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Painting removed from wall in spontaneous action: ‘We are going to discuss this and reach a decision’

During a meeting at the University on 10 November, staff spontaneously removed a painting by artist Rein Dool from the wall in one of the meeting rooms in the Academy Building, reversed it and placed it on the floor. A tongue-in-cheek action with a serious undertone. This has led to a lot of commotion and questions. On behalf of the Executive Board, President Annetje Ottow explains what happened and how things will proceed.

The Board has not yet reached a decision on the painting: ‘We see the action as the start of a discussion on the matter but are pressing pause for now. We will hang the work back on the wall for the time being.’


‘A diverse committee can then figure out the best approach for ensuring the work is done the justice it deserves. We are thinking about asking our university historian, an alumnus and other experts such as our own art historians but also students, for instance from our ACPA art programme, and the historical art committee to join this committee.’

The work in question is by artist Rein Dool and depicts six men, some of whom are smoking cigars. ‘They are very valued former administrators of our university and the painting gives a unique, historical picture of the time. It is an impressive artwork and we are proud of the past administrators who are depicted in the painting. The action does not change that.’

Rein Dool’s painting, temporarily re-hung in the Academy Building.

Frequent questions and comments

Ottow explains that there has been some discussion about this painting for a while now and people from within and outside our university regularly ask questions and comment on it. ‘Not everyone feels represented by this iconic work. As it hangs now, it also lacks context.’

‘The spontaneous action makes us think. Inclusion is one of our most important tasks. But in the discussion on which we as the Board will base our decision, we will obviously include the painting’s historical value. Other considerations are respect for the former administrators in the painting and for the artist who created the work. We will listen to all sides.’

New insights

‘The University moves with the times,’ says Ottow. ‘There are questions and staff took spontaneous action on Thursday. We are now going to discuss the matter together and a committee will consider what to do next. This discussion belongs here and we at Leiden University, bastion of freedom, can hold it like no other. A debate often leads to new knowledge and valuable insights. We look forward to hearing them.'

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