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Ann Goldstein Resigns From the Stedelijk

It came as little surprise to anyone in the Dutch art world, but yesterday Ann Goldstein, director of the Stedelijk since June 2009, announced her resignation.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 29-08-2013

Referred to locally as the “Sphynx of the Stedelijk” Ann Goldstein will no longer sit at the helm of the museum.  She helped put the institution back on the international art circuit after it had been closed for renovation for almost a decade. 

Goldstein has been harshly criticized in the press for her lack of vision or at least for keeping her vision secret. Her creative decisions, it has been said, were too predictable and dull.  The negative opinions seem unamimous.

The influential NRC Handelsblad wrote in an editorial that Goldstein “will soon be forgotten.”  City Alderman for Cultural Affairs, Caroline Gehrels said that it is “not bad for the city to have a new director.” The Stedelijk is a municipal museum so Gehrels was in the end Goldstein’s boss.

But except for a huge graphic design controversy at the very start of her term, design fared well under Goldstein. 14 galleries straddling disciplines from graphic design, to industrial design, jewelry and small sculptures in glass and porcelain were a big part of the permanent displays.

The aforementioned controversy was over the firing of French designer Pierre di Sciullo whose new graphic identity for the museum was well underway, but not yet released when Goldstein was first appointed.  She quickly dismissed him in favour of local designers Armand Mevis and Linda van Deursen.

Earlier this year in an interview with, Ingeborg de Roode – curator of industrial design - was very complimentary of Goldstein, but admitted that “almost everything we have now in the design galleries was based on [previous] director Gijs van Tuyl’s vision.”

Goldstein – an American with a strict visual arts background –was always supportive of Van Tuyl’s plan.

“I love design, particularly graphic design” she told me, “and it plays an integral role in Dutch culture. What blew my mind from the start was the mere volume of material - it represents the majority of our complete collection. In the Netherlands design is art.”

Inspired by that collection Goldstein decided to add to the opening plans by canceling a design timeline installation and instead including what is now known as the Depot – a cross section of a storage unit showing how the museum warehouses its design collection.

The main problem Goldstein seems to have had, critics agree, is that she never managed to connect with the city. As a municipal institution the Stedelijk has always been “owned” by everyone. Previous directors ran the museum as a laboratory for contemporary artists. The first post-war director, typographer Willem Sandberg, is a household name in the Netherlands.  

There are some audible murmurings that Goldstein might be interested in succeeding Jeffrey Deitch at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles where she worked for 25 years.

It was even reported in the Dutch daily De Volkskrant yesterday (28th August) that Goldstein is good friends with Joel Walsch, one of the three members of the selection committee.

Of more interest to us of course is who will replace Goldstein at the Stedelijk and help further push the museum into being one of the world’s finest contemporary art establishments. A new director is expected mid 2014.

Main image:
Ann Goldstein (Rineke Dijkstra/Stedelijk Museum)

Left hand side:
Logo designed by Armand Mevis and Linda van Deursen

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