New Director Niels Van Tomme Offers a Glimmer of Hope for De Appel Center

Will the new director be able to repair De Appel's tarnished reputation?

New director of De Appel Niels Van Tomme. Photo courtesy of De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam.

With the appointment of new director Niels Van Tomme, exhibition and teaching facility De Appel Center in Amsterdam is once again under the public eye after a procession of heated events—but for the first time in almost a year, this might actually spell good news for the center.

Last September, De Appel shocked the art world by abruptly firing their director and curator Lorenzo Benedetti only one year after he took up the position. Benedetti, known as an “artist’s curator,” is well liked in the art world, his dismissal enraged many and stirred prejudice against De Appel’s board, who was blamed as being solely concerned with corporate gain rather than with the advancement of the arts.

Photo courtesy De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam.

Photo courtesy De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam.

Those who believed Benedetti to be an integral part of De Appel’s rise to prominence as a respected and admired institution began to rebel shortly after his dismissal. This came about in the form of a petition against his discharge drafted by a series of leading artists, followed by the shocking resignation of the entire team of high-profile tutors at De Appel’s Curatorial Program. The team sent an open letter to the board, which they shared with Artnet News, accusing them of the deteriorating state of De Appel following Benedetti’s leave and stating that they would not resume their teaching until the entirety of the board resigned.

The board, in an attempt to counter these bold actions, had Benedetti’s contract terminated by the District Court with the hope that this would clear up the reasons for their decision to fire him. Despite this, tensions continued to run high, and the board gave in to the tutors’ request in May, resigning from their positions for the sake of the institution.

While the board’s resignation was meant to improve matters for De Appel, the reality was that of an institution with no director, no board, and due to the chaos surrounding the center over the past year, they now also faced threats of cuts in their government funding.

Alberto de Michele, Quien lo Vive Quien lo Goza - La Mascara de la maldad, 2012. Photo courtesy of De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam.

Alberto de Michele, Quien lo Vive Quien lo Goza – La Mascara de la maldad, (2012). Photo courtesy of De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam.

Although De Appel’s website still advertises an anxious petition to prevent these cuts in funding, the press release they recently sent out concerning Van Tomme’s appointment as curator shows the first glimmer of hope for the institution in quite a while.

Curator, researcher, and critic, Van Tomme has ample experience in the field. His exhibitions have been shown at renowned institutions worldwide, and his writing praised by important literary outlets. Van Tomme himself commented on his pleasure at joining the institution after what he politely called an “eventful period,” and communicated his hopes for the future of De Appel under his leadership—a future of diversity, experimentation, reflection, and resolution.

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