BY Noemi Smolik in Features | 23 FEB 14
Featured in
Issue 13

The Institutional Network

The density of art institutions in the Rhineland and Benelux region is exceptional. We asked an artist, a musician, an art critic and a number of museum directors and curators from the region what the benefits and drawbacks of this landscape are for exhibition makers and audiences alike

BY Noemi Smolik in Features | 23 FEB 14


Rein Wolfs

Rein Wolfs is an art historian and curator. He was artistic director at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam from 2002–07, and at Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel from 2008–13. He became director of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany), Bonn in March 2013.

Having now spent nearly a year in the Rhineland, I often get the feeling that the temperament here has more in common with the mentality of the western regions of the Benelux countries than with that of its immediate neighbours in the eastern Netherlands and eastern Belgium. This may have to do with the fact that the densely populated Rhineland and the adjacent Ruhr region are demographically more analogous to these western areas. The Netherlands’ Randstad, a conurbation encompassing Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden and Utrecht, and also to a certain extent including Antwerp, bears many similarities to the metropolitan region stretching from the Ruhr to Dusseldorf to the Cologne-Bonn area.

The fundamental question this context poses, to us and to others, is whether spatial proximity has a positive impact on cultural exchange and collaboration in the world of museums, exhibition venues and galleries. To be honest, I am inclined to suspect that a strongly competitive spirit prevails within this institutional sphere, which – due to growing pressure to succeed – provokes qualms about excessively close collaboration. The compulsion to distinguish one’s own institution and to stand out from one’s competitors seems to have been imposed by high expectations on the part of both the public and the institutions’ funders. I have watched with concern as the fight for economic survival has arrived in the cultural sector. Here too, the management principle that excessive density of competitors in a space can pose a threat to the existence of individual competitors seems to apply. While a competitive situation can in principle inspire improvements in quality, it also has its dangers. Rather than sharing resources, knowledge and ideas with one another and thereby generating cultural added value, institutions jealously hoard and tend to their own capital. Knowledge is power and the tending of knowledge is a proven means of preventing the loss of identity or stature. The free time of potential visitors is ultimately a highly coveted good, and media attention is hard earned. Additionally, museums in geographical proximity rarely host each other’s exhibitions when their pools of potential visitors overlap too much.

Against this backdrop, the importance of dialogue among neighbouring cultural institutions needs to be stressed nonetheless. Joint marketing strategies are sometimes a good way of increasing the attractiveness of one’s own product, as well as increasing one’s breadth of products. This also means keeping sight of the fact that bolstering one another ultimately enhances not only the region but also the position of culture on the whole. In this sense, Bonn as a part of the rich cultural landscape of the Rhineland is right in the midst of this competition. At the same time, I understand this situation as an inestimably precious starting position – also from the perspective of the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany – that is rich in potential opportunities. Even if there is little direct exchange with the institutions in the eastern parts of the Benelux countries, for example in the hosting of exhibitions, our neighbouring countries are noticeably represented in our visitor statistics, which is due not least to the broad variety of attractions that our region has to offer on the whole. The metropolitan character of the Rhineland clearly exerts a strong force of attraction upon the rurally inflected eastern parts of the Benelux countries, while the cross-border gaze of Rhineland culture aficionados is conversely focused on cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Translated by Jane Yager


Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams is an LA-born conceptual artist and photographer. Since 2008 he has been Professor in Photography at Dusseldorf Art Academy. He lives in Cologne.

My wife Ann Goldstein and I have had an apartment in Cologne for eight years – before I started teaching at the Dusseldorf Art Academy in 2008. Coming from Los Angeles, where I still maintain a studio, I liked the scale of the city. LA is sprawling; Cologne is condensed. And living in the Rhineland means I can be in Brussels, Rotterdam, Switzerland or Paris in a couple of hours. I can hop on a plane to London and see a Richard Hamilton show at Tate Modern, for example, or catch a train and see a Guy Debord show at the Bibliotheque nationale de France in Paris, and be back in my studio that night. For a European this isn’t unusual, but for an American it’s utopian.

That’s the practical side, but there’s also a historical one. I’m interested in artists like Marcel Broodthaers, David Lamelas, Michael Asher, and Konrad Lueg a.k.a. Konrad Fischer. The details in their work, from the fabric of everyday life, become extremely palpable when I’m in Dusseldorf or Brussels; history becomes concrete.

