Culture in 2022

Since 2021, the national Culture Monitor of the Boekman Foundation has been collecting data about cultural life in the Netherlands. In this overarching chapter we look at a number of trends and developments that will determine the cultural and creative sector in 2022. These are approached in this chapter from all domains and themes of the Culture Monitor.

Authors: Shomara Roosblad and Jan Jaap Knol


In Annual report 2021 of the Culture Monitor, the impact of the corona pandemic on the cultural and creative sector dominated. In 2022 we will see the effect of the pandemic continue to reverberate, even after society has reopened. At the same time, other crises dominated the news, such as the war in Ukraine, the asylum crisis and the climate crisis. Below, in addition to the consequences of the corona pandemic, we highlight two developments that are hitting the cultural and creative sector hard: the energy crisis and the sharp increase in inflation. Together, the developments have direct consequences for the supply, experience and practice of art and culture.

An uncertain start

After two previous pandemic years, 2022 also started uncertainly for the cultural and creative sector. On December 18, 2021, the cabinet announced another lockdown where the cultural sector was expected to close its doors to the public a day later. Once again, issues such as the consequences for the cultural labor market, public reach, the survival of (small) institutions and the value of art and culture in society were central. At the end of January 2022, the cultural and creative sector reopened to the public, albeit under certain conditions, and the government announced an additional support package (Government 2022a). A month later, further relaxations in society followed, after which the cultural sector was no longer closed for the rest of the year. In May, Gunay Uslu, State Secretary for Culture and Media, presented her recovery plan for the cultural sector. The plan focuses on recovery, renewal and growth, with the following topics being important: the return of audiences, strengthening the labor market position of makers, additional cultural offerings for young people and innovation. The plan also includes an announcement of further investments, such as for heritage and libraries. The Cultural and Creative Sector Taskforce, a partnership of more than 100 industry, professional and interest organizations, responded positive, but called on the State Secretary to work closely with the sector to spend the announced additional €135 million for 2022, and €170 million per year from 2023, as effectively as possible. In November, the State Secretary presented her Multi-Year Letter - The power of creativity – the further elaboration of its plans for the years 2023-2025 (Uslu 2022).

With the complete opening of society, a new phase of the pandemic began for the cultural and creative sector. A phase in which new problems presented themselves.

The return of an audience

A spearhead of State Secretary Uslu's recovery plan concerns the return of the public. While various sectors such as museums and music venues broke visitor records in 2019, public flows only started with difficulty after corona. We saw this in a series of news reports during the year. For example, in May the NOS headlined 'Where is the audience?' in an article that showed how the sector, from audiovisual to theatre, is still struggling with the return of visitors. But we also see it in the figures for 2022. However, in January 2023 the Museum Association spoke of a 'cautious recovery': the trade organization expects that the number of visitors will be between 2022 and 21 million for 23,8 (Museum Association 2023). This number is considerably higher than the visits in 2020 and 2021, but is still at least 30 percent less than in the peak year of 2019, in which the Museum Association recorded a record of 33 million visitors (Ibid.). The figures for the cinema industry show a similar development. The number of visits to cinemas and film theaters increased by 2022 percent in 75 compared to 2021, but with 25 million tickets sold, it still remained 32 percent below the average for the years 2017 to 2019 (FDN and NVBF 2023). There are also more positive voices from the theater sector at the beginning of 2023, especially about the arrival of new and young audiences. The return of older visitors is slower (Bos 2023, NOS 2023).

Within the domain Music we also see an unequal distribution. Visitors are more likely to visit a festival again, while ticket sales for concerts are lagging behind (Crabbendam 2022). In addition, late research from PopLive see that there is a winner-takes-all effect, where money is mainly spent on major artists. We also see in other domains that already well-known names dominate the programming.

National initiatives have now been developed to win back the public. In September, the National Theater Fund launched the performing arts sector-wide campaign in collaboration with the Association of Theater and Concert Hall Managements (VSCD), the Dutch Association for Performing Arts (NAPK) and the Association of Free Theater Producers (VVTP). Looking forward to seeing you. With commercials on radio, television and social media, the initiative, partly financed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), aims to renew the public's enthusiasm for visiting the theatre. In November, the Dutch Association for Cinemas and Film Theaters (NVBF) and the National Bioscoopbon Foundation jointly conducted the campaign Cinemaniaaa! to stimulate film attendance again.

It was not only visits to cultural locations that lagged behind. With the lockdowns, the public also disappeared from the streets, and it became clear that the need for an accessible public space is not equally distributed (Boer 2020). When recovering the sector, architects say it is also good to think about how we deal with the diversity of the city and ensure an equally accessible and inclusive public space. In the longer term, working from home, which has become structural in many cases, also requires space in homes, but also a healthy living environment (BNA 2021).

