Speech minister Ingrid van Engelshoven

Ridderzaal, The Hague, 29 October, 2018

Ladies and gentlemen,
members of the jury,

We have just heard from Els [van der Plas] why you so richly deserve the Johannes Vermeer Award 2018.

And I agree with her wholeheartedly. But before I actually present you with the award, I would like to take a moment to look forward together.

I’d like to begin with a quote that you will probably recognise.

‘I’ve been constantly on the move up until now.
To nowhere in particular.
Just on the move.
But now it’s clear to me: this is where I was supposed to be all along.’

These four lines come from an adaptation of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat by the Flemish poet Bart Moeyaert.
But I don’t need to tell you that.

In 2011, you were there with him – one time only! – on the Tivoli stage in Utrecht.

It was a small, intimate performance, and deeply personal. Just as you like performances to be. And just as the audiences at your Chamber Music Festival like them to be.

Tonight, you, your colleagues, and your friends and family, will be listening to Moeyaert’s lines in the Ridderzaal Hall.

This is where you are supposed to be.
The direction you choose to take after tonight is an interesting question. Perhaps this is a good moment for reflection.
And perhaps the award that you are here to receive tonight will help you do that.

The Johannes Vermeer Award gives you the opportunity to embark on something new. In your case, that will mean choosing how to continue an already rich and varied musical career.

Your parents probably sensed the talent that was flowing through your veins from the moment you started making sound.
For music is in the blood. And you always have it with you.
Wherever you are.

It has made you an ambassador for Dutch musical culture around the world. You have left your musical mark on every continent.

But you also know how tough that world can be for musicians. You know how important it is to have people there who know you, who support and protect you. And you are also keenly aware of the generations of musicians who will follow in your footsteps.

Just as I am.
So I hope that your plans contribute to that goal.

When you heard that you had been selected for this award, you were surprised and honoured. I noticed that when I called you from Argentina, to congratulate you.

It’s always good to see a grateful and modest laureate like you. Even before you knew that you’d been selected, I was sure that the trophy would be in good hands with you.

Because of your good nature, your modesty and your determination to do the right thing.
And that’s not just because of what I have seen of you in public.

One of your friends told me: ‘She believes that even as a teacher she is still learning, so she doesn’t call her lessons ‘lessons’, but coaching.’

This is very much to your credit. You let nothing go to your head.
We could all learn a lot from your self-control.

And your control of the violin speaks for itself.
The emotion you put into your playing makes it such a great pleasure to listen to you. The intensity that you put into your music is without parallel.

And it’s a source of inspiration for new generations.
You really are the perfect role model for anyone who wants to learn to play a musical instrument. Wherever you perform, there are always young people in the audience.

And you play in a way that moves everyone in the room. You play from your heart, and that means that you can touch their hearts. You reach out and touch them with your music.

I hope that tonight, I’m able to reach out to you too. Unfortunately, I can’t do that through a wonderful violin performance – but fortunately, as a politician, I’m never short of words.

When it comes to funding, on the other hand, there is never enough.
And that means you have to make choices.

In government, we are in the unique position of being entrusted with public money and deciding where and how to spend it best.
And that’s where freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.
When it comes to the money associated with this award, I can imagine that you feel the same way.

Unfortunately, Bart Moeyaert cannot provide much help in this regard.

‘When you choose one thing, everything else goes unchosen. So winning always means losing,’ he explained in your Tivoli performance.

But maybe we should see the glass as half-full.

Because as long as the choices you make come from your heart,
and you make them together with others,
and you think about their dreams too,
choosing can never mean losing.

When I first became minister, I stood up for what I believe is important.
In my case that means more opportunities for art.
A broader scope for fresh creativity.
And investments in the development of young talent.

So I’m doing my bit to defend the immense value of culture.
And I’m fighting to make sure that culture has its rightful place at the heart of our open society.

Because I cannot imagine it any other way.

So really there is no choice to be made,
and I think you might look at it the same way.

The prize money that you will receive will enable you to grow and develop your ideas in the years to come.
I’m sure you will choose to spend it in a way that reflects what is going on in the world today. A project that fosters innovation and inspires the established genres in art.


‘Everyone gets just one piece of happiness.
Like a bar of chocolate that is too good to eat all at once.’

The words of Moeyaert at Tivoli again, at the end of your performance.
You were sitting opposite him with your violin.

I recall his words tonight.

I say this as a great admirer of your work,
because I hope you continue to reach out and touch us.

I say it as a huge fan of a woman who has reached the very top.
Because it gives me great pleasure to see you up there, where you belong.

And I say it as Minister of Culture.
Because I am sure that there is still a big chunk of happiness waiting for you.

It’s been with you all along.

The Johannes Vermeer Award 2018 is yours. And it is so richly deserved.

May I ask you to step forward to receive the award?

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