As an educator, having been involved with a couple of institutions that collapsed (one educational and one museum) and a couple of communities that fell apart, I have developed an active interest in community. The Dusseldorf Art Academy is a real focal point; its history is much richer than is evoked by listing famous alumni like Gerhard Richter or Joseph Beuys. There is also a generation of younger curators who share my interest in the region’s history: Moritz Wesseler, head of the Cologne Kunstverein; Julia Friedrich, curator of prints and drawings at the Ludwig Museum; and Elodie Evers at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, who recently co-curated the show Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism (2013), which dealt directly with the history of the area.

My students realize that this dense Rhineland-Benelux network of Kunstvereins and up-and-coming galleries benefits them. There is more freedom than in, say, Berlin, where you’re just psychically and physically further away from what’s outside. They are committed to the idea, which I share: ‘make your own context, set your own agenda.’ In Dusseldorf for example Matt Moravec from New York runs a space called Off Vendome. It’s great, not only because of the programme, but because it provides a focus for young artists from different places to meet. Anybody doing an exhibition there automatically meets all the young local artists, including students of Rita McBride, Tomma Abts and myself.

The region feels a bit like Los Angeles did in the late 1970s and early ’80s; there is an extreme sense of possibility and optimism. I always give my students a copy of Brigitte Kölle’s book okey dokey Konrad Fischer (2007), not to build a monument to Fischer, but to show that a small group of people can make a huge difference just by assessing things practically and creating a place that is conducive to thinking about what could be.

Last summer I took my class to the Netherlands, where we visited Mevis & Van Deursen, graphic designers in Amsterdam; Julius Vermeulen, advisor and designer for the Dutch postal service; Petra Blaisse, principal of the design studio Inside Outside; and OMA, Rem Koolhaas’s architectural firm in Rotterdam. OMA has done a lot of unbuilt projects, and part of their production is related discursive material. I wanted my students to see a collective workspace that is not geared towards the final product, where the possibility of failure is integrated into the work process. Rejection is a primary element in the discursive life of their studio.

In Rotterdam in the early 1990s, Karel Schampers was senior curator and Wim Crouwel was director at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam; it had a dynamic programme that brought in lots of artists from abroad – Christopher Wool, James Welling, Cady Noland, Matthew Barney, Stephen Prina. Down the street, Chris Dercon was head of the Witte de With, which was known for polemical group shows. The three of them turned that street into an art destination; there was always a reason to visit that city. Making a community doesn’t take so many people or so much money – what it really takes is the desire and the ideas.


Stefanie Kreuzer

Stefanie Kreuzer is an art historian and author. Since 2007 she has curated the main collection of Museum Morsbroich in Leverkusen and in 2011 became curator-in-chief for temporary exhibitions.

From my current position at Museum Morsbroich in Leverkusen, I keep a curious eye on the many and varied institutions and artistic positions in Belgium and the Netherlands. The tours for curators organized by the two countries are always very useful in this respect. Specific cooperation, on the other hand, tends to be based more on one-off projects, planning exhibitions or partnerships with individual artists or institutions.

In 2006, when I was still director of the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein (NAK) and working with three partner institutions from Belgium and the Netherlands (Marres – House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht; Z33 Huis voor actuele kunst, Hasselt, and E2N Espace 251 Nord, Liège) we tried the opposite of this one-off approach: a major exchange project with the title After Cage. 24 Collections in motion, for which we cooperated with a further 20 institutions (not all devoted to fine art) in the region where the three countries meet. This project initiated by the NAK and funded in part by INTERREG (a programme of the European Regional Development Fund) involved institutions as diverse as Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum and Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst (Aachen), Rheinische Industriemuseum (Euskirchen), Museum van het Mijnwerkershuis (Eisden), Afrikacentrum (Cadier en Keer) and Bonnefantenmuseum (Maastricht). Our aim was to present these institutions scattered across the region, with their programmes and collections, to a broad audience.

