By Michelle Rahimi
The Pandemic has made us realize more than ever before how indispensable Arts and Culture are as part of our well-being in difficult times. This is significant when even a newly retired former Ambassador to the Netherlands has just joined The Arts Society The Hague! As its new Chairman, Andrea Perugini, who has recently completed his term as Ambassador of Italy will join the Society’s efforts in further consolidating and expanding the already wide and attractive range of activities and initiatives and will add a special dimension to its upcoming 30th Anniversary season
The Arts Society, originally known as The Decorative and Fine Arts Society, is a British institution which has, since its inception more than 50 years ago, brought art in all its forms to its membership and to everyone who is interested in widening their appreciation of the arts. During this time it has expanded to over 380 member societies, not only in the UK but in Continental Europe where France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Malta have societies, further afield in New Zealand and, through affiliations, Australia too.
As the only Society of its kind in the Netherlands, The Arts Society The Hague -whose Patron is H.E. the Bristish Ambassador in The Hague – is in a unique position to offer top-class lectures in English given by lecturers who have been carefully vetted and are all recognised as experts in their field. Besides high quality lectures, the Society also offers, to both its members and guests, special events in the form of visits to museums, galleries and private collections, all led by English-speaking guides.
Lectures cover an extraordinarily broad range of topics, from the art of ancient civilizations to modern artists and sculptors such as Grayson Perry and Antony Gormley, Japanese modern art, architecture, music and, beyond, to eclectic subjects such as film, fireworks and trompe l’oeil.
The Society has its base in the Warenar theatre in Wassenaar and traditionally has been very much focused on The Hague area but now, with the advent of Zoom, its lectures are available throughout the Netherlands and, in fact, worldwide.
For this, its 30th Anniversary season, the Society will offer a very special and expanded programme of lectures and events for members, all to be announced at the beginning of the new season.
In a recent interview, we asked its Chairman, Mr. Perugini, why he had decided to dedicate himself to the Arts after his long and successful diplomatic career, his response was:
The Arts and Culture are an integral part of any Diplomat’s life. Especially of an Italian Diplomat’s professional life and activities. Italy is a cultural powerhouse, with among the greatest numbers of UNESCO cultural heritage sites in the world. Culture is also an instrument of foreign policy, of cooperation, for promoting dialogue and understanding between peoples of different roots and historical backgrounds. But culture is at the same time universal, it brings to the fore our common roots, our common human feelings for beauty, harmony, colour, and well-being. It helps bring us together, reaching out. It helps to understand better those whom we superficially perceive as different. As a former Italian President of the Republic used to say: “Acquire knowledge before passing judgement.”
After receiving this remarkable answer, we asked him whether there was any correlation between diplomacy and art in his previous life. Once again, we were met with a notable response:
I may have already answered this question in my comment above. I would like to add that Arts and Culture are also a means to promote not only cultural exchanges and ties between countries and peoples; they also promote business, tourism, education, human and social relations as well as good and healthy habits, which includes knowledge of the vulnerabilities of our planet and all that goes with it. When I was a young diplomat posted in Luanda, Angola, I bought a painting from a then unknown Angolan artist called Victor Texeira (in art, Viteix). Now, thirty-five years later, I discovered that Viteix became one of the most prominent Angolan and African artists, his paintings were in the meanwhile exhibited at the Venice Biennale, as he represents one the main iconic painters who contributed, through art, to the struggle for African independence in the second half of the XX Century. So, as you can see, art is limitless in what it can do.
Not only is Mr. Perugini the first and only Italian to be appointed Chairman of the Arts Society in the Netherlands, but he is coming into a prominent thirtieth Anniversary season, as well as during a Pandemic that has made many realize how impactful and beneficial the Arts and Culture can be .
We asked the former ambassador what he intended to do to enhance the participation of the members and newcomers during the time of the Pandemic, he responded:
I was already a member of The Arts Society in The Hague when I was Ambassador of Italy to The Netherlands because I appreciated the very high cultural standard of their lectures and the captivating way in which their lectures are able to deliver them, by stimulating interest, drawing connections and historical parallels, by sharing their personal experiences and by being available to answer questions and provide enthusiastic and well-informed advice to participants. Since I became Chairman, I have engaged to expand the membership of The Arts Society; it is like a medicine, it is beneficial to me, so I am confident that it would do good to others as well. It is invaluable and I am grateful to Diplomat Magazine for helping disseminate this knowledge. During the Covid pandemic The Arts Society in The Hague has quickly adapted to circumstances by moving to online Zoom Lectures. The challenge has become an opportunity since we were able to actively preserve our membership and, in addition, to expand it. We shall continue on Zoom for the moment. But we are prepared to move back gradually to “in person” lectures while keeping the Zoom option open for our members. We all need to socialize and enjoy the Arts and Culture together.
Mr. Perugini and The Arts Society in The Hague have been able to not only survive but expand during the pandemic. This is a wonderful example of how vital Arts and Culture is to society and its good fortune.
The Arts Society in The Hague has reported that it has been able to expand providing lectures from its base in the Warenar theatre in Wassenaar, traditionally being focused in the Hague area, to a worldwide audience with the advent of Zoom.
It will be intriguing to witness how The Arts Society in The Hague continues to grow and flourish under Mr. Perugini’s leadership and all that is to come.
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