‘White Balls on Walls’ Review: Time With the Gatekeepers

From its tub-like exterior to its gallery partitions and huge convention room, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam is awash in white. But the Dutch documentary “White Balls on Walls” issues a distinct whiteness (and maleness) endemic in considered one of the Netherland’s cultural establishments. The film’s cheeky title comes from a protest that the arts-activist collective the Guerrilla Girls (or an offshoot) staged exterior the museum in 1995.

The filmmaker Sarah Vos started following the museum’s director, Rein Wolfs, and his workers in 2019 as they got down to deal with variety and inclusion. The museum’s slogan, “Meet the icons of modern art,” had been met with scrutiny of the who-decides-what-is-iconic selection. Vos tracks these efforts by way of the top of the pandemic and the social justice calls for wrought by the killing of George Floyd. There will probably be some awkward social distancing and a doubling down on Wolfs’s sense that the museum should embrace a richer array of artists, welcome a extra numerous demographic and, whereas it’s at it, rent extra individuals of colour.

With entry to behind-the-scenes processes, the documentary could be instructive about the work of adjusting legacy establishments, but additionally wincingly cautionary as Wolfs, his directors and curators get tousled in numbers and nomenclature. (“‘Gender balance,’ that sounds nicely diverse,” a lady says in an early assembly.) Their inside conversations — about colonialism, gender and Dutch id — change into extra nuanced when individuals of colour arrive. Charl Landvreugd, the museum’s head of analysis and curatorial apply, and the curators Vincent van Velsen and Yvette Mutumba, provide that nuance and provides context to the museum’s quandaries. But even they don’t all the time pierce the hermetically sealed really feel of the documentary.

White Balls on Walls
Not rated. In English and Dutch, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour half-hour. In theaters.

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