University moves ‘smoking old white men’ painting to public area

The painting previously hung in a staff room. Photo: Leiden University

Leiden university has resolved a long-running dispute over where to hang a painting of “cigar smoking old white men” by moving it to a more public space in the university building.

The work, which depicts the 1974 university board, has been at the centre of a row over its relevance which has rumbled on since November last year.

It was removed after a number of female staff objected to its presence in a staff meeting room, because it represented male dominance and depicted smoking. ‘I hate the smoke, even if it’s only painted,’ law dean Joanna van der Leun said at the time.

The move divided staff, with some saying artist Rein Dool’s portrayal of the men mocks their self-importance, while others sided with Van der Leun.

Artist Rein Dool called the university’s action “stupid and sad” and said the painting was one of his best works.

The painting was then restored to its former place and a committee set up to determine its future home.

It has now been decided that instead of the work being consigned to the attic, a place will be found for it in the university’s reception room, where more people will be able to see it. Its history will be explained by an accompanying text, the committee said.

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