Michaël Borremans

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Biography

Belgian artist Michaël Borremans is known for his figurative paintings whose unconventional compositions elude straightforward interpretation. In his quietly affective works, people appear in uncertain positions and settings, their sparse gestures difficult to read, and their faces often turned away from the viewer. Due to the artist’s meticulous rendering of peripheral elements such as hair, clothing, or other objects, his highly staged portraits are frequently reminiscent of still lifes, just as his landscapes acquire an artificial, symbolic dimension. A strong use of light and shadow in the artist's paintings recalls Old Master artists such as Rembrandt and Francisco Goya, but subtle elements in their pictorial structure nonetheless defy expectations. As Hans D. Christ has written, “The scenarios that [Borremans] develops equally fall back on art-historical stances and genres as well as the pictorial language of photography, the stage, and film. They are full of contrary references and allusions that afford viewers a variety of possible interpretations while resisting being joined together to form a definitive whole. What are actually mutually exclusive elements, such as realism and fantasy, the ephemeral and the manifest, irony and confusion, are closely interwoven in his visual worlds.”1 

Borremans was born in 1963 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. In 1996, he received his M.F.A. from Hogeschool voor Wetenschap en Kunst, Campus St. Lucas, in Ghent. Since 2001, the artist's work has been represented by David Zwirner. Previous solo exhibitions at the gallery in New York include The Devil's Dress (2011), Taking Turns (2009), Horse Hunting (2006), and Trickland (2003), which marked his United States debut. Black Mould marked his first solo presentation at David Zwirner, London, on view June 13 through August 14, 2015.

Over the past decade, Borremans's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at a number of prominent institutions. In 2014, a major museum survey, Michaël Borremans: As sweet as it gets, consisting of one hundred works from the past two decades, was presented at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. The exhibition traveled later in the year to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, followed by the Dallas Museum of Art in 2015. Also on view in 2014 was the artist's first museum solo show in Japan, Michaël Borremans: The Advantage, at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. In 2011, a comprehensive solo show, titled Eating the Beard, was presented at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, which toured to the Műcsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest and the Kunsthalle Helsinki. In 2010, he had a solo exhibition at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo as well as commissioned work on view at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Other venues which have hosted solo exhibitions include kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2009); de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam (2007); Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, Germany; and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (both 2004). In 2005, he had a one-person exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent. The paintings then traveled to Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London and The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, while the drawings traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio.

Work by the artist is held in public collections internationally, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Borremans lives and works in Ghent.

1 Hans D. Christ, “Introduction,” in Michaël Borremans: Eating the Beard. Exh. cat. (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2011), p. 6.

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