Language & Culture

A brief guide to Dutch art and culture

In the arts, the Netherlands has an international reputation to keep up. Every year, thousands of Dutch artists and cultural organisations travel the world and show that they are easily as talented as their colleagues abroad. The Netherlands itself is also an attractive destination both for budding and established foreign artists, thanks to the excellent infrastructure, an inquisitive public, the easy distances between the major cities and institutions and fast connections to hot spots like Paris and Berlin.

Design, architecture, visual arts and e-culture

Dutch design has received international acclaim, with the design company Droog Design leading the way, while Dutch architecture was made world famous by Rem Koolhaas. Thanks to Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondrian and Cobra, the Netherlands was traditionally known as the ‘land of the painters’. What is striking about modern fine arts, however, is the large diversity of media and styles. Many Dutch e-culture organisations are literally pushing back frontiers, among which the functionally pioneering Waag society, the activist Mediamatic and the conceptual V_2. Our tangible and immaterial heritage has many manifestations, and insight into our common cultural heritage contributes to the understanding of our history as well as modern political developments.

Dance and music

Variation is the key word in the art of dance too. Dutch modern dance is internationally renowned. This applies both to an established institution such as Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) and smaller companies led by choreographers such as Emio Greco, Anouk van Dijk and Krisztina de Châtel. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is absolutely world class, but the Netherlands is also trendsetting in other genres than symphonic classical music, with names like Louis Andriessen, DJ Tiësto and Ton Koopman.

Literature and theatre

With only some 23 million speakers, the Dutch language is no world language, but Dutch authors are gaining international popularity thanks to translations of their works, with the International Impac Dublin Award for Gerbrand Bakker’s Boven is het stil (The Twin) as the latest apogee. Young theatre makers such as Dries Verhoeven, Lotte van den Berg and Boukje Schweigman overcame the language barrier with visual and interactive theatre. A leading theatre company like Toneelgroep Amsterdam, with artistic director Ivo van Hove, performs on many international stages, whenever possible in the language of the host country.

Film and fashion

The Dutch film industry is a small but flourishing sector. Dutch art house films and documentaries in particular find their way to international festivals. The Netherlands plays a small but not unimportant role in the international fashion industry, thanks to the many pioneering stylists, marketers, photographers and creative entrepreneurs occupying key positions with major fashion labels, and of course a number of trendsetters like Viktor & Rolf, Marlies Dekker and Alexander Slobbe.

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