Less government support and more private funding influenced vision of Dutch and Belgian artists




Disruptive Attitudes

A.M. Bartholomew

prof.dr. K. Kwastek, dr. S. Lütticken

Faculty of Humanities

Art, Culture and History

PhD conferral

Since the mid-1980s, reduced governmental support for artists, an increase in the influence of private funders in art’s institutions, and an upsurge in the visibility of the curatorial figure have all drastically altered the way art is made public. These new conditions called for new strategies. The disruptive attitudes of artists as diverse as Guillaume Bijl, Barbara Bloom, Ulises Carrión, Fortuyn/O'Brien, Jef Geys, General Idea, Gerald Van Der Kaap, Barbara Kruger, and Wim T. Schippers, stand out in essential, yet under-investigated exhibitions of this time. 

According to the PhD research by Angela Bartholomew, these artists were responding to the framing apparatus, and as such, the exhibitions for which they produced works are an essential context. Far from halting revolutionary artistic developments, the tension between artists and institutions of the mid-1980s appears to push forward new strategies for disruption.

Artists take control
Looking at pivotal exhibitions of the mid to late 1980s in Flanders and the Netherlands, this research dives into strategies devised by artists to take control over the way in which their work was altered by institutional settings. While breaking art out of the systems that bestowed (financial and cultural) value upon it proved largely untenable, taking an ideological standpoint within its institutions seemed equally disingenuous. Artists embraced subversive strategies for exhibition making and looked to new technologies to navigate the social and political realities of the moment.

It also addresses a social discussion on the crucial importance of a government-supported cultural policy that provides ample support to artists to explore critical and innovative projects. Bartholomew: “My findings confirm that the mid-1980s was a transitional moment in the Netherlands and Flanders – in terms of critical engagement, institutional conditions, and cultural policies – and is therefore crucial to those seeking to understand the shifting structures in which art and artists operate at present.” 

Critical artistic practice often overlooked
This re-reading of the 1980s asserts that critical artistic practice was alive and well in the Netherlands and Flanders though frequently overlooked by scholars until now. Artists that have made substantial contributions to the decade have been reevaluated in this dissertation with historical distance, now that three decades having passed. Furthermore, in its challenge to the terms by which critique and its implications are defined, this study holds relevance for geographic regions well beyond the Low Countries by demonstrating that critique may be found in places still under recognized by art historians.

More information about the thesis

Livestream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnN8TaVYe83472ewz9CH9HA