In 1975, Barbara Visser was a nine-year-old kid on a school field trip to the Stedelijk art museum when she first saw a painting titled Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III by the American post-war artist Barnett Newman.
What she saw was a massive canvas, nearly 18 feet wide and eight feet tall. On the left side, a small strip of blue, and on the right, a small strip of yellow. But the rest of the surface was painted entirely red. “And I got very angry,” says Visser, “I ran out of the museum. I sat on the steps and was determined not to go in again.”
This was a painting that produced such strong reactions in people that it drove them to action. Visser struggled with the painting her entire life and made a feature-length documentary about it called The End of Fear, which inspired this story. It’s about a reaction the painting received that was so intense, so violent, it set off a chain of events that shook the art world to its core.