The New Elite

A Symposium about the Changing Meaning of “Elite"

9 Sep 2011
10 Sep 2011

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and de Appel arts centre present The New Elite, a symposium about the contemporary and changing meaning of the elite in relation to politics and the visual arts.


Stedelijk Museum - Old part of the Stedelijk Museum, Paulus Potterstraat, Amsterdam. Picture found on Wikipedia . Picture was made by Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites , 2007.of Historic Buildings and Sites]

The recent political and social situation in Western Europe and Scandinavia has been tumultuous, with the rise of right-wing political parties and nationalist overtones that increasingly dominate political debate and policy. In the Netherlands in particular, these tendencies have converged in the installment of a conservative right-wing government with full support of the Party of Freedom, a party under the leadership of Geert Wilders. The current government, and Wilders especially, applies a populist vocabulary to articulate its politics and policies. Dutch society, Wilders contends, is dealing with fundamental problems of immigration, multiculturalism, security, and healthcare, which in previous years have been completely ignored by an often leftist elite. Anti-elitism appears to be at the very core of Wilders’ program, as well as of the government he supports. The art world – which in its most broad sense includes theater, music, performance, and visual arts – is regarded as the epitome of elitism, the ivory tower in which the elite resides to either ignore or exacerbate the so-called problems of our contemporary society. According to some, this costly “left-wing hobby” should be restrained, and so serious propositions have been made to cut funding to the arts.

Rather than articulating a defense against such claims, it is more productive to review the core argument against elitism, and to examine, scrutinize, and, if necessary, rearticulate the notion of the elite in contemporary Western society and its importance, specifically in relation to the arts. How has the notion of “elite” changed over the past decades? Why is the attack on the elite so popular at the moment? In what ways can social, political, intellectual, financial, and cultural elites be differentiated? And what is the status of these different forms of elite in the current populist and nationalist political discourse? Looking at the future, who will be the new elite?


BAVO, Britta Böhler, Ann Demeester, Meindert Fennema, Bas Heijne, Erik van Lieshout, Margriet van der Linden, Rob Riemen, Xandra Schutte, and Jonas Staal, among others.

Practical information

Auditorium, Temporary Stedelijk 2
Entrance fee: Free with valid Museum ticket
Language: Dutch
Reservations: Required, via