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Ann Goldstein Quits Top Stedelijk Post

This just in: “The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam announced today that Ann Goldstein has resigned as Director effective December 1st 2013. Appointed as general and Artistic Director in June 2009, Ms. Goldstein began working with the museum in October of that year and assumed her post in January 2010. In announcing her resignation to the board, Ms. Goldstein indicated that her work at the Stedelijk Museum is now done and that the museum is poised for a new Artistic Director to lead it into the future.”

anngoldsteinMaybe she will return to Los Angeles and take over as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, where she was a curator for 26 years.

But the announcement must mean troubles. It was only a year ago that Goldstein was settling in for the long haul. I profiled her for Art in America magazine, and wrote more about here here.

The rest of the announcement lends more credence to my instinct that things are very amiss in Amsterdam: It says Goldstein “anounced my resignation to the Supervisory Board on June 26, 2013, confident that my work is done and the museum is firmly poised for a new artistic director to lead it into the future.”

She is set to leave on December 1st 2013.

Here’s a link to the full press release.



  1. ‘Amiss” is an understatement. She never really fit in – partly because she doesn’t seem to have tried very hard, and partly because she was dealing with a government with little vision for what the Stedelijk should be.

    • I completely disagree with the comment that she didn’t try very hard. She reignited a staff that had not run a fully functioning museum in almost a decade; she created a dynamic temporary program that brought artists and visitors back to the old building; she worked with city officials to get the new building finished (an extraordinarily difficult task given that the city owns the building); and she dealt with massive budget cuts that were announced after the building was opened, demonstrating tremendous leadership in a community that was devastated by those cuts. But most of all, she accomplished the herculean task of *opening the museum that had been closed for 9 years*! And as if that was not enough, on top of that she lent intellectual depth and credibility as well as an international profile to the museum and brought incredible works into the collection, including gifts from major collectors. All that in roughly 3 1/2 years. You don’t accomplish all that by “not trying very hard.” It’s Amsterdam’s loss, to be sure.

      • While all these things you say are true, you miss the larger issue. She rarely actually dealt with the bureaucrats of the Dutch or municipal governments. The fact that it is a government-owned bullding was precisely why she should have done so, and she in fact was fortunate enough to have the least of the work of all the directors who were involved in the (ghastly) renovations in doing this. She also failed to build any relationships with other museum directors in NL, learn the language (something inconceivable in the US – can you imagine a foreigner coming to America and running a museum without speaking the language of its staff?), media, and the kinds of government figures she desperately needed to make her allies. Those things failed her, no matter what talents she has.

        As for the idea that she “lent intellectual depth,” “credibility,” and “an international profile” to the museum – that’s simply untrue. The Stedelijk has had an international profile for decades, if not a century. The collection has held intellectual depth for just as long, thanks to its stupendous collections of Pop art, Malevich (what’s left, anyway!), Chagall, and others, not to mention the graphic design element. The works she brought into the collection were not exactly “incredible” but that is not her fault; it is simply a matter of what can be done in the Netherlands under the current system. What many people in fact found disturbing was the number of works that were directly tied to gifts from dealers, a political gesture that gets complicated over time.

        The truth is, Ann Goldstein never quite “got” the Dutch system. And it was clear from the fact that she not only didn’t learn Dutch, but spent very little time actually at the museum or even in Holland. Her lack of attention to the management of the staff and the museum were why she was essentially tossed aside months ago and given the honorary-in-name-only title of “artistic director” while someone else took over the actual work of running the museum.

        All of this simply happens to be the factual history of Goldstein’s tenure at the Stedelijk. But it also does not diminish the larger fact that any curator or museum director of her capabilities and ambitions — and by that I mean ambition for the museum, not for herself — would be unlikely to realize the greater goals she likely had there. Holland just doesn’t have the mentality for that. And so yes, it’s their loss.

        • I think you placing too much emphasis on the language. Of course it would inconceivable for a Dutch director to come to the US without learning English, but very few people here speak Dutch. In the Netherlands, many many people speak English. It’s not the same at all.

          • Judith, it’s not the same, but managing a company – which ultimately is what this is about – requires that you speak the language of your workers. It’s the only way to do it effectively – partly because language reflects culture, partly because few Dutch are fluent and so there is room for a great deal of misunderstanding. But above all, refusing to learn the language shows a lack of commitment, a lack of respect, either for the culture and community the Stedelijk (which means “municipal,” after all) represents and speaks for, or for the people with whom you work. It also means that you yourself are not going to understand what is going on around you – politically, socially, financially, culturally. If you can’t understand the memos being sent, can’t tell if a document is correct or not, don’t really know what the political paperwork is about — how effective can you be? And how much respect can you command if you show such disdain for hte language of the country where you’ve come to live, and the government and people for whom you work? (Remember, she works for the government and the people, not a private enterprise.) Moreover, every single other foreign museum director has learned Dutch. It is, in fact, a legal requirement for pretty much any other American (except for “knowledge migrants,” which she may have been — though that law is also about to change). It’s just wrong – in so many ways.

          • Sorry — not buying it. The directors who hired her, I know, did not expect her to learn Dutch. You can blame them, not her.

          • Note, too, that even if they didn’t “expect” her to learn Dutch, her unwillingness to do so made her ineffective and clearly created schisms in her relationships with others. That again is not me saying so. They do.

          • I’m thrilled you can read Dutch. That does not give you — or the Dutch journalists you cite — a monopoly on interpretation.

  2. I should add, too, that the fact that she did not learn Dutch, which naturally limited her in social situations and in the willingness of journalists to interview her – since they’d then have to go through the work of translating the interview — was emphasized in the press after she announced her resignation. So it’s not a matter of my placing importance on it, but the importance that was placed on it by the Dutch themselves.

  3. That’s impossible, Judith. By law. Sorry. And again, this isn’t me – this is the feeling of the Dutch. I’m just the messenger here. If you lived in the Netherlands as I do, if you’d worked with the Stedelijk as long as I have, you’d know what the situation is. If you read Dutch I am happy to send you the write-ups. If you don’t, you’ll have to take my word for it, since I do.

  4. Now I really don’t understand. This is not about whether I can read Dutch or the “interpretation” of Dutch journalists. This is their opinion and the opinions of the Dutch people, who employed Ann Goldstein. What you’re saying just doesn’t make sense. Can’t you accept the idea that they were not happy with her, and that both sides were to blame? There’s no sainthood here. Sorry.

  5. Learning Dutch was not a condition of her employment. That was a demand the public placed on her. Not everyone who has been unilingual their entire lives can become functional in another language. It was not for lack of trying. But the Dutch media have been cruel to her, refusing to see the forest for the trees. Did she learn to speak Dutch? No. Did she serve the museum well? Yes.

  6. If her success is only to be measured by whether or not she learned Dutch, the fault lies with her employers who did not make that a condition of employment. It is monumentally naive to imagine you can transplant someone and have them be fully bilingual — able to articulate nuanced business and media messages — in so little time. Please.
    Regardless, the loss is on the Dutch side.

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