Cultural Entrepreneurship, The subsidized art institutions must become more culturally enterprising, according to the 2013-2016 Outline Memorandum of the municipality of Amsterdam. There is too little response to developments on the demand side, as a result of which the cultural offer exceeds the demand and the connection with a broad public is missing. Since the 1990s, both cultural policy and the cultural field have been looking for ways to increase this form of business operations within the arts. This article provides insight into the background and emergence of Cultural Entrepreneurship.

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For a good picture of the history of entrepreneurship, we have to go back to the second half of the 17th century. The Anglo-French economist Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) is, as far as we know, the first thinker who attributed a central place in economics to the figure of the entrepreneur. Cantillon called this figure an ‘entrepreneur’, which meant someone who, on his own initiative and for his own benefit, realized something of social value outside the traditional contexts. The entrepreneur aims to provide an income by managing or maintaining a company with a combination of labour, capital and knowledge. In Cantillon’s view, the entrepreneur has a strong social function by taking non-obvious initiatives and running risks,

Cultural entrepreneurship

Fueled by the growth of the creative industry in Europe and the need to strengthen artistic and cultural organizational capacity, the term cultural entrepreneurship came into existence at the end of the 1990s. Under the leadership of (former State Secretary for Culture) Rick van der Ploeg, the term is being introduced in art and culture policy as: “an attitude aimed at getting the maximum artistic, artistic-cultural, business and social return from cultural facilities” . In the starting point memorandum Culture as Confrontational der Ploeg takes issue with two views that, according to him, have for a long time wrongly determined the discussion about the legitimacy of cultural policy. The first view he criticizes is that cultural policy should focus primarily on supply, which by definition precedes demand. 

By taking this view as an absolute starting point, according to Van der Ploeg, the subsidized culture has responded too little to developments on the demand side and has missed the connection with a wider public. The second view is in line with this focus on supply, which has given rise to the idea that subsidies are only provided to keep culture makers out of the wind of commercialism and that granted subsidies can be spent as they see fit and with virtually no obligations. As a result, a number of subsidized culture makers have used subsidies as shelter from the market and ignored all kinds of cultural processes and innovations that took place in the rapidly growing culture industry, according to Van der Ploeg. This memorandum sets out the initial ideas for an art policy that must find a closer connection with the social context and the interaction between supply and public.


The introduction of the concept of cultural entrepreneurship within art and culture policy has generated a great deal of reaction and discussion, aimed at characterizing the concept and the differences in approach. Professor Giep Hagoort introduced his first textbook ‘Cultural Entrepreneurship’ in 1992, setting the tone for a socio-cultural analysis of this form of business operations within the arts. Where the entrepreneur should be interested in culture because he can earn his money with it, according to Van der Ploeg in a later description of the term, Hagoort takes the artistic integrity of the artistic expression as a starting point. 

He states that the cultural entrepreneur strives for the widest possible audience reach and the sound exploitation of his enterprise. Economists also respond to their former colleague Van der Ploeg. For example, Arjo Klamer and Olav Velthuis argue that Van der Ploeg steers the concept too much towards economics, markets and commerce, thereby ignoring aspects such as ‘creative’, ‘innovative’ and ‘daring’ and antagonizing the art sector. With the current cultural policy and in particular the resistance to it from the cultural sector, history seems to be repeating itself and the discussion around Van der Ploeg is once again relevant.


With this discussion in mind, it is important to define the term ‘Cultural Entrepreneurship’ with care. The concept of Giep Hagoort (1992) can be used for this: “Cultural Entrepreneurship is leading a cultural organization based on three characteristics:

  1. Formulating a guiding cultural mission,
  2. Balancing and acting between cultural and economic values,
  3. Taking care of a cultural infrastructure”.

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