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Forget KLM and Booking: even in the subsidised arts, directors are big earners.

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They pop up from time to time: the lists of how much an artist earns compared to Mark Rutte or a ceo of a big company. In one of the recent publications of the platform BK These are our heroes, they showed a graph of that income inequality that can be seen as shocking, especially in times of corona with all the culturally unemployed: 'Why do we allow a small group of people to have more money than they can ever spend, while a growing group of Dutch people can barely keep their heads above water?'

The BK platform continues: 'To remind everyone - and especially our policymakers - that wealth is unfairly distributed in the Netherlands. A lot of people have known this for a long time, but still the proportions remain skewed. Maybe because we slowly get used to it; if the floor is crooked, you start walking a bit crooked yourself, then it looks like it's straight. But it isn't. The value people add to society through the work they do is too often disproportionate to the reward they get for it. Both at the bottom and the top.'

The income position according to These are our heroes:

Needless to say, such graphs generate indignant reactions from the culture sector; art is not (or no longer) valued socially and politically, and the coronavirus makes this all the more poignant. It was only when the argument was made that culture contributes more to the economy than an aviation sector that the sector gained some momentum. Rightly so, as life without art proves "mind-numbing" especially in quarantine times. Consumers yearn for film, theatre, dance, exhibitions, concerts, opera, etc.

Income inequality in the cultural sector

To the outside world, the culture sector presents a united front, but as writer K. Schippers wrote: 'If you look carefully around you see that everything is coloured'. Because just like in the world outside culture (call it capitalism), in the cultural sector itself you also see a huge payment gap between creators and 'the plush'. Only you can't talk about that taboo without being seen as a traitor. Nobody soils the nest. If you sound the alarm about abuses at all, your career as an actor, musician, singer or dancer goes down. We have seen that in metoo affairs in theatre, orchestra world etc. Those who depend on work are silent.

For decades, for instance, people have been grumbling in the corridors about the low payments of employees in the arts, of art makers. The structural underpayment seems to be (finally) coming to an end thanks to codes of cultural governance and principles such as fair pay and fair practice. They have now become conditions in grant applications; do we pay artists, technicians and PR staff, production staff etc properly? Or do we let young actors, dancers, singers and musicians perform at Uitmarkten for a train ticket, a coffee voucher and a hand from the director?

Now that governments and funds require it, and so organisations have to spend more money on fees, cultural organisations are 'loudly' complaining that they have to pay for it out of their own pockets while budgets are not increasing. A message appeared on Linkedin the other day from the director of the Museum Association, saying that this fair practice was unaffordable (no extra money was coming in). She suggested abandoning the fair practice to keep the budget in order.

Big earners in the cultural sector*

And then to the chronic lack of money, the coronavirus also strikes. Hardly anyone in the cultural sector still has (freelance) work or the prospect of work in the near future. Fair practice is a pipe dream from the past. We all clamour for the big earners like KLM or Booking to cut back. We grumble even louder about Matthijs van Nieuwkerk's lavish salary. No movement.

There are also organisations that voluntarily cut ceo salaries (Ford's ceo, on his own initiative, is even cutting half his salary) and a handful of top footballers are also voluntarily cutting their, admittedly, giga-salaries. Of course, we honk them off on social media because when you earn that much it doesn't matter anyway.


Yet there is a group in the cultural sector without 'mortgage worries'; the directors. Many are left with more than Mark Rutte at the end of the year. That is why we have a quick scan* done in a number of public annual reports. Although disclosure is mandatory, not every institution is equally transparent. For instance, we do not find out what Jan Raes of the Concertgebouw earns, the Holland Dance Festival, the Literature Museum and Scapino Ballet do not publish anything about their 'top officials' (although Holland Dance Festival director Samuel Wuersten at Codarts earned more than €79,000 for an o.6 FTE appointment in 2018, and in addition to the Holland Dance Festival, he also served as artistic director of Bachelor Contemporary Dance in Zurich).

