In the twenty years (1984-2006) that Saskia Bos served as the head of De Appel, the public got to know her as a passionate and highly engaged director who continued to place the artists at the centre. With her programs she aimed to raise the visitors’ awareness of the process behind the creation and presentation of art, and the societal and political role the artist could fulfil within this. Bos profiled De Appel as an internationally oriented art institute which offered an alternative to galleries and museums, and prioritised the production and presentation of new art. A constant factor within her policies and programs were the artists she invited for their research-focused and (self-)critical attitude, or their socially engaged practices. Through founding the Curatorial Training Programme (CTP) in 1994 she further solidified De Appel’s place on the international map. This international context was of great importance to Bos, and she provided form and content to this context through the CTP as well as the programming of artists who were or would become of international significance. Through this, Bos provided De Appel with a role, function, and profile that far transcended the national purport of an art institute. To Bos, the artists with whom she worked were ‘receptors’ of society. One of the most important drivers of Bos’ policy and programme was therefore to play upon topical issues. It was this, which she passed on to her CTP students too: to relate oneself to the present day was crucial. Whereas between 1986 and 1994 the focus of De Appel – housed on the Prinseneiland – lied on the way in which artists engaged with the space and the ‘in situ’ impact of art and the art institute, the move of De Appel to the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in 1994 also shifted Bos’ emphasis. In part due to the changes in the art world and perceptions of this, Bos’ focus became increasingly with the artists who engaged their art with larger societal developments. In this way the attention of shifted away from an inward-looking focus of art on art and the art institute itself, towards art that was outward looking and placed itself within a larger global context. Through curating artists engaged in this matter, Bos expressed her belief in art’s potential to change the world – or at least raise people’s social awareness – and positioned De Appel as a socially responsible art institute. Both at the Prinseneiland as well as in the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, Bos provided a space for contemporary and topical art that was not shown in other spaces, including the art market. She did not make concessions to the content of exhibitions and organised profound and sometimes complex exhibitions. In addition Bos presented De Appel as a self-critical institute by curating critical artists, organising immersive activities and contributing to the art discourse. The Curatorial Training Programme provided an important contribution to this furthering of engagement and moreover shaped Bos’ feel for the developments in the art world.

Agnes Winter, Een ruimte voor geëngageerd kunstenaarschap: De Appel 1984-2005: Het directoraat van Saskia Bos