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Funny story about the Amsterdam Museum of Modern Art


My father used to have a painting company that dates back to 1894. My youngest brother is the fourth generation. Several major museums such as the ‘ Stedelijk Museum ‘ were a client of my father for many years. His company even had its own atelier in the Stedelijk. In addition to the regular maintenance the exhibition space had to be adjusted with each new exhibition. Often in terms of paint scheme, but also the glass windows on the roof had to be treated regularly with a special coating to prevent certain ultraviolet radiation, so the works of art could not be effected by this radiation.

Visiting the museum when I was young

When I was young I visited a primary school near the PC Hooftstraat and that was close to the Stedelijk Museum. Because we lived in Slotervaart at that time, a suburb west of Amsterdam, I often drove with my father to school. His office and workshop were located on the Prinsengracht. If I was picked up at school we often dropped by the Stedelijk. My father had to instruct the painters or had to check their work and I went along as a young boy. So I did not only know where the visitors are allowed to come at the Stedelijk Museum, but also where the staff were allowed to come. Regularly we came in the staff restaurant where we drank sometimes coffee or a limonade. A few years later this inside information was very important to me, because the next thing happened to me on a beautiful day in the summer in the 1980s.

Working as a student for my father’s company

I studied law and occasionally I worked for my father’s company to make some extra money. So my father asked me  to provide a large number of glass windows on the roof with a special coating, because there would be a new exhibition where the works of art were not allowed to come into contact with the ultraviolet radiation. I had a few days to do this and it had to be finished by Friday afternoon. To enter the roof of the museum with your gear you get a key to a door, which is located in the midst of the museum. Of course, this door is always locked and only for special occasions, this door will be opened. On the roof I was explained what I had to do and how to deal with coating the glass windows and I went to work.

My break was a littlebit longer

On Friday morning I was on schedule and I would be ready without problems. My girlfriend at the time was looking for a car and she asked me if I wanted to check out a car for her during my break. I have checked this car and was a littlebit later for my work. Because it had to finish my job, I went to work. Finaly I had to treat the towers with the glass windows with the special coating.

The weather was great and nice and sunny. You have a beautiful view from the roof on Amsterdam. Especially if you’re standing on a ladder. Around 15:00 I had to treat a number of glass windows with the coating and after working hard I was ready at 18:00. My father could be satisfied and I was satisfied too, even though I had taken a longer break to check the car. I grabbed all my stuff and walked across the roof to the door of the museum, because I wanted to go home to drink a beer. Arrived at the door I placed my stuff down. A ladder, some cans with coating, a stick with some rollers and a few brushes.

The museum was on full alarm

My hand went to the door handle and what turned out to be: the door was locked. I had no key and I was wondering why the door was closed. Cell phones were not invented yet, so I could not call someone. I couldn’t really imagine it was maybe a joke. Anyway, the museum I couldn’t enter. I looked one more time on my watch and then I understood why lock the door was locked. An entrepreneur works until the work is finished. Also after office hours. However, the museum has opening hours. The museum will close at 17:00. Not only all doors were locked, the entire museum with numerous works of art with a value of millions of euro’s was closed and was on alarm that was working very well.

What to do?

First I thought to break a window, but that would not have been very useful. The alarm would go of immediately and the museum would be full of police officers in no time. They would find on the roof a man with a ladder and having all kinds of other attributes and me ,the offender, would get caught. The police would be very happy, but I wouldn’t. The museum also wouldn’t be happy and my father wouldn’t be happy at all. Since it was my own fault, my conclusion was that I had to fix it myself. It was beautiful weather and warm, but to spend a weekend on the roof of the Stedelijk was not my choice.

At first I went to the front of the mueseum and saw that I couldn’t climb down by using a drainpipe. The drainpipes at the front of the museum were manufactered with a large bend and that’s why I couldn’t climb down the drainpipes. Far too dangerous. Then I tried to shout at some people, but that was not a success. The traffic made a lot of noise and no one was looking up.

The solution

Then I diceded to look at other places on the roof to see if I could climb down somewhere else, but that was not easy. After an hour, I figured out that the staff restaurant had a balcony. It was situated a lot lower than the roof and  I went to that place to check if it was possible to climb at that balcony. I knew the staff restaurant had a balcony, because I had visited the staff restaurant often with my father. The staff restaurant is located on the side of the van Baerlestraat. The south side. After a long search, I came at the right place. At the front of the museum all the drainpipes had a big bend, but on this side the drainpipes were attached straight down with no bends. Via some drainpipes I came on the balcony. From there it was quite easy to climb down and after a little while my feet touched the van Baerlestraat.

When I walked away, I looked up one more time. The Stedelijk was full on alarm waiting for Monday morning. I realized that I had figured out the right solution and thougt to myself that I would sleep at home and not on the roof of the museum that weekend.

The reward

The cold beer that I had promised myself tasted excellent!

Frank Scheers

Photo: Amsterdam Today

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