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Part of the
exhibition

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Longread — 2 Sep 2020 — Rosa Marie Mulder and Esmee Schoutens

The current movement to make government funding of cultural organizations contingent on their commitment to diversity; the implementation in 2011 of a Cultural Diversity Code (2019 reformulated as Diversity & Inclusion Code) as a guide for arts and culture workplaces: these are just two of developments that have been part of recent public debate in the Netherlands on diversity and decolonization in museums.1 This discourse encourages the acquisition of works by artists from “non-Western” countries in order to diversify the collection and counter the dominance of works by white, male artists.2 In this context it may prove valuable to step back and look at the works by “non-Western” artists that have already been acquired; to survey the current representation of such works and thereby increase awareness of the collection’s present blind spots.

In this essay, we examine the acquisition of works by “non-Western” artists by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the municipal museum for modern and contemporary art and design. By their nature, all museums have their individual and distinct trajectory and acquisition history, which makes comparing apparently similar museums a challenging but nonetheless valuable endeavor. Viewing the Stedelijk’s collection as a space where globalization and representation intersect, we have mapped and visualized the actual diversity or the presence of artists from “non-Western” countries in the collection from the museum’s foundation in 1895 to its temporary closure in 2003, when its premises were renovated and extended. Clarifications on terminology and demarcations, and the problematic issues inherent to them, are given in the methodology section.

  • Diego Rivera, “La table mince,” 1917. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1950. © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Diego Rivera, “La table mince,” 1917. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1950. © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
  • Ossip Zadkine, “Vrouwentorso,” 1933. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1953. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Ossip Zadkine, “Vrouwentorso,” 1933. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1953. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
  • Joaquin Torres-García, “Forma abstracta con triángulos,” 1936. Acquired in 1960. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Joaquin Torres-García.
    Joaquin Torres-García, “Forma abstracta con triángulos,” 1936. Acquired in 1960. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Joaquin Torres-García.
  • Jesus Rafael-Soto, “Parallèles: jaune et blanc,” 1965. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1966. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Jesus Rafael-Soto, “Parallèles: jaune et blanc,” 1965. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1966. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.

To visualize the Stedelijk collection, we created a dataset of the acquisitions of the works by these artists. As we will show, however, the migration background of the “non-Western” artists represented in the collection further complicates the research question, the issue of diversity, and the very categorization of artists as “non-Western.” As explained later, this dataset is based on the Adlib collection management system, which is supplemented and updated on an ongoing basis, and hence cannot be used to draw firm conclusions about the Stedelijk collection. To introduce nuance to the limited, binary nature of datasets and digital labelling that either include or exclude artists, we complemented the first dataset on acquisitions by “non-Western” artists with an additional dataset on artist migration.

We argue that as well as taking into account the artist’s place of birth, it is important to be aware of their migration movements. The data highlight that that many of the “non-Western” artists represented in the collection prior to 2003 have transnational backgrounds, signifying operating beyond national boundaries, with strong ties to Western Europe. Our study constitutes both a preliminary investigation into this aspect of the collection and the first stage in the building of two datasets on works by “non-Western” artists in the Stedelijk Museum, which will need more research in the future. To consider diversity in its full scope the datasets should be complemented by an intersectional approach that also includes gender and class, for example. 

Acquisitions in context

The opening of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1895 represented the culmination of numerous initiatives by and collections from citizens of Amsterdam. The Association for the Formation of a Public Collection of Contemporary Art (VVHK)3 was founded in 1874 and formed the basis of the Stedelijk Museum collection as it is known today: a collection of modern and contemporary art and design. The VVHK’s collection was too large to be housed in the Rijksmuseum, prompting the municipality to build a new museum on the Paulus Potterstraat. Although the museum opened in 1895 it wasn’t until 1920 that its first director, Cornelis Baard, was officially appointed.4 His aim was to transform the collection’s piecemeal form and dispose of those parts of it that he did not regard as modern art.5 It was at his initiative, for example, that the collection of the Society for the Friends of Asian Art was transferred to the Rijksmuseum.6 Eventually, only the VVHK collection and the Amsterdam municipality’s modern art collection remained.

