‘Removing the Leiden University painting beautifully shows how art works’

News | Editors

14 November 2022 | The State Secretary for Culture Gunay Uslu welcomes the discussion at Leiden University about a work of art that has been removed. “I have faith in the power of universities to have this conversation well.”

Since Friday, there has been a lot of discussion at Leiden University about a painting of smoking professors, made by the artist Rein Dool. The painting from the 1970s shows Jan Karel Gevers, former chairman of the board of the University of Amsterdam, and Dolf Cohen, former chancellor of Leiden University and in hiding during the Second World War. The painting was removed and placed upside down against the wall because a PhD student was disturbed by the artwork. Legal Dean Joanne van der Leun was pleased with this action.

Both the removal of the painting and the support of Van der Leun provoked a flood of reactions from teachers, professors and politicians. The removal doesn’t get much recognition.

New episode in the waking misery

The debate has now moved to the House of Representatives. He debated today with Gunay Uslu, State Secretary for Culture. Martin Bosma from the PVV did not have a good word for this action. “On Friday we saw a new episode in all the waking misery. A beautifully ironic painting at Leiden University featuring all white men, or to put it in the hateful terms of the leftist Holland: white men. And that is no longer possible, at least in the world of leftist idealists. They always seem to know things are out of date.”

As usual, Bosma did not shy away from big words and spoke of a totalitarian act. “Leiden’s corps of professors should have looked different at that time. This expresses the desire to change history. Just as dictatorships always want it. In the same way, removing a painting is totalitarian.”

Turn left snowflake

According to the PVV member, the decision at Leiden University to remove this painting was taken far too lightly. “As usual, the left-liberal regents bow. The painting immediately disappears. Professor Cleveringa’s university, always so boastful and so eager to show moral superiority, turns out to be run by frightened weasels who don’t know how quickly to bend. The father of Job Cohen, who survived the war in hiding, and Jan Karel Gevers (with whom I still drank coffee in New York), they are going. What cowardice, what bowing to the snowflakes of the left. What does the D66 Secretary of State think about that?”

Gunay Uslu, State Secretary for Culture, said that it is not up to her, but to Leiden University to comment on this. “As State Secretary, I am not responsible for the art design of university buildings. It really is at Leiden University itself. I think this is an interesting discussion. It shows that with knowledge of the art’s background, you can see that art in someone else. I’m excited to see what happens next in that discussion. I have faith in the power of universities to have this conversation well.”

It is a good example of how art works

Bosma criticized Uslu for not standing up for the integrity of the arts as foreign minister. “Why doesn’t the state secretary stand up for the arts? Art becomes politicized. There is a beautiful painting, and there are activists who say they are white men, and it no longer fits this time. It becomes a toy for politics and within ten minutes it is in a depot. Surely the Secretary of State must stand up for the integrity of art and reject these kinds of practices?”

However, the Secretary of State stood by her earlier response and welcomes the discussion about the artwork. “There has been a discussion, and it’s actually very good, because we didn’t know what was depicted at all. We now know who is in that painting, why it was removed, and why it should not be removed. It is a wonderful example of how art works, how it makes us think and reflect.”

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