Bottlenecks in the labor market

Staff shortages and loss of knowledge

But not only the slow return of the public, bottlenecks in the cultural and creative labor market also led to concerns in 2022. Like other sectors in the Netherlands, the cultural and creative sector is also struggling with staff shortages. In the second quarter of 2022, the tightness on the labor market increased to such an extent that it is noticeable in all sectors (NOS 2022b). We see this within the domains in both paid functions and non-paid functions. For example, since the start of the pandemic, the performing arts a decrease in the number of employed persons. In addition, there is a specific shortage of lighting and sound technicians (Kunstenbond 2022a). This shortage has not been met even after reopening, which has direct consequences for programming. In November, International Theater Amsterdam (ITA) announced that it would cancel performances for early 2023 due to staff shortages (ITA 2022). During the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), pop temple Paradiso was forced to scale down its programming from five to three events per day (Pol 2022). In the domain Heritage Since the reopening, we have seen that heritage volunteers have difficulty returning. This mainly concerns older volunteers, especially at small heritage institutions (Korzec 2022). Figures from the Museum Association show that volunteers and interns together account for 23 percent of the FTEs employed (Museum Association 2022). The loss of older volunteers threatens not only a loss of staff but also of knowledge. The fact that the knowledge and commitment of these people is crucial has been underlined since 2020 with an initiative such as the Heritage Volunteer Award.

Perpetual inequality

In the report Unequally affected, unequally supported the Boekman Foundation concluded in 2021 that the government's financial support for the period 2020 and 2021 'works, but has not reached everyone sufficiently'. In 2021 and 2022, the precarious position of the self-employed was increasingly recognized by the government and municipalities, partly due to previous letters from the Arts Union (Kunstenbond 2021). At several times, at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, specific support was made available for self-employed people in the cultural sector, which was often spent through arrangements within the national culture funds. This was what it was about national regulations, but also on provincial en municipal level, additional financial resources became available (Central Government 2022a, RTV Noord 2022, Municipality of Amsterdam 2021). Also the aforementioned recovery plan of State Secretary Uslu and her Multi-year letter 'The power of creativity' discusses in detail the position of self-employed people in the sector. However, the increased attention to the position of self-employed people did not prevent the Arts Union from holding the state legally liable for the lack of compensation for this group (Kunstenbond 2022b).

The precarious position of self-employed people is part of a larger problem within the cultural sector that has been further magnified by the pandemic, said Eleanora Belfiore in her keynote Value of culture in a post-pandemic world during the national conference The value of culture after corona from the Boekman Foundation and Utrecht University. Due to the pandemic, little progress has been made to create equality for workers within the cultural and creative labor market, and differences have actually increased. In an exploration by the Boekman Foundation, in which the current state of affairs regarding the Fair Practice Code is highlighted, it is concluded that although 'the code has made people aware at all levels of the need for fair and sustainable employment relations', there is still a long way to go before fair practice becomes a reality (Leden 2022). Also the research into the incentive program Theater Included shows that the pandemic has had a negative impact among affiliated organizations on creating more diversity, inclusion and equality in the theater sector.

The same research shows that offering online performances during the pandemic resulted in greater audience reach, but that institutions had little insight into this 'new' audience or how they could build a sustainable relationship with this audience after reopening. In The State of the Theater, the annual opening speech that heralds the new theater season, Alida Dors states: 'During the lockdowns we explored new ways of presenting, and for a moment we seemed to touch a different audience. But we seem to be back to square one. So many people once again feel unwelcome in our sector'. Nevertheless, a recent report from the NOS in which programmers and directors note that theaters have managed to attract a younger and more diverse audience after the corona years (NOS 2023) is hopeful.

A more positive note

During the pandemic, a number of cultural domains have gained popularity. The domain GAMES saw the number of players and global turnover grow strongly. Video On Demand (VOD) platforms en music streaming services achieved an unprecedented increase in turnover. The Monitor Amateur Art (MAK) of the LKCA even speaks of a slight increase in the share of art practitioners in 2021 (Neele et al. 2021). This increase is especially visible when practicing 'individual' activities and is accompanied by a decrease in social activities.

In 2022, physical bookstores have regained some ground. Their turnover increased by 25 percent compared to 2021, while the turnover of online stores decreased by 11 percent (KVB Boekwerk 2023).

New crises

While the cultural and creative sector tried to bounce back after reopening in 2022, new crises broke out: the energy crisis and sharply rising inflation. For example, architectural firms expect a decline in the number of new construction projects in the near future. Price increases and supply uncertainty are slowing down not only housing construction, but also sustainability (BNA 2022). The nitrogen crisis and the resulting stagnation in licensing are added to this (BNA 2020). There is therefore a new call for financial government support.

