Around 70 museums across the Netherlands were turned into beauty salons and gyms on 19 January as part of a mischievous initiative labelled Theater Hairdresser. The playful protest was led by the comedians Diederik Ebbinge and Sanne Wallis de Vries who say they are highlighting the absurdity of Covid-19 government restrictions across the Dutch culture sector.
The country entered a full lockdown in December in the wake of the Omicron variant surge; earlier this month, the government relaxed some measures, reopening non-essential shops along with gyms, hair salons and brothels. But museums, cinemas and theatres remain closed under Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte's latest coronavirus plan. The campaigning comedians say they do not understand why cultural venues remain shut while some shops are allowed to open.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was, for instance, converted into a hair and beauty salon for the day. “With this [initiative], we draw attention to the dire situation in the cultural sector and the need to reopen the museums as soon as possible. We know it's safe and we [want] to show it to everyone,” says a statement on the museum website. A beard trim by barber Ferry Seksie cost €19 while a manicure was priced at €30.
At the Amsterdam Museum, which focuses on the history of the city, visitors could “not only view the Golden Carriage [exhibit] but also get a haircut and take a yoga class”, says the museum on its Instagram feed. The aim of the maverick event was to “draw attention to the sinking situation in the culture sector”, officials add. The Mauritshuis organised a boot camp on parliament's doorstep in The Hague.
“We are pleased with this one-off action to have found a way to draw attention to the dire situation in the cultural sector in a playful way, and according to the rules,” say Ebbinge and De Vries in an online statement. Some Dutch city mayors promised to clampdown though on the Theater Hairdresser protests, stressing that the coronavirus guidelines should not be breached.
The Dutch culture secretary, Gunay Uslu, tweeted that “the culture sector is drawing attention to their situation in a creative way… I understand the cry for help but society must be opened up step by step. Culture is high on our agenda.”