It was an incredibly difficult undertaking as the concept included both artistic interventions at the individual institutions and an exchange of parts of their collections, which could only be realized to a limited extent. But the main challenge was focusing attention – a test not only for the organizers, but also for visitors. The different openings of the various interventions and the required readiness to travel had a serious impact on the way the project as a whole was perceived. Those visitors who made the journey to see the various locations certainly gained an interesting insight into the region’s institutions and their diversity. For me personally, the positive outcome above all has been the contacts made – to artists as well as institutions – a private network that can be relied on to supply information, open doors, and enable uncomplicated support.

In a sense, working away from the centre means working ‘in between’. For Museum Morsbroich, geographically speaking, this means working between Cologne and Dusseldorf (not such a peripheral area). From its founding in 1951 into the 1960s, Museum Morsbroich played a central role in the development of contemporary art, with the important exhibition Monochrome Painting (1960) or the first show of conceptual art at a major institution, Konzeption / Conception (1969). With the founding of Kunstsammlung NRW in Dusseldorf and the opening of Cologne’s Museum Ludwig (large institutions in major cities that redirected sections of public attention) the museum’s relative status changed. A non-central location also calls for an exhibition programme that helps institutions to achieve a clear profile in relation to their neighbours but still creating a dialogue with them based on a knowledge of their activities. This applies not only to major institutions, but to all nearby venues. I try to reflect on institutional conditions: the history of the collection, the museum’s exhibition history and its architectural peculiarities (at Museum Morsbroich, housed in a Baroque palace, this is a special challenge). For me, this is precisely the strength of institutions located away from major centres, all of which possess very different histories and collections as well as multi-faceted exhibition programmes. This makes a key contribution to the diversity of artistic positions. We recently staged an exhibition titled A Handful of Earth from Paradise. Magic Pictures and Objects from Museum Morsbroich that explored an important aspect of our collection and exhibition activity by referring back to several shows held at the museum during the 1960s and ’70s. Re-presenting works that entered the collection at that time and linking them to work by contemporary artists shows a continuity in the museum’s exhibition activity, as well as building a bridge to the present.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell


Dirk Snauwaert

Dirk Snauwaert is an art historian and curator. He was director of Kunstverein Munich from 1996–2001. Since 2005 he has been the director of WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels.

Today there is a permanent flow of data and information among institutions, collectors and artists between the Rhineland and the Benelux countries. This is related to a fixed calendar of must-see events and exhibitions. These events, however, no longer make the kind of impact that the legendary pioneering spirit of the postwar era and the then neo-avant garde undoubtedly did, positioned between reconstruction and a self-evident commonality of context and destiny.

To put it differently, the loose, informal exchange among institutions, artists and so on could bring about more frequent tangible joint projects than just sporadic reciprocal visits to exhibitions. Spatial proximity is not always conducive to co-producing and hosting exhibitions, however – it is after all always possible to spend a Sunday visiting exhibitions in multiple places in the country next door or to take a quick trip to the Rhineland or Holland for an opening or a dinner and be back home the same night. The need for collaboration becomes less urgent.

Beyond this, the large-scale ambitious exhibition projects that left their historical mark on both sides of the border – Westkunst in 1981 and Bilderstreit in 1989 in Cologne, Von Hier Aus in 1984 in Dusseldorf, the series of Sonsbeek exhibitions in Arnhem – have given way to art fairs from Brussels to Cologne to Rotterdam. Art lovers now tend to regard these as the must-see events, but because they take place annually and are in principle always the same, they do not stick in one’s memory as much.

Language barriers certainly present a major obstacle. The struggle for media attention is now not least a matter of language, and only the informal circles of culture sector professionals there can manage with English on a permanent basis. It comes as no surprise, then, that the greater region of Benelux-Rhineland remains divided into (at least) three different publics, three languages, and three areas.

The on-going concentration of power in the major metropolises (London, Paris, Berlin, etc.) is generating a counter-effect in regional centres. In places where they have long had to defend themselves against centralizing, concentrating tendencies, residents have developed a sense of pride in the regions’ histories. This self-awareness is responsible for a tremendous quantity and variety of sites and activities. That is why it is also no surprise that Brussels, although its role as the EU headquarters makes it synonymous with bureaucratic centralism in the minds of many, resembles an experiment in diversification at the cultural level. For several years the influx of moneyed new arrivals from France – a much-discussed trend – has also drawn international galleries to Brussels, lifting the regional art scene out of its prior complacency. On top of this, artists have arrived from the Netherlands, Germany, France and elsewhere – examples include Rossella Biscotti, Jana Euler, Lucy McKenzie and Simon Thompson. Perhaps those who come to Brussels are seeking a different kind of daily life than the concentrated competition found in the aforementioned major cities; perhaps they prefer more discreet and informal channels.

