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Dutch museums open as salons to protest COVID rules

January 20, 2022

Famed museums and Amsterdam's concert hall offered haircuts and manicures, as the cultural sector protested lockdown measures that allow shops, hairdressers and gyms to open — but not cultural venues.

A woman gets a manicure at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam
Nail artists offered manicures at the Van Gogh museum in AmsterdamImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

Museums and concert halls in the Netherlands opened briefly on Wednesday to protest their continued closure. 

Cultural venues, including famous museums and Amsterdam's historic concert hall, offered yoga sessions, haircuts and manicures. 

Last weekend, the Netherlands eased a month-long lockdown, by allowing gyms, hairdressers and shops to reopen. However, cultural venues were ordered to remain closed to the public.

On Wednesday, authorities handed out enforcement notices to a number of the 70-odd venues that took part in the day-long protest.

Haircut with a symphony

Some 50 visitors were welcomed to the "Kapsalon Concertgebouw (hairdresser concert hall)" performance, in which people were given haircuts during an orchestra rehearsal at the 130-year-old building. 

A man gets a haircut during a rehearsal at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
The resident orchestra, conducted by Susanna Malkki, played American composer Charles Ives' Symphony Number 2, while two hairdressers cut hair in the historic venueImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

"We do not understand and there is no reasoning for it because we have shown over the last two years that it's very, very safe to go to a concert or to go to a museum,'' said Simon Reinink, director of the Concertgebouw.

"Actually, it's our profession — crowd management. We know how to deal with large crowds. And we've done it in a very, very safe way," Reinink added.

'You need a mental gym too'

Across the street from the Concertgebouw, a barber cut the hair of 10 visitors and 10 more people got manicures at the Van Gogh Museum

A 3-year-old gets a haircut at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam
A 3-year-old gets a haircut at the Van Gogh museum in AmsterdamImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

"It's definitely a first for us at the Van Gogh Museum," the museum's director, Emilie Gordenker, told the AP news agency.

"I understand that the government has opened gyms but... you need a mental gym, too, and a museum is a place where people are increasingly coming to find a little depth or reason for their life," Gordenker said.

"And the theme of mental health is particularly relevant to our museum, obviously, because of Vincent van Gogh's own mental situation,'' she added.

People take a yoga class at the Amsterdam Museum
Meanwhile, at the Amsterdam Museum in the city center, people took a yoga classImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

'Culture is high on the agenda'

Gunay Uslu, the junior culture minister, voiced understanding for the protest but urged caution.

"The cultural sector is drawing attention to their situation in a creative way. I understand the cry for help and that artists want to show all the beautiful things they have to offer us," she wrote on Twitter. "But the opening of society must go step by step. Culture is high on the agenda." 

The government has said it will look at a possible further easing of COVID measures on January 25.

Dutch protests against COVID measures

Wednesday's protests followed similar civil disobedience measures by bars and restaurants in the Netherlands against COVID restrictions. 

During the weekend, cafes opened in several cities, defying government orders that they must stay closed until at least February 25.

While some protests against COVID measures remain peaceful, some have devolved into violent riots, most notably in The Hague and Rotterdam.

fb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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