Keep the Cobra Museum open!


On September 5th, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen received the tragic news that the municipality of Amstelveen is threatening to withdraw their financial support for the museum. On the one side by refusing to provide a financial guarantee for a bank loan that has been offered by the bank and on the other hand the board has advised the municipal council to stop subsidising the museum as of 2024. These decisions form an immense threat to the museum’s future existence. 

A petition to keep the Cobra Museum open has been started, garnering over 8.000 signatures so far. On September 11th it was announced that a generous benefactor, Marius Touwen, will provide a credit facility, acting as a guarantor for the museum. This rescues the museum from its acute financial crisis till the end of this year and allows it to engage in new conversation with the municipality of Amstelveen.

Please show your support to the Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen by signing and sharing the petition, that makes an urgent appeal to the municipal council to keep the Cobra Museum open.

You can do so by clicking here.


Teken de petitie-Cobra Museum


In 2023, the museum celebrates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Cobra movement and celebrates this anniversary year with appropriate programming. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Cobra Museum has drawn on its reserves. The unique balance between a low municipal contribution (40%) and a high dependence on self-generated income from visitors and sponsors (60%) makes the museum especially vurnerable. For this temporary financial constraint, the museum found a solution through a credit facility with a regular bank. This naturally requires a credit guarantee from the city of Amstelveen. With these measures, the museum would remain preserved for Amstelveen in the long term. However, when the board of mayor and aldermen decided not to back the loan, this put the Cobra Museum in immediate financial hardship – Touwen’s support will provide relief at least till the end of the year. The end of the municipality’s annual subsidy to the museum, which was 1.2 million euros, will drastically impact the Cobra Museum’s survival. The museum would now have to apply for subsidisation every four years – a laborious task that brings uncertainty with it and lack of long-term stability. 


Cobra Museum, photo Viktor Wennekes


Cobra Museum, 2021, photo Victor Wennekes 2


Cobra Museum, photo Viktor Wennekes


Cobra Museum, photo Victor Wennekes

Opening of the exhibition The Future Can Be Humane at the Cobra Museum on November 4th, 2021. Photos: Victor Wennekes.

Cobra Museum in Amstelveen

The museum has been a topic of conversation in Amstelveen’s politics for a while, with points of criticism including low visitor counts resulting in long-standing annual losses and its engagement with the Amstelveen community. The recent decision comes as painful news to the museum, as in recent times, the Cobra Museum has been in regular discussions with the city regarding its programming and financing. Efforts to make the museum more accessible to the Amstelveen community include initiatives like the Cobra Academy for Amstelveen youth (aged 17-25) and the Cobra Children’s Museum. Additionally, as of this year, access to the museum on Wednesdays became free for all Amstelveen residents. The Cobra Museum recognizes, however, that additional steps must be taken to ensure long-term financial stability and therefore remains open to discussions with the city. Fortunately, the financial support of Marius Touwen – a major shareholder of Serra Holding and the Red Cross Hospital Beverwijk, as well as a passionate art lover and collector – has bought the museum some time to do so.


Constant. Ruimte + kleur, Cobra Museum, 2016-1.3


Constant. Ruimte + kleur, Cobra Museum, 2016-26


Constant. Ruimte + kleur, Cobra Museum, 2016-21


Constant. Ruimte + kleur, Cobra Museum, 2016-15

The exhibition Ruimte + kleur (Space + Colour) at the Cobra Museum in 2016. Photos: [name].

Letter of our Director, Kim van der Horst, to the Municipality of Amstelveen

Dear members of the municipal council of Amstelveen, 

On behalf of Fondation Constant, the foundation that manages the estate of Dutch visual artist Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920-2005), I am writing to you. Constant, together with Corneille and Appel, was one of the three Dutch founders of the CoBrA Group. In the three years the group existed, it took over Europe and left its mark until today. 

From its founding in 1995, Constant, and after his passing Fondation Constant, regularly collaborated with the Cobra Museum. The exhibition “Constant. Space + Colour” in 2016 deserves a special mention in this regard. This exhibition led the public into the very diverse and eventful period in Constant’s practice, namely the years between the dissolution of the Cobra group and the beginning of his New Babylon project. Works not previously shown in museums and life-size reconstructions of Constant in collaboration with Gerrit Rietveld and Aldo van Eyck were on display in an exhibition design by architect Ben van Berkel. Although this exhibition unfortunately did not attract the hoped-for audience numbers during the hot summer of 2016, there was no doubt about its artistic value. The New York Times devoted a fine review to it, and delegations from MoMA New York and The Metropolitan Museum visited the exhibition. 

With this exhibition, the Cobra Museum stuck its neck out to bring an exhibition of unique and undisputed historical value. Although one should always look at how, as a museum, you can strengthen the connection with your audience and introduce more people to art, large audience numbers are no guarantee of quality. Sometimes the goal of an exhibition is depth, wonder or challenge. For this reason, the arts are an integral part of the subsidy system and we do not leave its funding to the market. 

In no way does the value of a museum lie solely in its financial picture. A museum that survives on ticket sales only most likely focuses mainly on entertainment. Even the Rijksmuseum with its art treasures and mass tourism relies on public money. The value of the museum lies in the social aspect, in education, inspiration, history, conservation and innovation. It brings the public what it did not know it needed. Art cannot and should not be measured by audience numbers alone. 

Winston Churchill said it better than I can: 
“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them.”  

A museum that is only 40% subsidised is extremely vulnerable. Most Dutch museums are supported for at least 60%. To judge a museum in that situation on its finances as if it were a second-rate department store is absolutely unjustified. 

We call on you to imagine what Amstelveen’s city centre will look like without a museum: if only the commercial shopping centre would make the heart of the city beat! 

The question to you is, what kind of city should Amstelveen be?

In hopeful anticipation of a wise decision, I remain,

Kim van der Horst 
Director of Fondation Constant