Belgium’s most famed characteristic – that the motorways are all brightly lit at night – has for a long time not actually been the case; large cuts in subsidies and even closings of cultural institutions are arousing attention in Holland and the paradise exotically dubbed Benelux has long since given way to Brussels Europeanism. Nonetheless, an unspectacular cosmopolitanism shot through with language barriers continues to shape the self-image of this area comprised of multiple regional centres.

Translated by Jane Yager


Noemi Smolik

Noemi Smolik is an art historian and a critic for FAZ, Artforum and frieze, among other publications. She teaches at the University in Cologne, where she is also based.

The Rhineland’s proximity to the Benelux countries is something I notice most of all before Christmas and during the Art Cologne fair. The former because Cologne’s Christmas market is suddenly full of people speaking Dutch and Flemish, the latter because German gallerists start talking about the legendary Belgian collectors who come and buy from their booths – even if most of the Belgian collectors I know buy only Belgian art.

In the 1980s, Cologne saw itself as the centre of the world as far as contemporary art was concerned. People didn’t look over the border because the assumption was that the whole world should be looking at Cologne. In the 1990s – when important galleries, artists and critics relocated to Berlin – the city was licking its wounds, lacking the energy to look further afield. And any such gazing that did occur was always directed towards the dazzle of Berlin. Only now are perspectives in Cologne gradually broadening. With the opening of a branch of New York’s Barbara Gladstone Gallery in Brussels in 2008, if not before, people began looking towards the Belgian capital. It is significant that the resulting shift in focus has been due less to major institutions than to a small number of young galleries. In January 2012, Cologne Contemporaries (a loose association of young galleries including DREI, Galerie Warhus Ritterhaus and Krupic Kersting Galerie) invited six galleries from Brussels to show in their spaces. The following January, the Cologne galleries made the return trip to Brussels. And finally, in January 2014, Carla Donauer curated a show of work from the Cologne and Brussels galleries in a former office building in Cologne’s old town (including a prize sponsored by Art Cologne). All those involved were young, barely-known artists, including Morgan Betz, James Clarkson, Tracey Snelling and Filip Van Dingenen. But on the institutional level, too, tentative attempts at rapprochement between the Rhineland and the Benelux countries can be observed. At the end of 2013, for example, Marres – House for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht prepared a show featuring art students from Antwerp, Brussels, the Dutch town of Breda and the Dusseldorf academy, represented by Fabian Altenried.

Although I have been living in the Rhineland since the 1980s, I have in the past made far too little use of the proximity of the Benelux countries. Among other things, this is because I grew up in Prague, so that my perspective is oriented more towards the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia. In 2010, however, this interest in the art of Central and Eastern Europe took me to Bruges, to the exhibition The Reality of the Lowest Rank curated by Luc Tuymans – one of the best presentations of Central European art I have ever seen. Elsewhere, I have often been fascinated by young Belgian artists like Kris Martin or Fabrice Samyn on account of the peculiar linking of Baroque morbidity and cool attitude that is so often found in Belgian art.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell


Brigitte Franzen

Brigitte Franzen is an art historian and curator. She was curator of Skulptur Projekte Münster 07 in 2007. Since 2009 she has been director of the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen.

A year ago we launched the platform Very Contemporary. The collaborating partners are institutions in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion spanning Aachen, Maastricht and Hasselt. We have joined together ten contemporary art venues in three countries, located no more than 30 kilometres distance from one another. Along with the Ludwig Forum in Aachen, these include, among others: Z33 Kunstencentrum in Hasselt, NAK (Neue Aachener Kunstverein), the Bonnefanten Museum and Marres – Centre for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht, the ikob Museum of Contemporary Art in Eupen and Museum Het Domein in Sittard. This initiative offers the prospect of collaborating on larger projects, but is at the moment primarily an association that organizes a brochure, a website and joint projects. In a certain sense, then, it offers a practical vade mecum for the region.

