The slogan “Meet the Icons of Modern Art” needs to be scraped off the glass wall of the Stedelijk, Amsterdam’s Museum of Modern Art. Because precisely who these icons of modern art are is very much the question.
Who gets to decide? And who loses out? In 2019, as director Sarah Vos started shooting her documentary, more than 90 percent of the art at the Stedelijk was made by white men. That must change, the museum’s director Rein Wolfs believes. But it’s easier said than done—as becomes clear when the film’s director Sarah Vos follows Wolfs and his team as they strive for greater diversity in the collection, as well as among their staff.
It was a brave move by the Stedelijk to allow a camera behind the scenes of a process that raises uncomfortable and awkward questions. Can a painting still be entitled “The Prostitutes”? When you appraise art, should you also take the skin color or gender of the artist into account? And how is one to engage with visitors who find all this “too politically correct”?
This film is more than a look behind the scenes at a museum: as well as presenting a new perspective on art history, it magnificently encapsulates the struggles that are engaging many historical and cultural institutions.