Celebrating the third volume of his Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, published in 2019 by David Zwirner Books, Luc Tuymans will be in conversation with the curator and writer Helen Molesworth. Tuymans, who is known for his distinctive, non-narrative paintings and whose recent exhibitions include The Return at De Pont Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands and La Pelle at Palazzo Grassi, Venice, will present a new solo exhibition at David Zwirner, Hong Kong, in March 2020. Helen Molesworth, whose overview of Noah Davis’s brief but expansive career opens at David Zwirner in New York on January 16, curated the first United States retrospective of Tuymans’s work during her time as chief curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2009.
Image: Helen Molesworth and her terrier, Phoebe, 2019. Photo by Catherine Opie; Luc Tuymans, 2014. Photo by Jonas Lampen
On the occasion of the publication of the third and final volume of Luc Tuymans’s Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, edited by Eva Meyer-Hermann and launching in the US in December, the artist was in conversation with critics and curators at Palazzo Grassi, in Venice, where his solo exhibition La Pelle is on view through January 6, 2020.
Wednesday, October 9, 6 PM
Venice | Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi
Free and open to the public
On October 9, Tuymans joined Meyer-Hermann and art historian, critic, and curator Philippe Pirotte to talk about his recent work and the catalogue raisonné project. Focusing on Tuymans’s most recent works, made between 2007 and 2018, the speakers covered a range of topics—from painting to politics; from memory to modernity. They also discussed the massive project of making a catalogue raisonné, the importance of these printed records, and their lasting legacy.
Thursday, October 10, 2019, 6 PM
Venice | Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi
Free and open to the public
On October 10, Tuymans was in conversation with Marc Donnadieu and Jarrett Earnest, art critics and authors of catalogue essays for La Pelle. They explored Tuymans’s influential work through the lens of La Pelle, which presents more than eighty paintings dating from the mid-1980s to the present, and investigated the use of preexisting imagery in the artist’s creative process.
Image: Installation view, Luc Tuymans, La Pelle, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2019. © Palazzo Grassi. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti
June 29–November 17, 2019
Aptly titled, The Return was Luc Tuymans’s second large-scale solo exhibition at De Pont Museum in Tilburg. The first took place in 1995, an important moment early in Tuymans’s career when the artist was beginning to be recognized for his contribution to a major revival of painting. Featuring a broad span of works dating from 1975 to the present and organized in close collaboration with Tuymans, The Return explored the development of his quiet, restrained, and at times unsettling approach—one that engages equally with questions of history and its representation and with more quotidian subject matter. As the artist explained in an interview with Jason Farago, "I had clearly made a decision not to make art for art’s sake. I wasn’t interested in slotting into a tradition of modernism or postmodernism—to try to position myself in such a way was not an option. The only option was to work from the real."
Alongside significant early and mid-career works, The Return included a series of six black-and-white portraits of anonymous faces from 2018-2019 that were on view for the first time. While three of these works are based on photographs by contemporary American artist Arne Svenson, of forensic facial reconstruction sculptures, the others are sourced from images of missing persons that Tuymans found on a police website. The resulting portraits depict individuals who in reality may or may not exist, imbuing them with an uncanny presence. "There’s a surgical element involved," the artist explains of the strangers he chose to paint. "They have to give me ... an instinct. I must think: This is interesting, or weird. I have to paint it in order to understand it."
The Return was curated by De Pont’s director Hendrik Driessen, who organized Tuymans’s first exhibition at the museum in 1995. Driessen says of the artist’s work, "He has put his finger on problems of our time, by referring to past events or to current ones without depicting them, but rather evoking historical issues. They freeze a moment in time in such a way that they evoke a lot more than just that single moment he’s chosen."
The Return was Dreissen’s final exhibition at De Pont museum, of which he was the founding director in 1989. He has curated a number of major exhibitions by David Zwirner artists, among them, at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Donald Judd: Sculptures 1965-1987, which travelled to a number of venues in Europe in 1987–1988, and Richard Serra: 10 Sculptures for the van Abbe in 1988. A major solo exhibition by Marlene Dumas titled Nom de Personne / Name No Names was presented at De Pont in 2001.