Exhibition of Asian Art at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1901. Archive Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Exhibition of Asian Art at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1901. Archive Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Collection presentation of the Association for the Formation of a Public Collection of Contemporary Art (VVHK), 1903. Archive Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Collection presentation of the Association for the Formation of a Public Collection of Contemporary Art (VVHK), 1903. Archive Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The municipality had been acquiring works since 1910, in addition to the donations and estates the VVHK had been receiving since its foundation. In 1911 the municipality offered, for the first time, a subsidy of 2,500 guilders for the acquisition of new works for the museum.7 By the end of the twentieth century, the acquisition budget had increased to a total of 1,200,000 guilders, made up of a subsidy from the municipality and public funds (Mondriaan Fund and Rembrandt Association) or private sponsors.8

Two primary questions emerge in the context of the Stedelijk Museum and the research concerning artworks by “non-Western” artists in its collection: For whom does the museum collect art? And whose work does the museum aim to acquire, exhibit and, thereby, represent? The museum was founded through a private initiative but it has been owned and run by the Amsterdam municipality since its opening.9 Does it aim, then, to collect and exhibit art produced exclusively by Amsterdam-based artists and designers? Or does it have an even broader scope: art from Western Europe, perhaps, or art from all over the world?10 The Stedelijk operates as a collecting institution on distinct geographical levels: the local, the national, and the international. That said, the focus of the museum’s collection has changed considerably during the period studied, and it is still under debate today.11 The idea that the museum should represent Amsterdam-based artists has played a role since its opening, and in 1960s and 70s in particular many artists operating in the city regarded Edy de Wilde (director from 1963 to 1985) as overly international in his outlook. They pressured the Stedelijk to prioritize local artists, and in 1970 and 1983 even occupied the museum itself.12

Amsterdam is characterized as having been an “immigrant city” since the sixteenth century, and trade and colonial activities have positioned it at the crossroads of many cultures.13 A collection representative of the city and its citizens, with their many different backgrounds, would include a large proportion of works by artists originating from outside Western Europe and North America. There is, therefore, an observable tension between the Stedelijk Museum’s dual role as a Dutch, Amsterdam-based institution and an institution situated in a globalized, immigrant city.

Methodology

The time-frame under study begins in 1895, with the museum’s opening, and ends in 2003, coinciding with the end of the directorship of Rudi Fuchs. A year later the museum closed for eight and a half years for the construction of a new wing attached to the existing building.14 The Stedelijk Museum collection encompassing visual arts and design contains a total of 90,000 objects, and for the purpose of this research the decision was taken to focus exclusively on the following sub-collections: paintings, sculptures, moving image and/or sound, and installations (with and without cinematographic components). Up to 2003 the selected sub-collections comprised 6,368 works acquired through purchases, bequests, donations, and the BKR artist subsidy program. In this way the research covered a representative portion of the museum collection that would generate a manageable amount of data. 

The dataset on “non-Western” artists consists of two components: the acquisitions themselves and the migration of the artists collected in the acquisitions set.15 For the entire dataset, the decision whether to include or exclude artists is primarily based on their city of birth.16 The acquisition data were collected both manually, from the Stedelijk’s annual acquisition records, and digitally, using Adlib.17 Comparing and merging the manual and digital datasets was a valuable exercise that increased the validity of the final dataset of acquisitions since both methods filled in different data gaps. As mentioned before, the information in Adlib is continually supplemented and updated and hence cannot be used to draw firm conclusions about the Stedelijk collection.

The second dataset, on the migration of the artists in the first set, makes it possible to distinguish two types of movement: internal and external. Internal migration takes place within the country of birth; external migration implies a move abroad. This research took only external movement into account. The data also made it possible to differentiate between long- and short-term movement. The dataset on migration focuses exclusively on long-term movement, meaning that short visits abroad (to exhibit, for example) are not included. In this case, external long-term migration has been defined as a move by the artist to live and work abroad. 

  • Shirazeh Houshiary, “Off the Heaven, Off the Earth,” 1986. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1986. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Shirazeh Houshiary, “Off the Heaven, Off the Earth,” 1986. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1986. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
  • Mark Rothko, “Untitled (Umber, Blue, Umber, Brown),” 1962. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1986. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Mark Rothko, “Untitled (Umber, Blue, Umber, Brown),” 1962. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1986. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
  • Julio Galán, “You say you are okay, but that isn’t true,” 1986. Acquired in 1987. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Julio Galán.
    Julio Galán, “You say you are okay, but that isn’t true,” 1986. Acquired in 1987. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Julio Galán.