The Ludwig Collection has always maintained a very close Meuse-Rhine connection between Aachen and Cologne. The museum in Aachen was founded back in 1970. Continuous exchange keeps us linked up with artists, collectors, gallerists and colleagues at museums in the region. We know about each other, we talk with and about each other – the contact is sometimes intensive, sometimes looser. Art Cologne also plays its part by bolstering the unique Rhineland context internationally. The great thing about this area is that it has a kind of density that is not found anywhere else in the world. Even if the larger players sometimes seem to steal the show from the smaller ones, the Rhineland demonstrates that in Germany crucial impetus has always come out of cities beyond the capital. And we are located right in the thick of things: Aachen lies one or two hours journey from Brussels and Paris, four and a half from London by train, 100 kilometres from Antwerp and Eindhoven. This puts regional and national geography into perspective. The sheer volume of interesting offerings, however, often makes it difficult to take in all of them.

This dense interconnection also gives us a special vantage point for observation. We do not live in our own bubbles here, but rather in a traditionally very dynamic and mobile situation. Art discourses are international anyway; here they are augmented through the region’s unique modern and contemporary history as well as its social, political and economic reality. Unlike perhaps in Frankfurt or Berlin, visitors here demand that art be relevant, including in terms of social cohesion. The art that has been incubated in this area – from the 1960s to today – thrives on this tension. This can also be rather arduous, because autonomy competes with functionality, and the two are already being played off against one another politically, for example in making the main yardsticks quantitative. Perhaps art has to make a stronger case for its social relevance here, which presents a challenge to artists, curators and museums. Nonetheless, art is unmistakeably and simply present, in institutions and in public spaces. A luxury for all!

Translated by Jane Yager


Andreas Reihse

Andreas Reihse is a musician and founding member of the band Kreidler. He lived in Dusseldorf from 1987 to 1996 before moving to Cologne. Since 2009 he has lived in Berlin, where he curates the MOVES film and event series at Sprüth Magers gallery’s Image Movement film shop.

In spring of 2000, my bandmate Detlef Weinrich and I performed at the New International Cultural Center (NICC) in Antwerp under the name Binford. Luc Tuymans had invited the German artists’ group hobbypopMUSEUM to make use of the exhibition spaces for several weeks. Detlef and I were both outside the core membership of the group, but we’d taken part in various projects. The painter Dietmar Lutz from Dusseldorf, one of the members of hobbypopMUSEUM, once said that whoever participated in one of the group’s projects became a member. I find this a very attractive idea – for artists’ groups, and also as a metaphor for the European Union.

Antwerp was always exemplary. In 1999 Kreidler played at the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten for the opening of the Anthony van Dyck retrospective. Because an insurance company representative was there with a decibel meter, we had to play without the PA system, with the audience wearing wireless headphones. Along with the music programmes, the exhibition was also flanked by special work by Antwerp fashion designers. Ann Demeulemeester showed an amazing dress, and we loaded up on roughly-made T-shirts printed with baroque patterns. The Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten, the best of all fashion schools, was another reason to love Antwerp.

We were invited to Belgium regularly. Brussels was our favourite city: Paris without the things that are annoying about Paris. And naturally, the idea of Europe that the city embodied for us was also attractive: the odd disjointedness of posh shopping areas, lonely high-rises and abandoned industrial wastelands; the three different official languages (everyone spoke fluent English anyway); riding the rattling tram through twee estates of terraced houses with the radiant Atomium looming behind them: the idea of a science-based future free of churches and stock exchanges. And of course, the best record label of all time, Les Disques Du Crépuscule.

Things looked a bit different further north. Dutch bands like Trespassers W and The Ex came out of the same post-punk milieu as the Crépuscule artists, but their aesthetic fed more on DIY – more on anarchist-leftist ideas than salons. Belgium was next to France (André Breton, Walter Benjamin, etc.), but the Netherlands was positioned between England (Crass, etc.) and Germany (Ton Steine Scherben, etc.). In the early 1990s our band at the time, Deux Baleines Blanches, started working more intensively with the musician, writer, radio broadcaster and activist Cor Gout from The Hague, who was a founding member of Tresspassers W. In 1993 this collaboration culminated in our joint project Punt.(punkt.), a series of concerts and readings and a magazine, directed against the right-wing populism and extremism that was flaring up in both our countries.

