Universiteit Leiden

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Symposium about Rein Dool painting and University exhibition policy

At a symposium on 26 May, experts, staff and students from Leiden University will discuss what should happen with Rein Dool’s painting in the Academy Building and what the guidelines for the University’s exhibition policy should be. These issues will be explored from diverse perspectives during the symposium entitled Reflections on the outcry over a painting in the Leiden Academy Building.

At the start of November 2022, a number of staff members from Leiden University spontaneously decided to temporarily take Rein Dool’s group portrait of the Executive Board from 1974 down from the wall. They no longer wanted to have to look at six white, cigar-smoking middle-aged men – times and board culture have changed. Their actions were made public on Twitter and immediately sparked a storm of reactions at home, even from the House of Representatives, and abroad. 

Comprehensive advice

The painting was hung back up but the staff’s actions and the ensuing storm of reactions prompted the current Executive Board to install an ad hoc committee to advise on the place of the painting. The committee is led by Emeritus Professor Kitty Zijlmans (Contemporary Art History) and has also been asked to advise more widely on exhibitions in the University’s public spaces, particularly in the Academy Building.


In the University debate on 26 May, the committee wants to address the following questions: What are the considerations for deciding what will and will not be displayed? Where should the work be displayed and what information should be provided? The Academy Building has a range of functions: it represents the University for visitors, for example, and is a venue not only for meetings, academic ceremonies and celebrations but also houses the Faculty Club and a museum on the University’s history.

Multiple perspectives

The symposium will address these considerations by approaching them from three perspectives (presented by three speakers): the perspective of descendants of former rector Dolf Cohen, who is depicted in the artwork (Floris and Job Cohen); the museum perspective (Margriet Schavemaker, Artistic Director, Amsterdam Museum); and the perspective of the current desire for inclusion and representation (Judi Mesman, Professor of the Interdisciplinary Study of Societal Challenges, Leiden University). ‘On 26 May, we want to debate with guests, students and staff how the Academy Building can be designed in such a way that all these functions can be fulfilled and everyone will feel welcome there,’ said committee chair Kitty Zijlmans.

Recommendations after the symposium

The Executive Board will reflect on the recommendations made by the committee and the perceptions arising from the symposium before deciding on Rein Dool’s painting and the best place for it. The Board will also issue guidelines for the University’s exhibition policy.  

More information and symposium registration.

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