The hardest distinction to draw was between those countries of birth that should be considered “non-Western” and those that should not, i.e. which countries of birth should define an artist as belonging to the “non-West” construct? Initially, we looked for a framework to make a selection of countries and discussed the demarcation that terms such as “non-Western,” “non-Euro-American,” “Global South” or perhaps “geographically underrepresented” might offer, but all of these terms imply “the Other”18 or a non-white person. Aware of the deficiencies, difficulties and the inapplicability of terms such as “non-Western,” we took the decision to continue using the term “non-Western” because of the lack of a more appropriate term. We realized that our research, which we embarked upon with the aim of creating an inventory of “non-Western” artists in the Stedelijk Museum immediately entangled us in problems of categorization when it came to selecting data and distinguishing between “Western” and “non-Western.”

This development made us painfully aware of the “cultural archive” and “white innocence” that influences us and our research. Post-colonial critic Edward Said uses the concept of the cultural archive to explain how in “Western” culture it resulted in a structure of inequality that started with European imperialism in the nineteenth century and implemented the notion of race.19 Socio-cultural anthropologist Gloria Wekker develops on this theme, writing that in Dutch society the racial implications of the cultural archive have led to “white innocence,” which equates with unjust dominance and superior self-representation.20 The cultural archive affects our way of thinking and our view of the world and therefore also impacts on the structure and categorization of our research. Post-colonial scholar Walter Mignolo has published extensively on colonial and imperial logics and the reproduction of these dynamics. “The West” managed to create an image of itself as the detached observer who can produce the “objective knowledge” through which colonial dichotomies such as “West” and “non-West” could be invented. Mignolo argues that the first step is to acknowledge that all knowledges, including those of “the West,” are situated and constructed.21

The terminology applying to the “non-Western” category in this dataset is debatable, therefore, as is any categorization based on an artist’s country of birth, because it is founded on situated knowledge from a “Western” perspective that is being continuously reproduced. When creating a digital dataset, strict decisions on inclusion or exclusion have to be made; data are either “in” or “out,” leaving no room for grey areas such as countries that do not fit in the rigid “non-West” category, or countries with contested borders. Above all, one should not forget that national borders are themselves constructs, and that every form of categorization is by definition artificial and reductive.

While the abovementioned issues relating to terminology and categorization have far-reaching implications, nonetheless binary terms cannot be easily instrumentalized to demarcate a specific set of countries. The definition of what is “Western” and what is “non-Western” changes over time and is not necessarily linked to geography. During the Cold War, for example, the idea of “the West” was connected to the United States, while its counterpart, “the East,” was linked with the Soviet Union.22 Furthermore, argues cultural theorist Stuart Hall, the West defines and constructs itself in opposition to the rest of the world.23

Figure 1. Map showing in black the countries considered, for the purpose of the dataset, to be “non-Western.” The countries in white are excluded from the dataset.
Figure 1. Map showing in black the countries considered, for the purpose of the dataset, to be “non-Western.” The countries in white are excluded from the dataset.

The decision was ultimately taken to include in the “non-Western” dataset (fig. 1) all artists who were not born in Western Europe, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—the last four countries were selected because they are all Anglophone settler colonies.24 South Africa also belongs to this group of settler colonies, but because of the Netherlands’ colonial domination of the country, artists born in the country are included in the “non-Western” dataset. Considering the fact that this Stedelijk Museum case study concerns a collection of art that was formed in the Netherlands, and that the colonial relationship between the Netherlands and South Africa and may have influenced the formation of the collection. it was considered worthwhile to include South Africa in the dataset. By extension, artists who were born in former (and in some cases current) European colonies are also included in the dataset, which exposes colonial relations and problematizes the concepts of the “non-West” and the single national identity. Eastern Europe was also included in the “non-Western” dataset since the selected timeframe only covers acquisitions until 2003; it was not until 2004 that the European Union expanded mainly through the admission of Eastern European countries.25 Moreover, these countries are above all included to take into account shifts in East–West relations within Europe, the most defining being the Cold War and its after effects.

Figure 2. Acquisitions of works by “non-Western” artists as a percentage of total acquisitions for the selected sub-collections (paintings, sculptures, moving image and/or sound, and installations) in the period 1895–2003.
Figure 2. Acquisitions of works by “non-Western” artists as a percentage of total acquisitions for the selected sub-collections (paintings, sculptures, moving image and/or sound, and installations) in the period 1895–2003.

