Installation view, Marlene Dumas. open-end, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2022. Photo by Marco Cappelletti with Filippo Rossi
Born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1953, Marlene Dumas moved to Amsterdam in 1976, where she has lived and worked since.
Dumas is widely regarded as one of the most influential painters working today. Over the past four decades, she has continuously probed the complexities of identity and representation in her work. Her paintings and drawings, often devoted to depictions of the human form, are typically culled from a vast archive of images collected by the artist, including art historical materials, mass media sources, and personal snapshots of friends and family. Gestural, fluid, and frequently spectral, Dumas’s works reframe and re-contextualize her subjects, exploring the ambiguous and shifting boundaries between public and private selves.
At the Palazzo Grassi in Venice Marlene Dumas: open-end, a major solo presentation of the artist's oeuvre, was presented from 2022 to 2023. In 2021, the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, presented Marlene Dumas: Le Spleen de Paris, an exhibition of the artist's work in dialogue with the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. In 2014, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam presented a major retrospective of the artist’s work, Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden, which traveled to Tate Modern, London, and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, in 2015. In 2008, a critically acclaimed retrospective, Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave, was organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in association with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, which also toured to The Menil Collection, Houston, in 2009.
Additional solo exhibitions of the artist’s work have taken place at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2001); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001; traveled to New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 2002; De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands, 2002); Art Institute of Chicago (2003); Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2007; traveled to Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, Marugame, Japan); Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2007; traveled to Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, 2008); Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (2008); and the Fondazione Stelline, Milan (2012).
In 2017, Dumas presented an altarpiece made in collaboration with Jan Andriesse and Bert Boogaard as a permanent installation at the Annenkirche (St. Anne’s Church) in Dresden. Also in 2017, the Albertinum and Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden hosted concurrent solo exhibitions. In 2018-2019, the artist curated an exhibition of her work alongside that of Edvard Munch and selected works by René Daniëls at the Munchmuseet, Oslo, entitled Moonrise. Marlene Dumas & Edvard Munch.
Dumas has been the recipient of notable awards including the Düsseldorf Art Prize (2007); Rolf Schock Prize in the Visual Arts (2011); the Johannes Vermeer Award (2012); and Verleihung des Hans Theo Richter-Preises für Zeichnung und Graphik (The Hans Theo Richter Prize for Drawing and Graphic Art), Sächsische Akademie der Künste, Dresden (2017).
Work by the artist is represented in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Gallery, London.
Since 2008, Dumas’s work has been represented by David Zwirner. In 2010, she had her first solo exhibition, Against the Wall, at the gallery in New York, which traveled to the Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal. In 2018, her second solo show with the gallery, Myths & Mortals, was on view at the gallery’s New York location.
Palazzo Grassi presents a solo exhibition dedicated to Marlene Dumas (b. 1953), open now through January 8, 2023, 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.
The exhibition, entitled open-end, is curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with Marlene Dumas. It brings together over 100 works and focuses on her whole pictorial production, with a selection of paintings and drawings created between 1984 and today, including new works created for the exhibition. Presented over the two floors of Palazzo Grassi, the works exhibited come from the Pinault Collection, as well as from international museums and private collections. The exhibition will overlap with the 2022 Venice Biennale.
The exhibition catalogue is co-edited by Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana with Marsilio Editori, Venice.
Learn more from the Palazzo Grassi.
February 18–June 19, 2022
The ALBERTINA Museum is dedicating their spring exhibition to Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Titled Edvard Munch. In Dialogue, the comprehensive show is unique in several respects: over sixty works by the Norwegian artist show the impressive oeuvre that is groundbreaking for modern and contemporary art. This is demonstrated by seven important contemporary artists—all greats of the twentieth century—who enter into dialogue with Munch: Marlene Dumas, Georg Baselitz, Andy Warhol, Miriam Cahn, Peter Doig, Tracey Emin, and Jasper Johns. The works selected by the artists impressively illustrate Munch's influence on art up to the present day. They are works that refer to Munch, were influenced by him, and were created in the course of an encounter with him.
Munch's influence is not only related to his melancholic world view: Rather, the focus is on his experimental approach to painting and printing techniques, his unique world of color, pigment, and stroke, which has shaped—and continues to shape—the history of painting. This style makes Munch the most modern artist of the modern age, not to say a contemporary artist of the modern age.
The approaches to Munch are as diverse as the artists themselves. Marlene Dumas, whose work deals with fundamental questions of the human experience and places themes such as love, identity, racism, but also death or mourning at the center of her work, directly follows Munch's thematic focus.
