Whoever enters the Oude Kerk immediately feels the overwhelming sensation of time. Already in the early 14th century, this mighty building served as an earthly panorama of the kingdom of heaven. Today it's contemporary art that illuminates the room. In the name of God, the building narrates seven centuries of enervating cultural, political and economic history of Amsterdam. As if, according to an eternally lasting contract, this powerful building allows temporary crowds to animate the space.
The floor of the Oude Kerk is a tightly arranged pavement of tombstones. Here we literally walk on the graves of the 'rijke stinkers', the honorary citizens of Amsterdam. Until the 19th century, well-to-do citizens had themselves buried in this most expensive burial chamber, securing their place in the immediate vicinity of the Holy Trinity. Their financial returns guarenteed a foundation that allowed the building to gradually develop into a cultural treasure. Thanks to the financial pragmatism of the church this all became possible: the church met the well-to-do citizen by exchanging a heavenly grave or grave monument for a generous donation.
Nowadays, both the church and the arts struggle to find their way through a secular Dutch landscape. Unfortunately, the Oude Kerk seems to stand in its own shadow, now that only 5% of its events are religious related. Now that the government withdraws its subsidies and stimulates cultural entrepreneurship and new revenue models, there is a direct call for new forms of patronage. Restrained models are being transformed and the relationship between the citizen and society is given new forms. Traditions and habits that got forgotten or seemed no longer useful, can suddenly offer new opportunities.
In collaboration with de Oude Kerk Foundation, Hans van Houwelingen developed a 'business plan' that gives a new impetus to the role of the Oude Kerk, its art treasures, its significance for contemporary art and its financial position. One more time, or rather once again, a wealthy citizen is given the opportunity to be buried in the Oude Kerk. The grave is assigned to the woman or man who chooses the Oude Kerk to be the last resting place. In return he or she donates one million euros. The funeral will be a performative work of art, the grave and the gravestone an eternally lasting work of art. Donation, church and artwork coincide here, the patron-new style can count on a double immortalisation.