Data on acquisitions

When focusing on the museum’s acquisitions, the data clearly show that between 1895 and 2003 the proportion of acquisitions made by “non-Western” artists was fairly low, at 8.1 per cent (fig. 2). When employing a geographical perspective, a divergence can be observed between continents and regions (fig. 3). For example, art from Eastern Europe and South America is relatively well represented with 306 (4.8 percent) and 82 (1.3 percent) works, respectively. In the same period, however, very little art was collected from the Middle East and Africa, which are represented by only 22 (0.3 percent) and 15 (0.2 percent) works, respectively.

Figure 3. Map showing the acquisitions of works by “non-Western” artists for the selected sub-collections (paintings, sculptures, moving image and/or sound, and installations) in the period 1895–2003. The density of black stripes correlates with the number of acquisitions made, e.g. South Africa (6) and Argentina (19); solid black is used to indicate the areas from which the largest numbers of acquisitions were made, e.g. Russia (49).*
* Please note that the color white is used in this map to indicate two sets of countries: those not included in the dataset (Canada, the United States, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand); and those from which no acquisitions were made.

These differences can be traced in part to the interests of the directors of the Stedelijk Museum, which as mentioned before sometimes led to public debate on the museum’s acquisition policy, for instance under the directorship of Edy de Wilde. Wim Beeren (director from 1985 to 1993) collected numerous works and organized several solo and group exhibitions by artists from South America, Eastern Europe and Russia.26 He had an interest in Eastern Europe in relation to the political situation after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, so in some cases at least his choices may have been politically motivated. In addition, artists from the former Dutch colonies were occasionally of interest to the museum. The Stedelijk’s director from 1945 to 1963 Willem Sandberg travelled several times to Curaçao, and in 1953 he staged a group exhibition together with artist Chris Engels (1907–1980) titled Curacao, Painting and Painted. Prior to that, in 1947, he initiated a solo show by the Indonesian brothers Agoes Djaya (1913–1994) and Otto Djaya (1916–2002), after which he acquired Otto Djaya’s 1947 work Pembrontakan (Revolution).27

  • Tetsumi Kudo, “Cultivation by Radio-Activity in the Electronic Circuit,” 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1991. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
    Tetsumi Kudo, “Cultivation by Radio-Activity in the Electronic Circuit,” 1968. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired in 1991. Courtesy Pictoright Amsterdam 2020.
  • Remy Jungerman, “Untitled,” 1996. Acquired in 1997. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Remy Jungerman.
    Remy Jungerman, “Untitled,” 1996. Acquired in 1997. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Remy Jungerman.
  • Erwin De Vries, “Abstract,” 1969. Acquired in 1999. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Erwin de Vries.
    Erwin De Vries, “Abstract,” 1969. Acquired in 1999. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © Erwin de Vries.
  • David Bade, “Palet van een Beeldhouwer,” 1999. Acquired in 2000. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © David Bade.
    David Bade, “Palet van een Beeldhouwer,” 1999. Acquired in 2000. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam / © David Bade.

Many of the artists whose work was collected by the Stedelijk Museum migrated at least once during their lives, often to Western Europe or North America. The Djaya brothers, for instance, moved to the Netherlands in 1947 and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.28 It is likely, therefore, that Sandberg first saw their work in the Netherlands, raising the specific question of whether these artists’ works would have been shown or purchased at all had the artists not migrated from their countries of birth, and the broader question of how to characterize the relationship between migration and acquisitions by the Stedelijk Museum.

In focus: migration

The migration of artists complexifies not only the specifics of institutional categorization, but also the more general notion of “nationality.” The fact that many artists in the “non-Western” dataset moved away from their birth country complicates the conclusions that can be drawn from the collected data. The dataset of “non-Western” artists seemed, at first sight, to provide a clear overview of their representation in the Stedelijk Museum collection. It shows clearly, for example, that artists from the continent of Africa and the Middle Eastern countries have very little or no representation in the collection, and that there is a greater presence of work by artists from Eastern Europe and South America. This same dataset could not, however, shed light on diasporas.29 Most importantly, it did not show that many of the “non-Western” artists in the dataset lived for most of their adulthood in Western European or North American countries and that most of them have attended schools and academies in “the West.”

