Commercialization of Culture: Paris

Just back from Paris, I am left wondering about the peculiar culture that I experienced there. Our hotel wasn’t far from Montmartre; the hill in Paris that used to be the epicentre of the bohemians. Artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh lived there at the end of the 19th century. It was a place of creativity, criticism and artistic collaboration. Works of, for example, André Gill, Suzanne Valadon and Renoir that came about ín Montmartre remind us of this. There are multiple places there, such as the Moulin de la Galette, the Montmartre vineyard and small cabaret theaters that you can still visit. You can imagine that, even being unaware to much of this information at that moment, I was excited to visist the hill.

After a day on the Montmartre hill I felt inspired, well-informed and surprised by everything we had seen. We had visited the Musée de Montmartre et Jardins Renoir; a really nice museum definitely worth a visit when you’re there. You learn about the history of Montmartre, everything about Le Chat noir and the artists that resided there in the bohemian era. Also, it is a quite place and it has beautifull gardens with a great view on Paris and the Montmartre vineyard.

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Montmartre Vineyard

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View on Paris 

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Really nice zinc bar that (supposedly) Renoir drank quite some liquor at. It was hidden in a cellar during the first world war so it wouldn’t be molded into munition or guns.

Apart from the nice things the museum offers, its tranquillity and peace in the middle of Montmartre are also a great asset. Namely, the thing that I should have known – and mentally prepare for in advance –  was the enormous amount of tourists we encountered.I felt like an ant in an anthill. Masses of people that seemed to come mainly from the US, Germany and the Netherlands and that all wanted to take a selfie with the Sacre Coeur in the back.

My imagination is well-developed so I can imagine that 130 years ago Montmartre must have been a fascinating, murmurring and, to me probably, excitingly scary place and there are still some hints to this when you really look for it. In all honesty though, the Place du Tetre, which was once a square where painters worked in peace, is now a place where two tourists per square meter are stocked and made a profile sketch of. The cute little bistro on the corner is now occupied by Starbucks and the small restaurants play Rihanna in the back ground.

As I said, I am left wondering. I myself was one of the ants on the hill. However, this commercialization of culture pained me somewhat. It seemed to me that most tourists were there ‘to have been there’ instead of to learn about the place and give meaning to their visit. The excessive amount of selfies contrasting with the quieteness of the museum directed me to believe so. The artists were there to profit from the tourists as much as possible, definitely not to drink absinth and discuss global problems. It made me think of why I wanted to go there myself. I guess the area fascinated me because of my theater- and arthistory lessons, the stories I had heard and – of course – the movies I had seen. I wanted to see it, experience it for myself and learn about what actually went on there. However, the Montmartre of today seems to be a tourist attraction more than an artistic epicentre. I would still recommend everybody to visit it; it is a nice place full of history. Moreover; I was only there for a day and could only háve a tourist experience. But in this experience I felt that the transistion of such an important area for Modern art to the commercialism it copes with today leaves only that; history.

Venues and Value

This august I graduated from the master program Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurhsip on the Erasmus University. The past year has been inspiring. Not only because of the courses of the program, but also because of my entrepreneurial classmates and the research I did for my master thesis. I want to elaborate a little on the latter.


I’ve been active in the cultural sector for over five years now. It is a sector in which money is always a problem. Often, artists do not really care about selling their work. They want to create it. To make something out of nothing, put meaning into it in the most unexpected ways and change our perception in doing so. Money is not important to them and is sometimes even frowned upon. Creating for money is, overall, considered marketing, not art. There is an exhaustive discussion on the necessity of creating art autonomously, in the cultural sector and the academic world, which I will not bother you with. This time. However, in order to create (autonomously), money is often pivotal. In the Netherlands an elaborate funding system came into being from the sixties onwards. The theater sector in specific is highly reliant of this system, as production costs for theater are relatively high and experimental theater turns out not to be the most popular form of culture. It is clear that there is an interesting relation going on here between money and theater (art in general, really). It is highly necessary, yet a topic to avoid.

As the financial crisis hit, the system and its subsidies were being questioned more and more. Back then, it struck met that there were hardly any people in the cultural sector that were actually able to articulate the immense value of art and culture to a society. In the end, the sector is reliant of funds, let’s say for now because of its peculiar not-on-sales-focused functioning. We háve to be able to articulate why art is important. Why, otherwise, would anybody give the sector money? This is why I decided to question this valorization in my master thesis. I wanted to research the value and function of theater venues in Dutch society. It ended up being a valuable research in which I spoke to many people anchored in the Dutch theater sector such as Henk Scholten, Marga Kroodsma, Ronald Klamer and Freek van Duijn amongst others. In short, the research argued that:

“a theater offers a platform for the realization of values and that (…) function of theater venues is highly dependent on the community that it serves. By reporting on in-depth interviews with eight actors from varying corners of the Dutch theater sector, the structure of the sector and the function of theaters in this structure are discussed. After that, the optimization of the realization of value by theater venues is discussed. Difficulties in its structure that oppose this optimization are identified. The research ends with the presentation of a context management strategy for theater venues; a strategy that can be applied to any theater and that aims to optimize the realization of value” (Roozen 2014)

I have gotten to know the theater sector from an interesting perspective during the research and have, indeed, formed some ideas on its functioning and how to optimize its valorization. If you are interested in the research, please send me an e-mail.  The thesis reports on the current situation of the Dutch theater sector, a management strategy developed for theater venues and it enables the articulation of the value and function of theater and more generally; art.