I was in Amsterdam on a freezing morning, running an errand that almost brought me to tears.
Looking for solace in a warm space, I took the tram to the Stedelijk Museum.
The last time I was here was before I moved to the Netherlands, in 2017. At the time a large part of the building was closed for renovation. The friend I was with told me what a pity it was, to pay the full entrance fee (17.50 euros, more or less) only to walk up and down one set of stairs.
Four years later, I felt for the guard who scanned everyone’s covid QR code in the wind. Despite his thick jacket, I hoped he had short shifts.
I was the only person in a large, darkened room where one single video projected onto the screen. The screen was mostly white, with animated lines suggesting changing shapes and associations (a dog, a horse, beetles). The room was austere. How would it feel without the sound track, which with its single string instrument, softened the atmosphere?
The exhibition in the basement was of the museum’s collection before 1980. I walked among the walls without reading any text. Colors seemed to fall from the frames and surround me — the best impressionism there could be. Next to the colors there were glitters, dead violins, famous abstract paintings temporarily free from the burden of art history. I stopped in front of a sculpture, hanging like a painting yet protruding like an animal’s starless throat that smelled ancient and lonely. Not far from this piece was a female mannequin, hollowed out around the abdomen and filled with fake fruits inked black.
When I exited the museum around noon, a line had formed by the coat check. I wondered how many of them would be caught offguard by a certain violence and how many of them, coddled by the silky music score.
The same guard stood outside, asking people for their IDs.
My Dutch friend, who walked with me at the Stedelijk, has since immigrated to another country, living among the mountains.