Protesting Lockdown Measures, Dutch Museums Open as Gyms, Salons


A number of arts organizations across the Netherlands today opened their doors in entirely new and unexpected capacities today in order to protest what they see as unfair lockdown rules. Under Covid-19 restrictions imposed in December amid yet another virus surge, museums, theaters, concert halls, and cinemas must remain shuttered while nonessential commercial concerns such as gyms, barbershops, brothels, and nail salons were late last week given permission to conduct business within limits imposed by the government.

Among the participants in the protest, which organizers have cast as playful and meant to draw attention to their plight through humor, were Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, which opened as a multi-service salon, offering haircuts, beard trims, and manicures to the general populace. Those opting for the last service could choose to have van Gogh–inspired nail art applied; there was no word on whether haircut recipients could ask to have an ear removed. Admission to the museum was free, with clients asked to pay the hairdressers and nail technicians directly.

The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem opened as a gymnasium; a photo posted on Reddit showed Spandex-clad participants enjoying what appeared to be a spirited exercise class taking place in a gallery on whose walls hung works by the Dutch painter including the 1633 masterpiece Officers and Sergeants of the Civic Guard. The sweaty sight prompted one commenter to express concern that the displayed works would fare poorly in the humidity; another user quelled this fear by pointing to the likely sustained humid condition of the gallery in summer, owing to the presence of hot and damp crowds, and assuring the commenter that the museum likely used humidifiers.

Also on Wednesday, as reported by Dutch news site NOS, visitors to the Limburgs Museum, a cultural-historical museum in Venlo, could take yoga and Zumba classes, while both the medieval Loevestein Castle in Zaltbommel and the Mauritshuis in the Hague, home to a trove of Dutch Golden Age paintings, offered boot camps. 

According to DutchNews, mayors of the Netherlands’ twenty-five largest cities announced ahead of the action that they would not permit it. “This is only fun,” comedian Sanne Wallis de Vries, one of the protest’s organizers, responded, speaking on a Dutch talk show. “What do you gain by prohibiting it?”