For these reasons, the dataset solely based on city of birth is not able to account for the complexities of diversity in a museum collection. In order to arrive at a more nuanced perspective on diversity in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection, an additional dataset was created which traced the migration patterns of the 205 “non-Western” artists in the first dataset and provided a more detailed picture of their cross-border movements. Figure 4 shows that of the 205 artists, 149 (72.7 percent) migrated to another country, at least once on a long-term basis. Of these 149 artists, 140 (68.3 percent of the 205 total) relocated on at least one occasion to a “Western” country.

Figure 4. Overview of the migration patterns of the 205 “non-Western” artists in the dataset.
Figure 4. Overview of the migration patterns of the 205 “non-Western” artists in the dataset.

Improvements to infrastructure during the twentieth century brought considerable changes to travel, including migratory travel. One facet of this phenomenon was a significant increase in cross-border movement by artists, resulting to the development of artistic centers such as Paris and, later, New York.30 Observations drawn from the migration data of “non-Western” artists in the Stedelijk Museum collection are in line with these shifts. The data show that the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United States were the most popular first destinations of artists migrating from “non-Western” countries. Figure 5 illustrates that of all instances of first-time migration undertaken, 63.8 percent were to one of these four countries. The appearance of the Netherlands in this list is unsurprising in the light of the fact that most of the artists in the collection probably had a relationship with Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and/or the museum. 

Figure 5. Maps of the migration movements by the “non-Western” artists to the four most popular first destinations: the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United States.
Figure 5. Maps of the migration movements by the “non-Western” artists to the four most popular first destinations: the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United States.

Education forms an important part of the art infrastructure of the most popular city destinations and seems to be a recurring reason for “non-Western” artists to migrate to them. It is known that of the 29 artists for whom the Netherlands was the first destination, 16 attended an educational program at art academies such as Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Rijksakademie. The artist Erwin de Vries, for instance, was born in Suriname’s capital Paramaribo in 1929 and moved to the Netherlands in the late 1940s. From 1952 to 1958 he shuttled back and forth between Paramaribo and Amsterdam, before studying at the Rijksakademie until 1961. In 1984 he resettled permanently in Suriname. De Vries is an example of an artist from a former Dutch colony with a strong connection to the Netherlands, partly because the colonial relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname enabled migration. His case also exposes the intricacies of the connection between a “non-Western” place of birth and an artist’s relationship to Western Europe in general or the Netherlands specifically. The Stedelijk Museum collection holds a few works by artists from former Dutch colonies; of these artists, six were born in Indonesia, five in Suriname, three in Curaçao and one in Aruba.

Conclusion

The graphs and maps based on the acquisition and migration data of “non-Western” artists can be used as a tool to rethink the Stedelijk Museum as a space where globalization and representation intersect. These datasets have allowed us to identify long-term trends which can also be related to individual case studies. The main findings of this research are striking, although perhaps unsurprising. Firstly, only 8.1 percent of the works from the selected sub-collections were made by “non-Western” artists. Secondly, of the 205 artists in this dataset, 72.7 percent migrated at least once during their lives, with 68.3 percent relocating to Western Europe or North America—mainly the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United States. This begs the question: Do “non-Western” artists have to migrate to “the West” if they want their work to be acquired by, in this case, the Stedelijk Museum? Although it is not an absolute prerequisite, it is striking that more than two-thirds of the “non-Western” artists whose works have been acquired by the museum also migrated to Western Europe or North America. 

The data show that diversity in the Stedelijk Museum collection is mainly based on artists with a transnational practice who operate beyond national boundaries, rather than within the context of a strictly nation-bound “non-Western” background. By itself, the acquisitions dataset offers a static rather than dynamic perspective on the “non-Western” artist in the Stedelijk collection. Given the global character of the cultural economy and the high percentage of migrating artists, it is more revealing to take a more polythetical approach to classification of the dataset. The second dataset of artist migration was created to approach diversity and “non-Western” artists in less distinct and rigid categorical terms and to engage with grey areas.

