Omnia ‘wall of men’ questioned

The portrait gallery in Omnia consists entirely of men. That can be done differently, says the art committee.
Photo Roelof Kleis

Opposite the Faculty Club Novum in Omnia is a wall full of portraits. Venerable men stare at you earnestly. But why are they all men? A special committee will be looking into alternatives.

‘As someone in charge of art at WUR, of course I have also wondered why all the portraits are of men,’ says Joke Webbink of the Art and Heritage committee. Until recently, the portraits were on display more or less anonymously in the Aula’s small Auditorium. The portraits have recently undergone restoration work and have been reframed.

Now they are hanging in Omnia in a prominent, highly visible place. That is when it strikes you: hey, they are all men. There is a simple explanation for this, says Webbink. ‘They are mainly rectors, who have all been male so far.’ Traditionally, when the rector’s term ends, a portrait is painted of them.

Everyone agreed we should do something about this

Joke Webbink of the Art and Heritage committee

A comment on Twitter about the wall-to-wall men got Webbink thinking. ‘I decided I would raise the issue in the Art committee. That started a lively debate, but everyone agreed we should do something about this.’ So far, that ‘something’ means setting up another committee to look into an alternative. This planned committee will at the very least include a scientist, a professor, a historian and an expert on diversity.

What this committee will lead to is completely open, according to Webbink. Should there be a separate wall for women? Should the current wall get a different theme? Or are there more modern alternatives for a portrait gallery that put a different slant on WUR’s male-dominated history? The committee will be able to consider all these questions.

If you have ideas for a modern portrait gallery, you can share them with WUR Library’s Special Collections (

Also read:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to write a comment.