There is no (detailed) annual financial report of festivals such as Oerol. The Kunstmuseum (former Gemeentemuseum) notes about the fees of its two directors, Benno Tempel and Hans Buurman, no other than that they comply with the Wet Normering Topinkomens (WNT), popularly known as the Balkenende norm of 187,000. Theatre Rotterdam's annual report states that they pay the 'Management of Theatre Rotterdam' 175,000 (2019).

A sample of the annual reports (perhaps useful to know that the gross modal income of the Dutchman in 2018 was €34,500):

Earnings directors of culture sector in euros (2018)

Person, institution



Eric de Vroedt, National Theatre



Maarten van Boven, Muziekgebouw aan het IJ



Cees de Graaff, Dutch Culture



Siebe Weide, Museum Association



Paul Lightfoot, Nederlands Dans Theater



Bero Beyer, International Film Festival R'dam



Sven Arne Tepl, Residentie Orkest



Laurentine Pels Rijcken, Paradiso



Mark Minkman, Paradiso



Tiziano Perez, Literature Fund



Sandra den Hamer, Eye Filmmuseum Amsterdam



Gea Zantinge, Concertgebouw



Cees Debets, National Theatre



Lidy Klein Gunnewiek, National Theatre



Annet Lekkerkerker, Holland Festival



Henriette Post, Performing Arts Fund



Janine Dijkmeijer, Nederlands Dans Theater



Bert Verveld, Amsterdam University of the Arts



Henk Scholten, Zuiderstrandtheater



Marieke Schoenmakers, Academy BK The Hague



George Wiegel, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra



Ted Brandsen, National Ballet



Emily Ansenk, Kunsthal Rotterdam



Simon Reinink, Concertgebouw



Ivo van Hove, International Theatre Amsterdam



Dianne Zuidema, International Theatre Amsterdam



Emilie Gordenker, Mauritshuis



Andreas Blühm, Groninger Museum



Els van der Plas, National Ballet & Opera



Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum



Erik van Ginkel, Rijksmuseum



Jan Willem Sieburgh, Stedelijk Museum A'dam



Sophie de Lint, National Ballet & Opera




Underneath this list is something akin to the capitalism of organisations like KLM or Booking: the top earns so much more than the floor. The inhibiting factor in the capitalism of the cultural sector is obviously a government, since most art cannot do without a government infusion. One can ask 2 things: does the government allow such a huge gap between directors' incomes and the shop floor? And the second is now that it's all hands on deck: do directors themselves make the gesture, in solidarity with all the unemployed or underemployed staff and artists, to take a pay cut? Remarkably, the own initiative is not yet present in the cultural sector. We demand it from others but not from 'ourselves'.

The position of artists and creators will come under even more pressure from the coronavirus when things pick up. The argument 'from above' that there really is now no budget at all for art-makers will once again become loud in the coming years. But the 'elite' are taking good care of themselves.

Good to know Good to know
*Not all cultural institutions have already published their 2019 annual reports. There are sometimes names of now departed directors in this list because annual reports always look back.

Ingrid van Frankenhuyzen

Ingrid van Frankenhuyzen worked as a journalist (until 2009) for NRC Handelsblad for 11 years. For years, she worked in radio (NCRV, KRO, NPS) for both arts and current affairs programmes on Radio 1 such as Hier en Nu Achtergronden, Het Geding, Formule 1 and Kunststof. She was an editor, presenter, reporter, writer and directed documentaries and radio plays (like the Odysseia with Ton Lutz). In Frankfurt, she was involved in many projects of the Hessischer Rundfunk. In 2000-2002, she was a committee member at the Council for Culture. In television (KRO, NCRV, IDTV), she made programmes and series on corporate social responsibility, politics, psychology, art and the environment. She also wrote a (legal) handbook: Divorce for Beginners; The Divorce Guide from A to Z. Ingrid is director of Communisenso. She taught many European and national politicians, aldermen and councillors, (government) managers and CEOs the tricks of the communication trade. She is a specialist in (online) crisis communication. Ingrid van Frankenhuyzen is also artistic director and director of Stichting Zeeproducties c.q. Oh Die Zee / Oh The Sea, which develops Oerol-like projects. See www.ohdiezee.nlView Author posts

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