Job Cohen intervenes in debate about unwanted art after Leiden action against portrait of his father – Joop


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The former mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen offers the board of Leiden University a ‘refresher course’ after the removal of the painting depicting his father from the wall of a meeting room. Dolf Cohen was the chancellor of the university and survived Nazi persecution by going into hiding. In a letter published by the university newspaper Mare, he and his brother Floris discuss the removal, where the motives are unclear.

We have no idea if that is actually the case. De Telegraaf writes about it and there’s a whole debate about it on Twitter – but again, that doesn’t say everything these days. But if we assume that this is indeed based on the truth, then you will understand that we are extremely curious about the reasons for this removal, because as far as we can see, this painting does not only give a beautiful insight into the zeitgeist of the time. , but also captured just as beautifully the spirit with which the then Rector Magnificus fulfilled his office in that college.

The painting is a rather bleak depiction by Rein Dool of the university administration from the 1970s and shows a company of old, smoking men. According to the university, the work has been objected to several times because it is large and the small meeting room dominates.

A series of tweets made the issue political. First, a PhD student in Political Science asked whether such a painting is still appropriate at the university. Two days later the painting was removed. Done! tweeted Vice Dean Koen Caminda, also a professor of empirical analysis of social and fiscal regulations, with a photo of the work removed from the wall. He responded to the PhD candidate’s tweet, but later denied that was the reason for the action.

Also Dean Joanne van der Leun denies that the tweet was the cause, even though she responded with one tweet which suggested the opposite: “Immediate action was taken today @UniLeiden !!” The management of Leiden University declared that it supported “the spontaneous action.” An explosion of indignation followed on social media.

Member of Parliament Hatte van der Woude (VVD) announced on Monday that he would ask parliamentary questions, the NRC states, because it stands for something bigger. “Where does this end?” she asked. “It is not a fundamental right not to feel hurt.”

The artist Rein Dool (89) is also furious. “It’s terrible that the painting has been removed,” he said by phone. “It is ridiculous, absurd and short-sighted that some idiots do not like men who smoke. It’s really the university’s fault.’ When he did the job, all the drivers were men. ‘It has changed, and I think that is very good. The painting is a picture of the time. On the contrary, I hold up a mirror to the drivers.’ ‘It must be hung back. Otherwise they give it back to me’

In any case, the university has no intention of putting it back in its old place. Joanne van der Leun reported on Twitter that the university will ‘definitely find a better location’. She will now ‘think about it for a while’ together with the university historian Pieter Slaman, the Historical Commission’s foundation, which deals with the collection policy of the Academic Historical Museum and possibly also Museum De Lakenhal.

Leiden professor Remco Breuker strongly criticizes the distancers’ short-term triumph in a column:

What weighs heavily on me is that Dolf Cohen has been removed from the wall in this manner and the painfully triumphant manner in which he has turned his face to the wall. This university may have Telders and Cleveringa, but we also had Chancellor Frederik Muller and Professor Jaap Schrieke who cried with the Nazis, resulting in prominent Jewish scholars and administrators like Dolf Cohen being fired, hunted, imprisoned and murdered. Cohen survived the war and returned to Leiden as a scientist and later as rector. Being brought face to face evokes unintended but nonetheless unpleasant associations.

According to him, the painting shows much more, including that the university used to be more democratic. In any event, the direct action seems to support the latter.

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