There are dozens of ways of presenting art, which all have their own relevance depending on time and place, contents and audience, objective and commission. Under certain circumstances, art can and may function everywhere; immaterial values do not have to be put in their place. This also applies for art that is less accessible at first sight, although this art might not stand out well enough at every location, as sometimes some familiarity, or certainly affinity with the idiom is needed to be able to gauge the value of the subject, and not everyone shares that interest. On the other hand, it is also patronizing to show ‘difficult’ art solely in reserves (art institutes), where the people come who always visit these places; the entire community has the right to see the best.

In my opinion, a satisfactory solution has never been found to this dilemma concerning modern art presentation. This top-down approach, with which the elite tries to ‘uplift the masses’ by creating a larger familiarity with art, has resulted in large numbers of divergent educational approaches – varying from the ‘art bus’ in the districts to teaching programmes in museums – but all this doesn’t get us very far; there is always just a minority that is interested. In theory, that is not a problem: everyone is free to strive for happiness in his or her own way. Moreover, dealing with art in a time of extreme consumerism might become even less popular: after all, time, concentration and effort are undoubtedly needed and these items are becoming increasingly scarce in the culture of the first quarter of the twenty-first century. And, on top of all that, when the government makes drastic cutbacks on arts – both part of the cause and a consequence of current populism – that does not help either.

When leaving out all the grey zones, visual art is shown in roughly two sorts of places: the art institute and the public space. The art institute is visited by professionals and otherwise interested people, in the public space art is rammed down everyone's throat. As it is, the public space is dominated by enormous amounts of visual rubbish anyhow, so that an extra work of art won’t do any harm; but on the other hand, the work would be mixed with advertising and other signals with which it can hardly ever compete qua racket, in such a way that it is often not even noticed. This is not the place to hold an elaborate discourse about art in public space, but it’s a fact that in the vast majority of cases, art is only consciously recognized, also in those places, by those who are in search of art anyway, and are particularly interested in unexpected moments of relatively outward modesty.

A third place might be: a building that people enter frequently for other reasons, but at the same time could host art in a less ‘elitist’ way than in a museum, and precisely less obtrusive than outdoors in the city. This has the advantage that it remains unexpected, but is nevertheless more explicitly visible than elsewhere.
Such a place is a home for the entire community, where at other times other activities take place; a building that is prominent and well known, but not defined for one obvious and univocal purpose.

De Grote Kerk (Main Church) in The Hague is such a building. Obviously, this is a church building, but not used as such anymore, whereas the religious aspects of the architecture recall the past. Throughout the year, shows, concerts, parties and a whole range of other activities are organised in this building, which qua content have nothing to do with each other, and reflect no special view on anything whatsoever: the room can simply be hired by anyone who doesn’t mean any trouble. Once the building was the house of God, but now, in a sense, it is everyone’s space: it is for the population of The Hague, including all the tourists. In addition, it is immediately recognizable for everyone, and geographically it is situated precisely in the centre of the city.

Throughout the period that art will be presented here, West looks upon the building as a Volkspaleis: a palace for everyone. In fact, an open space with style and appeal, where, in this period, anyone who walks in can look at works of art that do not necessarily reveal themselves as art. It involves a video installation by Julian Rosefeldt on nine giant screens, MP3-players with stories by Maartje Wortel and objects by the American design duo ROLU; impressions originating from everyday life, without providing a hermetic idea, impressions that are also accessible for those who do not know that this is the work of an artist. Those who do know, will probably discover more content and meaning, but everyone can experience these images in their own way.
The Volkspaleis is not bound to the Grote Kerk, next year it might just as well be located in the Binckhorst, or some other place. The Volkspaleis is not site specific, as the theme is not linked to a specific spot, but to an idea. An idea that is actually quite simple: the entire population is entitled to the best and that is presented in an unexpected place, where it doesn’t redeem fixed expectations, but doesn’t provoke either.

What the Volkspaleis does is: offer accessibility, to everyone.

Philip Peters, 2012