By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press
AMSTERDAM (AP) — The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra played second fiddle on Wednesday in front of a pair of hairdressers. Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits were briefly eclipsed by a nail salon and a barber as civil disobedience to protest the Dutch coronavirus lockdown spilled over into the cultural sector on Wednesday.
The Netherlands have been in a difficult situation since mid-December. Under an easing of restrictions announced on Friday, businesses such as hairdressers and gyms and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen, but museums, theaters and cinemas, as well as bars and restaurants, must remain closed.
The tough Dutch lockdown is coming up against growing anger from businesses hit by the restrictions. Last week and over the weekend, hundreds of Dutch bars and restaurants also opened their doors to protest the lockdown which they say is crippling their businesses.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of the cultural sector, which turned into businesses such as hairdressers or nail salons to press their request to reopen.
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“We don’t understand and there’s no reason for that because we’ve shown over the last two years that it’s very, very safe to go to a concert or to go to a museum,” said Simon Reinink, director of the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam. .
“In fact, it’s our job: crowd management. We know how to handle large crowds. And we did it very, very safely,” Reinink added.
The resident orchestra, conducted by Susanna Mälkki, played Symphony No. 2 by American composer Charles Ives, while two hairdressers cut hair in the historic venue. Across the street at the Van Gogh museum, a barber cut the hair of 10 visitors and 10 others had their nails done.
“This is definitely a first for us at the Van Gogh Museum,” museum director Emilie Gordenker told The Associated Press.
“I understand that the government has opened gymnasiums but… you also need a mental gymnasium, and a museum is a place where people increasingly come to find some depth or purpose in their lives,” said she added. The theme of mental health is particularly relevant for our museum, obviously, because of Vincent van Gogh’s own mental situation.
The government has said it will consider possible further easing on January 25. While omicron has driven infection rates to levels never seen before during the pandemic, hospital admissions continue to decline.
Culture Minister Gunay Uslu said in a tweet: “I understand the call for help and that artists want to show all the beautiful things they have to offer us. But the opening of society must go step by step. Culture is the order of the day.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
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