Theaters, museums and other cultural institutions everywhere in the country are struggling with significantly increased bills (NOS 2022c). In the theater domain we see that rising costs lead to cancellations, such as with the musical Diary of a Sheepdog. We also see this trend internationally, for example the cancellation of Broadway's longest-running musical Phantom of the Opera which will end in 2023 due to rising costs and poor returning audiences.

For the domain Music The increase in costs for gas, airline tickets, hotel stays and tour bus rentals means that musicians are canceling performances. This applies not only to young talent but also to established international artists such as the American singer Santigold (Zemler 2022). The heritage sector is also noticing the consequences of the energy crisis. Due to high energy costs, small museums will close their doors this winter, such as the Arnhem War Museum 40-45, which is temporarily closed (Friedrichs 2022). Libraries are also struggling with increased energy prices (Voorthuijsen 2022). There are even signals that some libraries may – cautiously – increase their prices (ANP 2022). But we also see that libraries can make an additional contribution in their social role, such as offering a warm place to stay for people who do not have a home or cannot heat their home (Library Network 2022). In addition, energy coaches in libraries can, for example, help people make their homes more sustainable, or give advice to people who are experiencing financial problems.

In Autumn memorandum of 2022 the government announced that compensation for high energy prices will be provided to (among other things) government-funded cultural institutions (Government 2022b). In the memorandum, the government also encourages the sector to become more sustainable. The theme is also structurally on the agenda of the Council for Culture, which announced in October that a new advisory committee will examine the subject. The council expects to issue an advice in June 2023 (Council for Culture 2022a).

The energy crisis cannot be separated from the climate crisis. Internationally, but also in the Netherlands, the art museum has become a place for climate activism, such as in the Mauritshuis where activists glued themselves to 'The girl with the pearl earring' (NOS 2022d). This led to outrage, although others also showed understanding for the importance of putting the theme on the agenda. For the management and preservation of our heritage, the museum sector itself is particularly dependent on climate installations that must maintain the temperature and humidity in the museum spaces. In these times, institutions cannot easily save money, or even continue operating without energy compensation from the government, the Museum Association reported on behalf of 470 museums in an appeal to the government in October (Museum Association 2022).

In recent years, the cultural sector has increasingly become a place to draw attention to climate change through stories, such as theater production Under Wetter from the Frisian theater company Tryater. But the sector itself is also becoming more sustainable, as the theme page also reports Sustainability in the Culture Monitor.

Ask about new policies

Developments in 2022 show that financial resources alone are not sufficient for the cultural and creative sector to recover from the pandemic. But the challenges that have plagued the sector for years as well as the new crises will also have long-term consequences without action. The corona crisis has brought the precarious labor market into sharp relief.

In 2022, the theme of transgressive behavior in the cultural sector continued to return regularly in reporting, including as a result of the program Boos over The Voice of Holland. In the advice Across the border, on the way to a shared culture (June 2022), the Council for Culture speaks of an 'urgent and persistent problem' (Council for Culture 2022b). Unequal power relations and precarious working conditions for flexible workers contribute to the creation of an unsafe working climate.

Like Belfiore during the conference The value of culture after corona put forward, there is a sector-wide call for new policies. The need for change has been expressed for years, including through codes of conduct, incentive programs, partnerships and other initiatives launched in recent years in the hope that the sector will operate differently.

In the past year we already saw the need for innovation in a number of developments, such as the launch of Innovation labs. The program is an example of how digitalization is supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the six national culture funds. The Council for Culture also sees digitalization as an opportunity for greater public reach, social relevance and economic strengthening of the sector (Council for Culture 2022c). The announcement of the renewal of the cultural system from subsidy period 2025-2028, in which simplification of the application process is a focus point, illustrates that the call and desire for new policies are the only way forward (Government 2022c). If the pandemic made us think about these new policies, the new crises are forcing us to actually develop and implement them. Perhaps that is the lesson of the year 2022, in which the value and future of art and culture in society have once again been placed particularly centrally.


ANP (2022) 'Libraries are raising prices due to rising costs'. On:, November 11.

Boer, de M. (2020) 'How does the city center survive a lockdown?'. On:, 16th of April.

Bos, J. (2023) 'Theater halls well filled, but mainly with new young visitors'. On:, 12 January.

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Friedrichs S. (2022) 'Arnhem War Museum temporarily closed due to high energy bills: “Costs more than doubled”'. On:, October 24.

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Accountability image

Show Lehman trilogy by ITA / Photography: Fabian Calis (courtesy of ITA)