NN ARTS FESTIVAL 2023 in The Hague

Hundreds of recent international studies show that art is good for one’s mental health. Art provides relaxation and is an effective way to tackle stress. To introduce the whole of the Netherlands to the power of art in an accessible way, Nationale-Nederlanden has introduced the NN Art Festival, an eleven day event which runs until 8th October in more than twenty museums throughout The Netherlands. We were at the launch of the initiative last night at the Kunstmuseum in The Hague, the city in which Nationale-Nederlanden has its headquarters.

NN Group is an international financial services company, active in eleven countries, with a strong presence in a number of European countries and Japan. Their roots lie in the Netherlands, with a rich history that stretches back over 175 years. The company has 16,000 employees and provides retirement services, pensions, insurance, banking and investments to approximately 20 million customers. NN Group includes Nationale-Nederlanden, NN, ABN AMRO Insurance, Movir, AZL, BeFrank, OHRA and Woonnu.

But as well as the financial services, NN is a major player in the Dutch art scene being involved and major exhibitions as well as promoting art in education and especially as a way of improving mental health. They are cultural partners with the Mauritshuis and Kunstmuseum in The Hague as well as Kunsthal and the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and the annual art fair, Art Rotterdam.

Each year at the Fair the company awards the NN Art Award which is granted to an exceptionally talented artist who has been trained in the Netherlands and whose work is on show at the Fair. With the Award, NN aims to emphasis and promote the quality of Dutch art education. The award consists of a cash prize of €10,000. In addition, NN purchases work from the nominees for their corporate collection.

This collection consists of 2,000 works of art, which can be seen in NN’s Dutch offices. The pieces contribute to an inspiring work environment and connect employees with contemporary art.

Last night at the Kunstmuseum, after the usual speeches, we had what amounted to a private view of the museum’s current exhibition Royals and Rebels which celebrates British fashion, focusing on the 1960s and 70s with special emphasis on Vivienne Westwood, doyen of punk, who died in December last year. You can read Wendy Fossen’s full review of that exhibition here. I addition to the exhibition several workshops were available, all relating to fashion, the largest of which was on the main landing at the exhibition entrance. Half a dozen tailors’ dummies stood passively waiting to be adorned by random pieces of colourful cloth that were available in boxes by their side.

There are always discussions about the importance of art and how it should be funded and by whom. Is it a government’s responsibly or should it rely on private benefactors? The fact is that many of the great art collections/museums in the world were created by, and bear the name of, great industrialists or financiers and it is a fact that without them access to art by the general public would be greatly diminished. It’s good to know that Nationale-Nederlanden is at the forefront of continuing this tradition in The Netherlands.   Michael Hasted    28th September 2023