Belgian artist Luc Tuymans (b. 1958) is known for a distinctive style of painting that demonstrates images’ power to simultaneously communicate and withhold. Emerging in the 1980s, Tuymans pioneered a decidedly non-narrative approach to figurative painting, instead exploring how information can be layered and embedded within certain scenes and signifiers. Based on preexisting imagery culled from a variety of sources, his works are rendered in a muted palette that is suggestive of a blurry recollection or a fading memory. Their quiet and restrained appearance, however, belies an underlying moral complexity. They engage equally with questions of history and its representation as they do with quotidian subject matter. Tuymans’s canvases, which are typically executed on a large scale, both undermine and reinvent traditional notions of monumentality through their insistence on the ambiguity of meaning.
Born in 1958 in Mortsel, near Antwerp, Tuymans was one of the first artists to be represented by David Zwirner. Since joining the gallery in 1994, he has had numerous solo exhibitions with David Zwirner. Previous shows at the gallery in New York include The Summer is Over (2013), Corporate (2010), Forever, The Management of Magic (2008), Proper (2005), Fortune (2003), Mwana Kitoko: Beautiful White Man (2000), Security (1998), The Heritage (1996), Francis Picabia and Luc Tuymans: Paintings (1995); and Superstition (1994), which marked his United States debut. In 2012, Allo! inaugurated the gallery’s first European location on 24 Grafton Street in London and The Shore marked his second solo show in the space in 2015. In 2016, David Zwirner in New York presented Le Mépris, a solo exhibition of recent paintings by the artist. The artist's first solo presentation in Greater China, Good Luck, was on view at David Zwirner in Hong Kong in 2020 and in 2021, Monkey Business was shown at the gallery's London location.
In 2020, Tuymans was awarded the Ultima for General Cultural Merit, which is the Flemish government’s culture prize. In 2019, Palazzo Grassi presented the artist’s first solo exhibition in Italy entitled La Pelle, which focused on his paintings from 1986 to the present. The Return, Tuymans’s second major solo exhibition at De Pont Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands, was also on display in 2019. In 2017, a solo presentation of the artist’s work entitled The Swamp was exhibited at Reset Gert Robijns in Borgloon, Belgium. Glasses, a solo museum exhibition featuring a selection of portraits by Tuymans, was presented in 2016 at Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp. A portion of the exhibition traveled to the National Portrait Gallery in London. In the fall of 2016, the artist’s work was presented in a solo exhibition at Lille Métropole, musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, as well as the 9th Biennale de Montréal.
In 2015, a major survey of Tuymans’s work, Intolerance, was presented at the Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq in Doha. Comprising over one hundred works, this was the artist’s largest presentation to date. A comprehensive publication by Ludion accompanied the exhibition with texts by renowned art historians, curators, and writers including, Jan Avgikos, Nicholas Cullinan, Jenevive Nykolak, and Nicholas Serota, as well as interviews with the artist by Lynne Cooke and His Excellency Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al Thani. Also in 2015, the Talbot Rice Gallery at the University of Edinburgh hosted a solo show, titled Birds of a Feather.
In 2014, Tuymans was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts in Poznań. In 2013, a solo presentation of the artist’s portraits, Nice, was held at The Menil Collection in Houston. In 2009, his work was the subject of a retrospective co-organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It traveled through 2011 to the Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Previous major survey shows of the artist’s work include those organized by Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels in 2009 (traveled to Baibakov art projects, Moscow, followed by Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden) and Tate Modern, London in 2004 (traveled to K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf). In 2007, the artist was granted the title of Commander, Order of Leopold in Belgium.
Tuymans curated the 2018 group exhibition Sanguine/Bloedrood. Luc Tuymans on Baroque at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp, which traveled to Fondazione Prada, Milan. The artist also organized Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans in 2016-2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Gap: Selected Abstract Art from Belgium in 2016 at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen Antwerp, which was first on view at the Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London; Constable, Delacroix, Friedrich, Goya. A Shock to the Senses in 2013 at Albertinum, Dresden; A Vision of Central Europein 2010 at Groeninge Museum, Brugge Centraal, Bruges, Belgium; and The State of Things: Brussels/Beijing in 2009 at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, which traveled to the National Art Museum of China, Beijing.
A catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings that illustrates and documents paintings from 1975 to the present day was published by David Zwirner Books in 2017. The second and third volumes of the catalogue raisonné were released in 2019.
The artist’s works are featured in museum collections worldwide, including Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tate, London. In 2012, Tuymans donated his portrait of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands to Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. He lives and works in Antwerp.