The Big Why

Why I keep on working in the arts against all odds

There are times when I question my reasons for working in the art world. Times when the positive things just can’t seem to outweigh the negatives. But then I remember my first art love: that very first time an artwork grabbed me and fought its way to my heart to never let go.

Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Gothic Disney Castle

I was a moody 14 year old when my parents took me to Schloss Belvedere in Vienna on a family holiday. I probably didn’t want to go to a museum. As a rule, we didn’t visit museums. I hated the obligatory touristic church visits my mother planned for us (her enthusiasm could partly be explained by the fact churches don’t ask entrance fees) and no one in our family was much of an art enthusiast. I can’t remember how my parents decided to visit this particular museum, but I suppose it must have been the architecture that lured us in. The impressive baroque facade must have appealed to my mom, a Dutch Protestant with a weird fascination of exuberant Catholic architecture.

Exhibition room in Schloss Belvedere

LOVE with capital letters

I don’t think the architecture made a big impression on me. Surprising enough, because the pictures of the castle look like a giant Disney palace. I can’t remember any of the grand exhibition halls I found on the internet, when I looked for images to go with this story. But I do remember that one painting of Gustav Klimt. It wasn’t the famous painting “The Kiss”, but an unpretentious view of a meadow filled with poppies in bright red. I couldn’t stop looking at it. The simple wild flowers standing out from the sea of different hues of green, the trees almost soaked up entirely by the colors of the grass, hardly visible at first but slowly protruding your gaze. It was LOVE with capital letters. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say my life was never the same again.

Flowering Poppies
Gustav Klimt 1907, Collection Belvedere

Museum shop bliss

How happy I was when my parents allowed me to buy a 25 x 25 cm poster of the painting that I loved so much in the museum shop after our visit. I cherished it for years and years. It used to be up on the wall facing my bed, so I would have a clear view of it every morning waking up. I brought it with me when I went to uni, where it brightened up many student living accommodations.

On the left, you can see the painting in its original setting

Sacred space

I didn’t have an easy childhood. I was an anxious, sad child that had to endure a lot before reaching maturity. This painting was more than just a pretty picture to me. It was my sacred space, my haven. In all the turbulent years growing up, it helped me to see brightness and light in times when all I experienced was the black of night.

Me, 16 years old on a trip with the orchestra in Italy (1999)

A positive art experience is the gift that keeps on giving

The poster is long gone. The colors faded and the glue I used to glue it to the wall back when I was a teenager, damaged the paper beyond repair. But I don’t need it anymore. I can just close my eyes and travel to my secret spot, my meadow filled with bright red poppies and take a deep breath. To love an artwork and add it to your private collection of secret spaces in your head is a privilege I want to share with every single person in the world. So here I am. Every day I look in the mirror and tell myself to keep on doing what I do. Not just for me, not for the art, but for the people who need it just as much as I do.

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