March 24, 2019–January 6, 2020
As part of the cycle of monographic shows dedicated to major contemporary artists, launched in 2012 and alternating with thematic exhibitions of the Pinault Collection, Palazzo Grassi presented Luc Tuymans’ first solo exhibition in Italy.
Curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with Luc Tuymans, the show was entitled La Pelle (The Skin), after Curzio Malaparte’s 1949 novel, which also gave its name to one of Luc Tuymans’ paintings. It included over 80 works from the Pinault Collection, international museums and private collections, and focuses on the artist’s paintings from 1986 to today.
Considered as one of the most influential painters of the international art scene, Luc Tuymans has been dedicating himself to figurative painting since the mid 1980s and has contributed throughout his career to the rebirth of this medium in contemporary art. His works deal with questions connected to the past and to more recent history and address subjects of our daily lives through a set of images borrowed from the private and public spheres – the press, television, the Internet. The artist renders these images by dissolving them in an unusual and rarefied light; the slight anxiety that emanates from them is able to trigger—according to the artist himself—an ‘authentic forgery’ of reality.
The exhibition project corresponded to the eighth ‘carte blanche’ given by the Pinault Collection to its artists as an invitation to conceive major monographic exhibitions presented in Venice. Luc Tuymans also unveiled a site-specific work created specifically for the spaces of Palazzo Grassi.
Image: Luc Tuymans, Twenty Seventeen, 2017 (detail)
October 18, 2018–February 25, 2019
Fondazione Prada presented Sanguine: Luc Tuymans on Baroque, the artist’s major curatorial project that spans centuries in search of the formal and conceptual boundaries of the baroque in art history. Tuymans places significant pieces by Caravaggio, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Francisco de Zurbarán, and other Baroque masters in dialogue with contemporary works by artists including Michaël Borremans, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Marlene Dumas, On Kawara, Bruce Nauman, and Zhang Enli. This exhibition expands on Sanguine/Bloedrood at the Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) in Antwerp earlier in 2018 and is the latest of a number of significant museum shows organized by Tuymans.
Taking as its starting point Walter Benjamin’s description of the Baroque as marking the beginning of modernity, Sanguine viewed this period as an important reference point for contemporary artists; avoiding chronology, the show juxtaposed examples from different moments in an effort to reveal how recent artworks not only extend Baroque attitudes and approaches into the present day, but also help to redefine them in areas such as figurative composition. "Sanguine," evoking both the color of blood and an expressive temperament, suggests multiple interpretations of the works on view. As Tuymans wrote in his curatorial statement, "The term ‘baroque’ continues to evoke some of its original negative connotations—exaggeration and indulgence—but simultaneously suggests something exciting, something elusive. . . . The aim is to make a feedback to our present time."
"The Baroque is as much a temperament as a style," Jason Farago writes in his New York Times review of the show in Antwerp; "It’s theatrical, and obsessed with death. . . . It’s this visceral character that seems to interest Mr. Tuymans most in Baroque art, and much of the most compelling contemporary work in ‘Sanguine/Bloedrood’ echoes the 17th-century tradition in its excess and intensity, rather than in its appearance. . . . Perhaps this is the real point . . . beyond the formal echoes of light and shadow across centuries: that the extremity of Antwerp’s old style serves all too naturally for art that aims to depict our present age."
October 18, 2018—February 25, 2019
Luc Tuymans burst on the scene in his native Belgium in the mid-1980s with cool, pragmatic paintings in unfashionably muted tones that addressed the inadequacy and "belatedness," as he has put it, of painting. Beyond wrestling with the limitations of the medium, the artist’s oblique subject matter, adopted from found imagery, film, and, more recently, his own iPhone photographs, often refers to pointed socio-political issues, especially in regard to Belgian and European national identity. Tuymans’s willingness to engage with thorny, violent passages from history—colonialism, the Holocaust, and the Iraq War, among them—has become a trademark of his work, as well as his rigorous curatorial efforts at museums.
