Rap for Rembrandt: Dutch Royals Talk Up Cultural Exchange, Trade Links at High Museum

Rap for Rembrandt: Dutch Royals Talk Up Cultural Exchange, Trade Links at High Museum

Dutch King Willem-Alexander was glad to have something to offer Atlanta in return for the cultural education he received during his Monday visit to the city.

After dropping in on Patchwerk Recording Studios, where hip-hop legends like Outkast have cut records, the king was persuaded that to hear “real hip-hop, you have to come to Atlanta.”

The remark won perhaps the biggest applause of the night from the diverse audience at the High Museum of Art, where a reception featuring the king and Queen Maxima spotlighted the “Dutch Art in a Global Age” exhibition that launched in April.

Trading Rembrandt for rap, he said in a speech at the museum, seemed an apt exchange after experiencing Atlanta’s depth.

“What’s especially striking is the way this city cherishes its history, passing it on to new generations,” the king said after laying a wreath at the tomb of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and participating in a seminar at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The paintings in the exhibition originated in the 17th century, a time of economic and cultural flourishing for the Netherlands, but also one of “colonial exploitation,” said the king, who last year made a landmark apology for the Dutch crown’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“It’s a mark of a free and open society to learn from the past and put all your energy into building a better future, and this is the main focus of our visit, because you can’t build a better future from Europe,” he said.

While more traditional activities like a grand opening of Newcold’s automated food-storage facility and discussions with health researchers at the CDC were on the agenda, one core driver behind the royal visit was to bolster the Dutch foreign ministry’s efforts to empower Black-owned businesses in the U.S.

As Dutch Ambassador Birgitta Tazelaar said at a recent forum on Black business at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, an apology is just the start of the journey toward reckoning with the country’s problematic past. Helping grow companies from Atlanta, the so-called cradle of the civil rights movement and a center for Black success, is one way to make strides toward closing the persistent racial wealth gap that exists in the U.S.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima visited Newcold in McDonough earlier in the day after convening Dutch executives for a meeting with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, walking Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens along the Beltline and laying a wreath at the King Center. Credit: Trevor Williams / Global Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who made multiple trips to the Netherlands during an early-career role with Dutch company DSM Engineering Plastics, said Atlanta and the Netherlands share a commitment to human rights and social justice, and the desire to find “solutions to common challenges” like climate change and sustainable development.

“I know that we all want to build a better future together for the generation that’s coming after us,” Mr. Dickens said. “The time you spend here is the celebration of our longstanding relationship and friendship and the strong bond we share.”

He added that Atlanta was fast becoming a hub for Dutch companies that have “discovered Atlanta and the state of Georgia can serve as gateways to the entire North American continent and this marketplace,” and that 40-plus Georgia firms operate in the country.

In another gesture of inclusion, the king pointed out that the Netherlands is closer to Atlanta travelers than they might think.

“You don’t need to cross the Atlantic. Three autonomous countries within our kingdom are actually quite close by in the Caribbean: Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba, and I’m proud that they are represented this evening here in Atlanta.”

Delta Air Lines Inc. last December relaunched a long-dormant flight to Curacao, to which it will add another flight this year.

After the speech, in which he encouraged guests to visit the High’s exhibitions, the king met with a variety of civic and business leaders at high-top tables in the Taylor Lobby.

Those guests included Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor, Georgia congressman and U.N. ambassador noted for his role as a key deputy to Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

“I can assure you that we will keep Georgia on our minds,” the king said in closing his remarks.

He is slated to visit Savannah Tuesday on his second day in Georgia, after which he will head to New York for another two-day stop.

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