Munch. In Dialogue focuses primarily on Munch's later work. The show follows on from the ALBERTINA Museum's record-breaking exhibitions on Munch in 2003 and 2015 and is supported by the Munch Museet and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (Oslo), as well as numerous other international institutions and private collections.
October 12, 2021–January 30, 2022
To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), South African-born artist Marlene Dumas, who has lived and worked in the Netherlands since the mid-1970s, created a series of paintings inspired by the author’s Paris Spleen. This series will be exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay this fall. As a counterpoint, Conversations, a dialogue between three key works by Marlene Dumas with works from the museum's collections, will be presented.
Marlene Dumas's work is nourished by her passionate, fragmentary readings of poetry and literature. This project was born out of her collaboration with the writer and translator Hafid Bouazza (1970–2021), with whom she had previously produced an edition of Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare. Following this collaboration, Marlene Dumas and Hafid Bouazza initiated a new project around the Paris Spleen, resulting in fourteen paintings inspired by Charles Baudelaire. Among these works are portraits of the author and Jeanne Duval, motifs taken from poems—such as the rat and the bottle—and works painted directly in connection with a text, such as The Poor Man's Toy and The Despair of the Old Woman.
The creative inspiration of Baudelaire is palpable in the experience of Dumas's works, proving her status as one of today's greatest living painters. Additionally, the exhibition allows viewers to discover the multiple forms of painting practiced by Marlene Dumas: very precisely painted works—especially portraits—that are controlled and transformed pictorial gestures. The artist is constantly experimenting with new ways of painting, and Le Spleen de Paris represents the poetic core of her creation.
September 19, 2021–January 2, 2022
CLOSE-UP brings together nine women artists whose work focuses on the depiction of the human figure in the form of portraits and self-portraits and who occupy prominent positions within the history of modern art from 1870 to the present day. The exhibition centers on these artists’ specific perceptions and personal vision of the world that finds expression through portraits of themselves and others. By juxtaposing these artists, it becomes possible to understand how these artists’ view of their subject shifts between the second half of the 19th century and today and to appreciate what is reflected in that view and what makes it significant.
The contextual parameters for the exhibition begin at the point when it first became possible for women artists in Europe and America to become professionally active on a broad basis. During this same period, a radical reassessment of ideas pertaining to the individual triggered a profound shift in the notion of the portrait. Just as impressionism ushered in a transformation of classical portraiture, emphasizing the ephemeral over eternal qualities, the beginning of the 20th century saw artists experiment with altogether relinquishing any notion of likeness. Subsequently, the portrait turned into a form of expression to explore new conceptions of subjectivity and possibilities of representation. The artists featured in the exhibition provide an exemplary illustration of this trajectory. While the exhibition does not intend to give a history of portraiture since the inception of modernity, each artist’s body of work presents a specific form of portraiture that is rooted in and arises from their respective time.
The exhibition opens with Berthe Morisot (1841–1895) and Mary Cassatt (1844–1926). The two artists helped shape impressionism and became important role models for subsequent generations of women painters. The work of Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) probably presents the most complex form of the portrait, particularly the self-portrait, in the exhibition. Kahlo’s self-portraits are unmistakable representations of the artist, yet they do not attempt to capture the real self. Rather, they are highly constructed self-portraits, but no less authentic for being so. A new section of the exhibition begins with Marlene Dumas (b. 1953), followed by Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) and Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965), as contemporary portraiture takes center stage with three very different positions. Common to all three artists is the fact that their perception and experience of reality are shaped and influenced by mass media and the power of its imagery. Each of their approaches to portraiture expresses this in a different way.
Exhibition Catalogue: 9 Women Artists and Their Models. Edited by Theodora Vischer. Fondation Beyeler, Basel, and Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, Germany
Marlene Dumas Featured in the Inaugural Exhibition, Ouverture
May 22–December 31, 2021
To celebrate its recent opening the Bourse de commerce, Pinault Collection presents its inaugural exhibition, Ouverture (Opening), which features some 200 works by thirty-two contemporary artists, ranging from paintings, sculptures, and video to installations, photography, and performance art.
This remarkable show features in the vast central rotunda an ensemble of wax candle sculptures by Urs Fischer, the main sculpture being a reproduction of The Rape of the Sabine Women (1579–1583) by Giambologna. High up in the rotunda are several pigeons that look down from atop by artist Maurizio Cattelan. The presentation makes use of all ten exhibition spaces and showcases in situ works throughout—inside and outside. The first floor of the building is the photography gallery featuring works by Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince. The works of two African-American artists will be displayed. According to reports, François Pinault has acquired thirty pieces by David Hammons over nearly forty years and this the first time that this rare ensemble of works will be on view in their entirety. Works by Kerry James Marshall will be displayed on the second floor which is dedicated to paintings.