This first quantitative study using digital humanities tools to research the “non-Western” art collection of the Stedelijk Museum certainly raised additional questions. Further research is necessary to properly interpret the data, draw productive conclusions, and relate this case study to other, comparable museums. The first priorities of this research should be to extend the dataset temporally to the present, incorporate all the sub-collections of the Stedelijk Museum, and apply an intersectional approach. Secondly, a study of the acquired artworks themselves could reveal whether artists from “non-Western” countries have to exploit their national background or identity as an entry ticket into the museum. Thirdly, a closer examination of the specific context in which acquisitions took place—including the role of the director, power relations between artist and museum, contacts with other artists, artistic networks, and the political context—could offer useful conclusions. This research into the Stedelijk Museum’s history has yielded new insights into the extent and composition of the collection’s diversity. Rather than rewriting or “correcting” the past, the research findings should start new conversations and debates, and create a framework on which further research and, in turn, institutional practice can be built.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Prof. Katja Kwastek for setting up this research project and for her commitment and stimulating feedback in every part of the process; and to Jurjen Wolven and the Stedelijk Museum Library staff, without whose help the datasets could not have been created. We would especially like to thank Michiel Nijhoff, Prof. Wayne Modest, and Jelle Bouwhuis for providing feedback and fruitful dialogue during various stages of the research.

Rosa Marie Mulder (b. 1994) is an art historian working with artist Rini Hurkmans and the Unda Foundation, which manages the conceptual artwork Flag of Compassion. Mulder is a Museums and Collections and Contemporary Art in a Global Perspective Research Master’s student at Leiden University. 

Esmee Schoutens (b. 1993) is an art historian specialized in tactical media and artistic practices in the 1990s. She works at the Amsterdam Museum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

