Director and Supervisory Board Report
30 September 2020
On the Selection and Ratification of a New Name
For the institution formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
We are renaming our institution because of a social movement that demands cultural institutions be spaces responsive to racial justice. This decolonial movement is the framework in which our institutional renaming occurs. As the Director and Supervisory Board, we want to respond to these claims. In doing so, we honor the transformation undertaken in our Name Change Initiative, our philosophy of Collective Learning, and our Renaming Process that has involved an Online Survey, five Forums, an external Advisory Committee of 13 members and, finally, a Public Review in three sessions.
The external Advisory Committee endorsed one of the three shortlisted names, KAT, and suggested Melly as a better name for our institution. We have deliberated extensively on their advice along with our Public Input outcomes. From these, we recognize that there is a public interest in historical learning and an expectation that our institution contributes from its position in the field of contemporary art. We also recognize a need to be more accessible and communicative, in order to reach our goals of social inclusivity. Furthermore, we note that the name is not an end to our ongoing transformation. We will continue this process of institutional accountability, unsilencing and vulnerability into the future.
In line with this, our new name should not be about our institution’s legacy but about where we position ourselves today. Consider that from 1986 to 1989 our institution was called Kunsthuis in all documents, and that only months before its public opening in January 1990 it was renamed to Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. Our name change today is based on our commitment to be open, bold and nimble; to engage in deep listening, and to advance mutual understanding. That is what we are being asked and expected to be as an institution of contemporary art at present.
For the past three years, we have been invested in broadening our stakeholder groups to diversify both our community of peers and program perspectives. During this time, we have been testing modalities for public engagement through the philosophy of Collective Learning. One of the most visible components has been the transformation of our ground-floor exhibition gallery into a hybrid cafe and events space, which was given the name ‘Melly’ by a group of emerging professionals in Rotterdam. This name stands in reference to the artwork Melly Shum Hates Her Job (1990) by artist Ken Lum, that is permanently installed on our building’s facade.
If the advice of both our new and longstanding stakeholders, as well as our Advisory Committee, is to call our institution "Melly" (or, Kunstinstituut Melly or Melly Art Institute), it implies that our Melly initiative has come to signal an institutional willingness and accountability to transform. Their name proposal encourages us to carry out our experiments more expansively and with the committed support of our longstanding and new stakeholders.
Today, we select the new name of our institution:
Our new name will come into effect on 27 January 2021, celebrating our 31st anniversary, our new program and policy, and a new stage in our institution.
On this date, 30 September 2020, we unanimously ratify this decision:
Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy
Annet Lekkerkerker (Chair)