Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie has sparked controversy after it canceled and then reinstated a dialogue between Dutch art collector Bert Kreuk and Keeping It Real Art Critics (KIRAC), a provocative artist duo consisting of Stefan Ruitenbeek and Kate Sinha. According to Artnet, the prestigious school originally set out to screen a video KIRAC had made about Kreuk before staging a debate centered on contemporary art and collecting in front of an audience of students. Upon hearing the news of the event, which was scheduled for February 8, around a dozen students demanded that the invitation to the artist duo be retracted, claiming that KIRAC advances racism, misogyny, and homophobia in their work. The artists are known for producing videos criticizing the conventions of the art world, and they recently wrote that an exhibition of Zanele Muholi’s art at the Stedelijk Museum was shown only “because she comes from South Africa and is lesbian and black.”
The school canceled the talk due to pressure, citing a priority to “guarantee a safe learning environment,” but the event was later reinstated after a student offered to host the debate in his studio. The event could continue, the school said, on the condition that the dialogue between KIRAC and Kreuk focused on the discussion surrounding the talk’s cancellation. Gerrit Rietveld Academie board president Annelies van Eenennaam was planning on holding a private discussion with the artists anyway, and she so decided instead to hold the talk in a public forum. On February 8, Kreuk, KIRAC, and Van Eenennaam spoke about the academy's decision in front of around one hundred students assembled in a school gymnasium.
Kreuk, who is well acquainted with controversy and whose contentious memoir, Art Flipper, is currently being translated into English, took umbrage at the school’s choice to revoke the initial event. “I don’t block them, I engage,” he said of KIRAC. “Something the Rietveld should do, too.”
While some students saw the rescinding of the original screening and talk as a form of censorship, others disapproved of the replacement event. “We do feel that this KIRAC event and the following media attention is part of KIRAC’s strategy to undeservedly gather attention for their work,” student Jonathan Aldenberg told Artnet.
Ruitenbeek, who is an alumnus of Gerrit Rietveld Academie, resists the idea that KIRAC is provocative for the sake of being provocative. “The theatrical aspect sort of derives from the fact that we’re extremely serious about the things we say,” he said.