1. This essay is adapted from the previously published article by Rosa Marie Mulder, Esmee Schoutens, and Janneke Sif Rutten titled “Positioning Migration in the Art Collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1895–2003” in Migrants: Art, Artists, Materials and Ideas Crossing Borders, eds. Lucy Wrapson et al. (London: Archetype Publications, 2019), 220–230.
2. Henriëtte Post et al., “Diversiteit kunst dwingen wij vanaf nu af met subsidie,” NRC, 22 August 2018, 
https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2018/08/22/diversiteit-kunst-dwingen-wij-vanaf-nu-af-met-subsidie-a1613888.
3. Vereneeniging tot het Vormen van eene openbare verzameling van Hedendaagsche Kunst. The association was chaired by C.P. van Eeghen.
4. Baard remained director until 1936. Prior to 1920, the most senior position at the museum was “conservator.”
5. John Jansen van Galen and Huib Schreurs, Site for the Future: A Short History of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, 1895–1995 (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1995), 38–39.
6. This transfer was carried out much later: in 1952. Van Galen and Schreurs, 103; A. Steens and Chietra Cheda, Archief van het Stedelijk Museum: Geschiedenis van het archiefvormend orgaan, number 30041, Amsterdam City Archives, accessed 18 March, 2020,
https://archief.amsterdam/archives/pdf/30041.ead.pdf.
7. Van Galen and Schreurs, 45. 2,500 guilders in 1911 had a value approximately equivalent to 28,000 euros in 2020.
8. Mondriaan Stichting, “Bijlage: Huidige aankoopbudgetten voor moderne kunst en vormgeving (in guldens),” in Recent Verworven: Visies en Aankopen van 19 musea voor moderne kunst, eds. Mariska van den Berg and Tanja Wallroth (Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 1999), 331. 1,200,000 guilders in 1999 had a value approximately equivalent to 770,000 euros in 2020.
9. The museum was privatized in 2006 but the municipality of Amsterdam remains the owner of the museum’s collection and the museum’s main subsidizer. See “Verzelfstandiging Stedelijk Museum een feit,” Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 19 December, 2005, https://www.stedelijk.nl/nl/nieuws/verzelfstandiging-stedelijk-museum-een-feit-2.
10. As former Stedelijk Museum director Rudi Fuchs explained: “We attempt to acquire works of new developments within modern and contemporary art. We don’t limit ourselves to the Netherlands.” In the same text he also propagates the view of the Stedelijk Museum as the de facto national museum for modern art in the Netherlands, located in the country’s cultural capital, and that this comes with certain responsibilities, such as the acquisition of works by young Dutch artists. See Rudi Fuchs, “Mondriaan Stichting: aankopen,” in Recent Verworven: Visies en Aankopen van 19 musea voor moderne kunst, Mariska van den Berg and Tanja Wallroth (eds) (Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 1999), 154, 156.
11. Since the resignation of director Beatrix Ruf in October 2017, the Amsterdam Art Council (Amsterdamse Kunstraad) and other bodies have advised the museum on whether it should have a greater local/national focus or a more global focus in the future. Amsterdamse Kunstraad, “Het museum als dynamisch geheugen,” 11 June, 2018, https://www.kunstraad.nl/user-files/uploads/2018/06/Amsterdamse-Kunstraad_advies-Het-museum-als-dynamisch-geheugen_juni-2018-1.pdf.
12. Paul Kemper, Binnen was buiten: De Sandbergvleugel Amsterdam (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2010), 157.
13. Leo Lucassen and Jan Lucassen, Vijf eeuwen migratie: Een verhaal van winnaars en verliezers (Amsterdam: Atlas Contact, 2018), 9–16.
14. From 2004 to 2008 the museum remained active as Stedelijk Museum CS, housed at a temporary location next to Amsterdam’s Central Station; in 2010 and 2011 the museum opened the historical part of its building on the Paulus Potterstraat as the Temporary Stedelijk.
15. A third dataset on exhibitions has also been started but in this paper the focus is on acquisitions and the migration of artists.
16. Taking the city of birth as the selection criterion gives rise to some counterintuitive cases of world-renowned artists such as Mark Rothko or Marlene Dumas being included as “non-Western” artists: Rothko was born in present-day Daugavpils, Latvia (then Dvinsk, Vitebsk Governorate, Russian Empire); Dumas in Cape Town, South Africa.
17. Caroline Roodenburg-Schadd, Expressie en ordening: Het verzamelbeleid van Willem Sandberg en Hans Jaffé in het Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, 1945–1963 (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2001); Joop M. Joosten, 20 jaar verzamelen: Aanwinsten Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 1963–1984, schilder- en beeldhouwkunst (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1984); Geurt Imanse et al., Aanwinsten Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 1985–1993 (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1992); Geurt Imanse et al., Rudi Fuchs: Aanwinsten, 1993–2003 (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2006). Some acquisition books only included a selection of acquisitions, so an attempt was made to fill some of these gaps within the acquisitions dataset using Adlib, the museum’s digital collection management system, which is used by museums worldwide to process all acquisitions and related documentation. In our search for acquisitions in Adlib, in addition to specifying timeframe and sub-collections, we refined our search using the “nationality” field. This allowed us to exclude those artists whose nationalities we consider (for the purposes of this research) to be “Western.” In some cases, we had to work more precisely, for example in cases of “non-Western” artists who were born in former Dutch colonies and have Dutch nationality. Initially, they did not show up in our search results. We therefore additionally used the “city of birth” field in Adlib to track these artists and include them in the dataset.
18. Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 51.
19. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), xxi.
20. Gloria Wekker, Witte onschuld: Paradoxen van kolonialisme en ras (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018), 8.
21. Walter D. Mignolo, “Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and Decolonial Freedom,” Theory, Culture & Society 26, no. 7–8 (2009): 160.
22. Riccardo Bavaj, “‘The West’: A Conceptual Exploration,” European History Online, 21 November, 2011, 
http://www.ieg-ego.eu/bavajr-2011-en.
23. Stuart Hall, “The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power,” in Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies, eds. Stuart Hall et al. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), 188.
24. We are aware that national borders are a social and political construct and that many borders around the world are contested, such as the one between Serbia and Kosovo: see James Anderson and Liam O’Dowd, “Borders, Border Regions and Territoriality: Contradictory Meanings, Changing Significance,” Regional Studies 33, no. 7 (1999): 593–604. 

25. On 1 May 2004, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the European Union, along with Malta and Cyprus.
26. Rini Dippel, “De Amsterdamse jaren in het Stedelijk Museum 1985–1993: Inleiding,” in Wim Beeren – om de kunst: Opvattingen van een museumman over moderne kunst, kunstenaars, musea en kunstbeleid, eds. Hein van Haaren et al. (Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 2005), 309, 311–312.
27. Julie M.F. Hengeveld and H. Verele Engels, Het Curaçaosch Museum 70 jaar: Het ontstaan en de beginjaren (Willemstad: Stichting Curaçaosch Museum, 2018), 37.
28. Willem Sandberg (ed.), Agoes Djaya en Otto Djaya (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1947), exh. cat.
29. Second and third generation migrant artists are not included in the dataset.
30. John O’Hagan and Christina Hellmanzik, “Clustering and Migration of Important Visual Artists: Broad Historical Evidence,” Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 41, no. 3 (2008): 123.