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White Balls on Walls

A film by Sarah Vos

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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.

Kudos to the Stedelijk for opening itself up to such firsthand scrutiny and to Vos for spotlighting such a vastly relevant topic in a way that’s both insightful and entertaining. —LA Times

White Balls on Walls is everything you hope for. Filmed during a process that inevitably causes discomfort, with flawless intuition and restraint, but unmistakably with a sense of humor. Entertaining, at times funny, insightful and exciting, White Balls on Walls is an important contribution to much-needed institutional change and awareness.” —Filmkrant

White Balls on Walls is a revealing portrait of the very white Stedelijk that wants to be inclusive and diverse.” —NRC

“A remarkable documentary.” —De Groene Amsterdammer

“A compassionate portrait of a complicated process that shows how much the creation of an inclusive art world is human work.” —Metropolis M

“Insightful. A merciless and hilarious interrogation of who decides which works of art end up in the museum’s gallery and why.” —Slant Magazine

“Essential viewing not only for those who care about art and cultural institutions, but for anyone interested in the vital changes happening within contemporary society today.” —POV Magazine

“A fascinating exploration of the minutiae of decision-making, and proves that developing seemingly easy solutions to complex issues can actually be a very difficult endeavor.”  —Moviepie

“Vos has captured a massive, crucial, ongoing transformation with a surprisingly light touch.” —AWFJ (Alliance of Women Film Journalists)

“What the incisive White Balls on Walls really reveals is that when it comes to systemic racism and decolonization, perhaps it is the art that is easiest to change first; the language, the administration, and the general public may come later.” —Stir Arts & Culture Vancouver

“Highly recommended! The reason that White Balls on Walls explores this topic so successfully is its commitment to showing the full story... The film and the Stedelijk do not claim to have all the answers, but the viewer sees a model for thinking through institutional diversity.” —Educational Media Reviews Online

CPH:DOX 2023
Millenium Docs Against Gravity 2023
Nominated for IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film - IDFA 2022

90 minutes / Color
Dutch; English / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 2023
Copyright: 2022

For individual consumers (home video)

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For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Art, Western Europe, Women's Studies, Racism, Cultural Anthropology

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