Pieter van Huystee’s behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for a major art exhibition debuted at IDFA last Fall. Other fests have included Sydney, Moscow, DOK.fest Munich, Festival dei Popoli, and Docs Against Gravity.
In the lead up to 2016, the 500th anniversary of the death of Dutch medieval master Hieronymus Bosch, famously known for his macabre allegorical triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch plans for a special exhibition celebrating their native son. Van Huystee follows the institution’s art historians as they track down his two dozen surviving works in Madrid and Venice to attempt to negotiate their inclusion, study their potential secrets using modern technology that looks behind the surface of the paintings, and, vitally, try to ascertain whether certain pieces were, in fact, painted by Bosch rather than by one of his students or followers. Like other recent documentaries focused on the inner workings of museums, such as THE GREAT MUSEUM and THE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM, the director offers an intriguing look into the competing forces – and curatorial egos – at play in mounting such exhibitions, as well as the persistent questions of authenticity and attribution that haunt curators. At the same time, working with the distinctive, playful, and disturbing imagery of Bosch affords the film some additional color, as curators revel in the artist’s phantasmagorias, full of lovingly painted demons, owls, and other denizens of the night.