The 2016 survey that Tuymans curated at London’s Royal Academy of Arts featuring macabre, hermetic works by fellow Belgian James Ensor (1860–1949), for instance, threw a wrench into mainstream histories of Flemish art. By contrast, The State of Things: Brussels/Beijing, an earlier exhibition Tuymans organized for the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, examined centuries of continued cross-cultural exchange and tension between the hosting countries.
The artist’s latest project, Sanguine: Luc Tuymans on Baroque, which opened at Fondazione Prada in Milan on October 18, 2018, places works by Old Masters such as Caravaggio, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Anthony van Dyck in dialogue with contemporary works by artists including Michaël Borremans, Marlene Dumas, Isa Genzken, and Edward and Nancy Kienholz. Presented on the occasion of Antwerp Baroque 2018: Rubens inspires, a citywide festival that pays tribute to the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), this exhibition offers an opportunity to reevaluate the legacy of the movement, its themes, and contradictions.
While Tuymans’s paintings are often noted for their emotional restraint, drawing comparisons to the Northern European realist tradition, baroque as a term and as a period generally signals expressive and aesthetic hyperbole. "'Baroque,'" the artist wrote in his curatorial statement, "continues to evoke some of its original negative connotations—exaggeration and indulgence—but simultaneously suggests something exciting, something elusive."
When approached by curators Manfred Sellink, Bart De Baere, and Carl Depauw to conceptualize an exhibition about the baroque, Tuymans decided to sideline Rubens (he is represented by one work) and instead searched for two opposite works to build a bridge between Old Masters and contemporary art. Francisco Goya’s Third of May from 1808 and Edward Kienholz’s installation Five Car Stud (1969–1972) ultimately became the touchstones. Goya’s iconic painting references the massacre of Spanish freedom fighters by Napoleon’s invading army, while Kienholz’s sprawling installation recreates a harrowing instance of racially motivated violence in the American South. This dichotomous pair, like many pieces included in the show, foregrounds the plight of common people, rather than the Baroque’s typical religious icons, maintaining the period’s emotionally extreme situations.
"In the midst of this all," Tuymans wrote in his statement, "the aim is to make a feedback to our present time." To achieve a time-jumping coherency in the show, Tuymans commissioned artists, including Jonathan Johnson and Pascale Marthine Tayou, to create works that look back while remaining firmly rooted in the contemporary. Some pieces poke fun at the gaudy artistic period and the sacrosanct nature of history itself. Johnson’s gold-plated Bubblegum Machine (2018) proffers handcrafted gold rings decorated—at Tuymans’s request—with baroque imagery from the show.
Other contemporary works avoid direct references to the Baroque but similarly elicit the emotional potency of their historical counterparts. Flemish artist Lili Dujourie’s The Kiss (1986) serves as a reminder that even minimalist gestures can evoke powerful emotion. In a conceptual reconstruction of a classic still life, a metal wedge abuts three stacked disks daubed by a strip of red fabric. The near "kiss" of the objects, as well as the contrast between hard and soft materials, creates "a field of tension," as described by Tuymans, "that is always present in the Baroque."
The show travels to Milan from M HKA (the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), where an initial iteration titled Sanguine/Bloedrood was on view from June 1–September 16, 2018.
Image: Jacob Jordaens, Studies of the Head of Abraham Grapheus, 1621 (detail).
Tuesday, March 20, 6:30 PM
24 Grafton Street, London
Tuymans considers Wróblewski’s work to have significantly influenced his own painting practice—particularly with regard to the depiction of the human figure and negative space. Wróblewski posited the body as a real and complicated subject, while also addressing the limits of its representation.