The idea that Rhinelanders and Dutch people don’t get on is a myth. We’re actually quite similar, and city rivalries are taken in stride. People from Dusseldorf especially like to visit the Dutch seaside. It’s a relatively quick, straight shot along the motorway from Dusseldorf to the coast. I know this route by heart. In the mid-90s, when I was collaborating with Klaus Dinger of NEU! and La Düsseldorf, I worked regularly in his studio in Zeeland, which was on a converted farm. Klaus’s neighbours were seriously upset with him, because he let wild plants take over all his fields, which disturbed the crop cultivation on the neighbours’ farmland. In addition, he had an old Mercedes Benz parked there, and a court had officially confirmed its status as a work of art (which didn’t stop someone from torching it one night). Klaus exhibited model behaviour otherwise: he always got receipts from coffee shops to write them off on his taxes as hospitality for musicians (I can testify that this was not tax fraud).

Back to spring of 2000: Kraftwerk founding member Florian Schneider gave us a lift back to Dusseldorf. He’d been in Antwerp visiting hobbypopMUSEUM. We glided across the border in his compact car: ‘Europe Endless’, still one of my favourite ideas.

Translated by Jane Yager


Valentijn Byvanck

Valentijn Byvanck is an art critic, curator and TV presenter. He has held positions at Witte de With in Rotterdam and at Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg. Since February 2013 he has been the director of Marres House for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht.

There is a lot of institutional and political will – and sometimes even pressure – to find cross-border partners in this area of Europe. Many initiatives are already taking place, geared towards sharing networks, expertise and publics. Yet, the expectations of any collaboration, must be well managed. I tend to think it is much more useful to collaborate in terms of sharing expertise and networks than audiences. Studies show that even amongst Dutch cities, close collaboration brings individual art institutions no extra profit while often costing them a lot of time and effort. One notable exception to this rule is the festival format. This is precon­ditioned by the fact that the institutions are within walking distance of each other (see, for instance, the massively successful museum nights in several Dutch cities).

I do, however, believe collaboration across national boundaries is very useful for art professionals. We can learn from each other’s national cultural policies and educational plans, and enrich each others pools of talent and resources. I haven’t been working long enough in Maastricht to be very secure in my examples, but my hunch is that Dutch contemporary art institutions suffer from a split between stakeholders and audience more than their German and Belgian peers. Dutch institutions receive most of their funding from the government, yet they cater to a highly specialized, professional audience. Both our German and Belgian colleagues seem to cater to a broader public, one with a solid appreciation of the arts. Local and national government constantly push Dutch contemporary art institutions to defend their existence in terms of public reach, function and budget.

In recent years, Marres has operated in a cultural vacuum. Maastricht’s cultural elite seems essentially conservative, inclined to support only proven success. Funding for the arts is primarily directed at large popular festivals, such as the winter wonderland-themed ‘Magical Maastricht’, concerts by Andre Rieu, and TEFAF. The recent failure to obtain the title of European Cultural Capital 2018 has made things worse politically: the cuts proposed in lieu of the crisis are deepened by a sense of disappointment and a resulting aversion to what some perceive as elitist money-wasting institutions. The Bonnefantenmuseum is the only institution that still has leverage in trying to link populist forces to avant-garde art. A position only made possible, I believe, because the city’s bourgeoisie think that Maastricht cannot be a real city without a museum.

Yet, I think we’re on the cusp of change. Culture plays a big part in local government planning of urban innovation. Maastricht wants to expand its university that already attracts more than 50% foreign students. The influx of intellectuals, understood on Richard Florida’s terms (his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class is essential reading for Dutch politicians and bureaucrats), is bound to lead to more diversity and innovation. Most of the culture thought up in governmental circles focuses on essential urban facilities: commercial cinemas, design consortiums etc. Yet in their slipstream is room for institutions that are willing to bring more experimental programmes to a wider audience.

I believe Marres will thank any success it gets with its future plans to a vulnerable yet persistently growing network of institutions and organizations: in Maastricht most notably the Jan van Eyck academy; the Bureau Europa for design, architecture and the visual arts; the Vrijthof theatre for experimental theatre and music; De Dansdagen for dance, as well as institutions in neighbouring cities including Hasselt, Genk, Aachen and Liege.

Noemi Smolik is a critic based in Bonn, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic.