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State Secretary Uslu learned this about hi-tech art and entrepreneurship during her working visit

During a working visit, State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media) was updated on the world of internet culture, hybrid programming, the latest multimedia art, and how all this can be financed. Entrepreneurship is second nature to the young directors of Nxt Museum and The Hmm. The face of Secretary of State Gunay Uslu appears meters high in glowing LEDs that hang on the wall in long strips. By entering the dark exhibition space, she has become part of ENTER , the interactive installation by artist Ksawery Kirklewski.

It is the start of her working visit on September 26 in Amsterdam Noord, where she is updated on digital art, internet culture and innovative forms of cultural entrepreneurship. Merel van Helsdingen, director of Nxt Museum, shows her around the exhibition ‘UFO – Unidentified Fluid Other’. Subsequently, Lilian Stolk, director of The Hmm, a presentation about the pioneering role of its inclusive platform for internet culture.

Games, philosophy and virtual dresses

Nxt Museum opened its doors in 2020 in a former television studio. The museum is fully focused on new media art – something that did not yet exist in the Netherlands. The guided tour through the exhibition takes you past the digital universe of the Chinese artist Lu Yang, where games meet identity and philosophy. At digital fashion house The Fabricant, visitors discover themselves on screens, dressed in the latest virtual fashion.

And SeaWorld created a playful installation especially for Nxt Museum where you can experience the virtual reality of games and social media first hand. These artists are completely at home in the fluid world of VR, blockchain, design, technology and music. The amount of screens, projectors, sensors, sound systems and tablets is overwhelming: this art thrives in a high-tech environment. That requires significant investments.

The rapids of The Hmm

Like Merel van Helsdingen, Lilian Stolk is an enterprising founder-director. With the platform The Hmm she offers space for a critical and inclusive discussion about the digital revolution that increasingly dominates our lives. From online trends to privacy, from environmentally friendly internet to Web 3.0 – The Hmm creates a stage during events where the public can reflect on developments with artists and scientists. For example, they strive for a more human-oriented internet.

Due to the lockdowns, the development of these meetings – which took place physically – accelerated. As a small, agile organization, The Hmm was able to quickly focus on research into online and hybrid programming. Experiment was central; the knowledge gained was immediately put into practice. Within a short time, The Hmm had their own live streaming platform online, so they were no longer dependent on platforms such as YouTube, which they are very critical of. In this way they acquired a pioneering role within the cultural sector through experimentation. The code for the platform was open source, something that fellow institutions such as Het Nieuwe Instituut and Sonic Acts made good use of. The next step is towards a successful revenue model for online programmes.

Time for reflection

The organization experienced considerable growth in a short time. After the successful experimental phase, it is important to review the organizational structure and develop a business model. There is also a need for the knowledge of The Hmm in other sectors – together with subsidies, this can provide a sustainable financing mix. Stolk decided to sign up for the Cultuur+Ondernemen mentoring project, so that she could consciously work on the next step in the leadership of her organization. As a starting director, it was valuable for Stolk to exchange ideas with someone who has extensive experience in leading cultural organisations.

Hi-tech setup, start-up instelling

Back to Nxt Museum. It has 21 shareholders, including private investors from the festival and technology industry. In addition to capital, they offer involvement, knowledge and a network: thanks to them, Samsung was able to attract a sponsor. Unlike The Hmm, Nxt Museum is not a foundation – Van Helsdingen opted for a BV because setting up a foundation would take too long. This does mean that Nxt Museum cannot join the Museum Association, and therefore does not accept a Museum Annual Card.

A missed opportunity, she thinks: 60% of the visitors are younger than 35, and with a museum card you reach an older target group. They can learn from the self-evidence with which a young generation follows technological developments. Recently, an elderly local resident joined a filter creation workshop to connect with her grandchildren.

The new role of Culture+Entrepreneurship

Where Cultuur+Ondernemen supported The Hmm with the mentoring process, the Nxt Museum could help with financing. Partly thanks to the corona loan, the young museum was able to survive when public revenues fell away due to the lockdowns. Since that crisis, many more artists and institutions have found their way to the platform. When the sector was hit hard, Cultuur+Ondernemen, as a knowledge center for entrepreneurship and financing, was able to immediately respond to current questions. 

At the same time, the role of financing became increasingly important. Cultuur+Ondernemen was able to provide a corona loan or bridging loan to 175 parties – most of them not structurally subsidised. Those loans function as a flywheel, So there is always room for improvement, but after an inspiring visit and crash course in NFTs, DAOs, POAPs and Web 3.0, it is clear to the State Secretary: these young, innovative and enterprising players are bringing the cultural sector into an exciting acceleration.

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