In 2015, works by Tuymans and Wróblewski (who died a year before Tuymans’s birth) were presented in DE. FI. CIEN. CY, an exhibition at the Drawing Room in London that also included René Daniëls, and had previously been shown at Art Stations Foundation in Poznań in 2014. In an interview with Anda Rottenberg for the publication accompanying the show, Tuymans commented on his and his predecessor’s use of "the empty space, the void." In his catalogue essay, the exhibition’s curator, Ulrich Loock, connects this with the two artists’ approach to figuration, noting "the use of single figures that appear isolated on the picture plane and assume all the wait of the work’s meaning. In Wróblewski’s work from 1955 to 1957 . . . and almost all of Tuymans’s work, these figures are withdrawn from any narrative context."
In 2010, Tuymans included Wróblewski’s work in The Reality of the Lowest Rank: A Vision of Central Europe, a group exhibition he curated that was shown at many cultural venues throughout the city of Bruges.
Read The Guardian's four-star review of the exhibition at David Zwirner.
In honor of the publication Luc Tuymans Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings: Volume 1, 1972–1994, the artist will be in conversation with Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Seating is limited. RSVP to Irene McAllister, firstname.lastname@example.org
This first volume of a comprehensive record of paintings by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans highlights his generative early work. Edited by Eva Meyer-Hermann, it surveys nearly two hundred works that were vital to his artistic development and features an illustrated chronology with archival images and installation views of the works from this period, as well as new photography of each of the paintings. This publication is a testament to Tuymans’s persistent and influential assertion of the continuing relevance of painting.
Tell Me Something Good: Artist Interviews from The Brooklyn Rail brings together 60 of the New York-based journal's most important interviews, and includes conversations with gallery artists Suzan Frecon, Richard Serra, Luc Tuymans, and Lisa Yuskavage. Selected and co-edited by Jarrett Earnest, a frequent Brooklyn Rail contributor, and Lucas Zwirner, Editorial Director at David Zwirner Books, Tell Me Something Good includes an introduction to the project by Phong Bui as well as hand-drawn portraits of all the artists interviewed for the book. Published by David Zwirner Books
Luc Tuymans was the inaugural participant in RESETHOME, a new exhibition venue and artist residency in Belgium conceived by fellow artist Gert Robijns. The building is a recreation of Robijns's grandparents' home and also exists as a sculpture unto itself.
The Swamp, Tuymans's solo exhibition at RESETHOME, consisted of three new works. Shadows was a three-dimensional chalk drawing created by tracing the shadows cast on the floor. The drawing developed over time as the artist traced new shadows over existing ones. Plates is a series of lithographs depicting industrial crockery that was mass-produced in Croatia during the Soviet era. The works were reproduced as stickers and affixed to the windows, casting shadows when the sun shone through them. Upstairs, a floor painting entitled The Swamp was named after a 2017 Tuymans work that depicts a crawling figure. Raised slightly off the floor on a wooden base, the painting's rhomboid shape had a trompe l'oeil effect.
A catalogue raisonné of paintings by Luc Tuymans is available from David Zwirner Books. Compiled and edited by art historian Eva Meyer-Hermann, the catalogue raisonné illustrates and document approximately five hundred paintings by the artist from 1975 to the present day. Volume 1 of 3 was published in 2017.
Credited with a key role in the revival of painting in the 1990s, Tuymans continues to produce subtle, and at times unsettling, works that engage with history, technology, and everyday life. This first volume in the catalogue raisonné surveys nearly 200 works that were vital to his artistic development. The years 1978 to 1994 witnessed the maturation of his signature method of painting from preexisting imagery—such as magazine images, Polaroids, and television footage—as well as his first solo exhibition. Also dating from this period are many of his seminal canvases, along with ten poignant portraits of the ailing human body and Gaskamer and Schwarzheide (both 1986), which were part of the artist's first solo exhibition in 1988, to Die Zeit (1988), a four-part work shown in his critically acclaimed Documenta presentation in 1992.
The catalogue features an introductory essay by Eva Meyer-Hermann and an illustrated chronology with archival images and installation shots of the works in this volume, as well as new photographs of each of the paintings. This publication is a testament to Tuymans's persistent assertion of the relevance and importance of painting—a conviction that he maintains even in today's digital world, when his work continues to be a touchstone for artists and scholars.
Published by David Zwirner Books | Yale University Press