution to raise the image' depends on the amount of art produced. Art production is in a paradox relationship of being subsidised and simultaneously impeded: the service-providing apparatus of 32 employees frees one from the time-consuming, day-to-day formalities. 33 advisors perform counselling, 13 workshop staff members help out during production. If 45 employees, 32 occasionally present 'advisors' and 60 'participants' all encounter each other on a daily basis in constricted spaces, it does demand an enormous communication performance.
  • (12) When artists are sponsored, the institute conducts the contract negotiations. In addition, this personal sponsoring contract, something which in this form is more common in the field of sports than in art, is not thematized. No conceptual distinction is made between sponsors and institutional funding. The financial conditions of the institute are not transparent and are never a topic of discussion.
  • (13) In 1997, the Belgian curator Bart Cassimann was given the responsibility for organising the 'open studios'.


Notes on RAIN

'RAIN will strengthen the exchange of art, ideas, techniques, cultural heritage and knowledge between artists' initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both physically and virtually. In this exchange the emphases will be on 'south-south' and 'south-north' contacts, taking into account the 'north-south' line which is already represented rather well'(14)

RAIN is an ambitious project of the Rijksakademie and serves, on the one hand, to expand its network of relationships in the sense of 'development aid', such as the continuing involvement of former 'participants'. (15) The RAIN project encourages former students from Africa, Asia and Latin America to suggest projects in their respective countries. For the most part, the supported projects can best be described as small, official spaces or initiatives which have the aim of offering a platform for seminars, workshops, co-operations and exhibitions. The former students are to act as sort of organisers for these projects and function as contacts for the Rijksakademie vis-à-vis the other persons involved in the respective countries. (16)

RAIN distributes a budget surplus of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the form of a one-off start-up funding of about FL 15000 for each project. In addition, the teachers and students of the Rijksakademie, who fly to each of the projects, are paid air tickets to workshops.

The Rijksakademie also provides some of the equipment, such as computers. It organises the presentation of projects, documentation, publishing, and the creation of a web site. This is certainly a support for projects lacking infrastructure, but on the other hand, due to this, the Rijksakademie keeps in its hands the mediation of these projects in Europe and the option of national or institution-related representation.

As the overall project RAIN is still in a phase of development, many decisions are, as yet, open. The various parties hope to be able to contribute their diverging interests to the project. But the Dutch ministry reserves the right to decide on further financing of the overall project, and the influence of the Rijksakademie is dependant on this; but so is the existence of some of the projects, should they fail to find other (partial) financing until then. (17)

  • (14) Concept paper of the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam 2000
  • (15) The initials RAIN originally stood for Rijksakademie International Networks. One can imagine that the students participating in the organisation were not happy with this name. In this context, the Rijksakademie points out the diplomatic function the name has: only if 'Rijksakademie' is part of the project name, will money come from the ministry. And the ministry viewed the projects more like foreign branches of the Rijksakademie. Now, however, the long form of the name is no longer used.

cf. the Email-conversation with Claudia Fontes (TRAMA), August, 2000: 'Project RAIN, the one of the Rijksakademie, is linked to us as they proposed to build a network with other ex-participants' initiatives. TRAMA's sketch existed before their proposal, before I left the Rijks, but with the huge input they are putting through RAIN we can handle things differently towards institutions in our own country and get support here for our own project. For people who decide here, RAIN made the difference between 'OK, you do it and I watch you failing' and 'this can be serious, we want to be there just in case'. If I must describe RAIN, I wouldn't know what to say so far. I wish it is a lot of good will to rebuild links with southern post-colonialist cultures in a healthy way, supported by some functionaries sensitive towards the potency that could be generated by other structures of thinking in the 'south'. (It is so annoying, this north-south thing. Makes everything black and white. Same for 'central' and 'peripheral'. Let's keep trying to find proper terms for it.) What upset me at some points in the talks in Heemstede was to become aware once more of the huge, enormous gap that is still to be narrowed between wills and a real thought behind it, a real attempt and need to incorporate to the confidence of 'central' cultures in rational control as a tool to develop knowledge, other categories that maybe have to do with chaos or emotions, or with the place where chaos and control meet: chance.'

  • (16) cf. the concept paper of the Rijksakademie: 'In 2000 the following partners will participate in the network:

'Centre Soleil d'Afrique' in Bamako, Mali is an artists' centre which organises workshops, seminars, exhibitions etc. It is financed with the support of the Prins Claus Fund, primarily to relate artists from West Africa to other parts of the world. Contact: Hama Goro. 'Ruang Rupa' in Jakarta, Indonesia, is an artists' platform for debates, projects, workshops and exchange within Jakarta, Indonesia. It will begin to concentrate on art in public space. Contact: Ade Darmawan (in development)'. 'TRAMA' in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a flexible, horizontal structure for artists organising exchange, discussion, workshops and a database. Activities are directed to the visual arts sector, often in relation to other sectors like film, philosophy, sociology etc. (A selection). Contact: Claudia Fontes

  • (17) A decision by the Ministry is awaited in May, 2001.


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