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Art and law: Rules for the dialogue between art and nature

Publication date: 11 July 2016
Can you just install a work of art in a nature conservation area? Of course not, an integrated environmental permit is required for this. Who has to grant such a permit and what are the requirements such a permit has to comply with?

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The project Into Nature art expedition was a great idea. A large number of artworks should be installed in the beautiful Drentsche Aa landscape. From 4 July to 18 September 2016, visitors will be able to discover together with artists “how man interacts with the environment”. One of the artworks to be exhibited was by Rainer Gross. “His monumental installations from wood enter into a dialogue with the environment”, says the website of the project. In this case the environment is Okkenveen, which is located in the middle of a protected Natura 2000 area. For the artwork, which consists of curved, blackened slats, two foundations needed to be placed in the river Drentsche Aa. The project management was well-prepared and applied for an environmental permit from the municipality of Tynaarlo for the installation of the artwork and the exemption from the land use plan. The municipality granted the required permit.

Was that it? No, because the conservation group Natuurplatform Drentsche Aa lodged an objection with the municipality and requested the North Netherlands District Court to suspend the permit so that the artwork could not be installed until the objection would be decided on. The request was granted by the District Court.

So what went wrong with the decision of the municipality?
(1) The municipality had not investigated the effects on the natural environment to be expected from the installation of the artwork. This concerned both the disturbance of the sensitive area caused by the installation and removal of the artwork, and the rising number of visitors to be expected.
(2) Before granting the permit, the municipality should have requested a statement of no objections from the Provincial Executive of Drenthe and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. This was required because it concerned a Natura 2000 area (authority of the Provincial Executive) with protected animals (authority of the Ministry), such as the bullhead, the loach and the crested newt.

Therefore, the Court decided on 7 July 2016 to suspend the decision until at least six weeks after the municipality will have re-decided on the permit. In practice, this means the artwork shall not be installed anymore as the Into Nature art expedition will end on 18 September.

Would you like to learn more about the legal aspects of art in public spaces? Or do you have any other questions about art and law? Please contact Russell Advocaten:

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