15 May 2017
We would like to inform you about the events that took place last weekend in the Van Gogh Museum.
The activist group Fossil Free Culture held a protest in the Van Gogh Museum on the evening of Friday, 12 May. On the stairs of the Entrance Building, a performance was staged by eight women with shells containing an oily black substance, which they poured out over the floor. Brochures produced by the activists, criticising the collaboration between Shell and the Van Gogh Museum, were distributed to onlookers.
Every day our museum welcomes thousands of visitors, whom we wish to guarantee a pleasant and, above all, safe visit. The security of our collection – which is of inestimable value – and of our visitors is our top priority. Persons holding an unannounced demonstration, the intention of which is unknown to us, represent an unacceptable risk. Such a situation can get out of hand, endangering the safety and security of people as well as paintings. To prevent this from happening, we always follow a strict security protocol, just as we did last Friday. Under no circumstances are we willing to deviate from this protocol. The members of the activist group did not obey our house rules – rules that every visitor to the museum implicitly agrees to follow.
A protest such as this one, which was not coordinated with the museum, is not only disruptive and annoying but also presents a security risk to our collection, visitors and staff. During the demonstration, it was impossible to say whether it was merely a prank or more sinister in nature. For these reasons, members of the staff asked the activists repeatedly to leave the building. When they failed to comply with this request, the museum decided to enlist the help of the police, which is the standard procedure in such situations.
The police arrested the eight women for committing a breach of the peace, that is to say, for entering unannounced and refusing to leave, after being asked repeatedly to do so. The women were taken to the police station for interrogation and their case was then turned over to the department of criminal investigation. Four of the eight activists were allowed to return home on Saturday; four were remanded in custody. They were released Monday May the 15th. These four have refused to identify themselves. Everyone in the Netherlands is required by law to be able to verify his or her identity. In contrast to what has been stated by the media, the Van Gogh Museum did not report a crime or lodge a complaint against the eight activists.
The Van Gogh Museum stands behind its collaboration with Shell, the focus of which is the Partners in Science partnership. Since 2000, researchers at Shell have been studying Van Gogh's paint samples: Shell assists the museum in its research into the paintings in its collection, such as Sunflowers .
Shell puts indispensable knowledge, equipment and a limited budget for research at the museum’s disposal. It permits the museum to use, for example, special microscopes not to be found anywhere else. Such equipment is vital to the museum in its research, preservation and administration of the collection. This collaboration has already enabled the Van Gogh Museum to make a number of discoveries that would not otherwise have been possible. Within the museum there are various partnerships with public and private parties. Agreements with sponsors always fulfil the requirements of the Culture Sponsoring code, which is adhered to by all the (larger) museums in the Netherlands.
The Van Gogh Museum is strongly committed to sustainability. In June 2014 it became the first museum in the world to receive the BREEAM-NL In-Use sustainability certificate with a score of ‘very good’ for the building, administration and use. BREEAM-NL’s rating of these aspects is based on nine categories, including energy, materials, water, waste, health and management. The Van Gogh Museum gives high priority to the environment and sustainability in the museum sector, as evidenced by its active participation in the development of the BREEAM NL criteria for museums.
Management of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, 15 May 2017