The section on painting, which began with the three monumental portraits by artist Rudolf Stingel, continued throughout the galleries on the second floor and perfectly showcases the choices of the inaugural exhibition. Furthermore, the architectural features of the building are shown to their advantage: the transparency, natural light, dual-aspect views and curvature of the walls, all of which constitute the singularity of this space. The unusual layout, mixed from the point of view of genre, origins, and cultures, is open to all generations of artists: those born in the 1950s (Marlene Dumas, Thomas Schütte, Miriam Cahn, and Kerry James Marshall), artists born in the late 1970s (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye), the 1980s (Florian Krewer, Xinyi Cheng, Claire Tabouret, and Antonio Oba), and the 1990s (Ser Serpas).
Marlene Dumas included in Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago
February 29–September 13, 2020
Nigerian-born British designer Duro Olowu turns his cosmopolitan eye to Chicago. Drawing from the city’s public and private art collections including works in the MCA’s collection, Olowu curates a show that reimagines relationships between artists and objects across time, media, and geography. Moving away from traditional exhibition formats, Olowu combines photographs, paintings, sculptures, and films in dense and textural scenes that incorporate his own work.
Through the selection of these artworks, Olowu highlights artists whose practices address the prevailing social and political concerns of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Artists primarily concern themselves with making art but time and time again have asserted themselves as citizens who engage with the social and political world. The Trophy (2013), a painting by South African artist Marlene Dumas (b. 1953), depicts a naked female prisoner restrained by guards, highlighting aspects of misogyny and colonialism. American artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) sets a butcher's shop against a background of surrealist battle sites in North/South: The New Legionnaires (1986) to offer parallels between how both war and disease ravage human bodies.
Marlene Dumas’s work was on view as part of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi, India. A recent series of twenty small-scale watercolors collectively titled Vocabulary (2018) is inspired by the eroticism of Indian miniature paintings. Depicting creatures including a snake, a snail, a bird, and a cricket, human features such as an eye and lips, kissing figures, and a body modeled after the Venus of Willendorf sculpture, the series portrays its subjects in physically and emotionally primal conditions. Dumas describes this series of "small, inconsequential moments, objects and beings" as an attempt to "quieten our personal demons as well as those of the world around us."
Curated by Indian artist Anita Dube and titled Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life, the 2018 edition of the biennial was conceived in a spirit of ongoing, decentralized collaboration. "At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeship,” Dube stated, "where the possibilities for a non-alienated life could spill into a ‘politics of friendship.’" Focused on portraying the human form, Dumas’s work probes the complexities of identity and representation, exploring the ambiguous boundaries between public and private.
"While the fourth edition [of the biennial] will go down as one with many firsts," Priyadershini S wrote in The Hindu, "what I am most excited about is KMB’s first female curator, Delhi-based Anita Dube, and the fact that over 50% of participating artists are women, making it the majoritarian voice.… Some of the headliners are Austrian artist Valie Export with her radical body art, South African Marlene Dumas … and Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera."
Dumas is also the subject of an extensive interview in the current issue of 032c magazine. Titled "Things Fall Together and You Could Maybe Call It Grace"—a phrase the artist once used to describe how she discovered herself through her practice—the article features Dumas in conversation with curator and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist and the fashion designer Virgil Abloh. "I never do something just for the politics," the artist says of her ongoing Great Men portrait series, which includes figures such as James Baldwin, Derek Jarman, and Alan Turing and evolves according to where it is exhibited. Dumas also talks about her Venus & Adonis illustrations which were presented in the solo exhibition Myths & Mortals at David Zwirner New York in 2018, as well as her public art projects, such as the altarpiece she created for St. Anne’s Church in Dresden in 2017. Asked, in conclusion, what her advice to young artists would be, Dumas answers, "Fall in love! With whomever or whatever."
Image: Marlene Dumas, Vocabulary, 2018 (detail)
September 29, 2018–January 13, 2019
“I have always said that I wish to paint love stories, and here Munch did just that, many years before me.” —Marlene Dumas
A major exhibition featuring paintings and works on paper by Marlene Dumas and Edvard Munch (1863–1944) was held at the Munch Museum in Oslo. Moonrise: Marlene Dumas & Edvard Munch was the first curatorial project for Dumas, who examined more than one hundred works in the museum’s collection—in collaboration with curator Trine Otte Bak Nielsen—to make her selection. She also included paintings and drawings by her contemporary René Daniëls, who, as she explained, “taught me how to see Munch.”
Two series formed the core of this exhibition that encompasses themes of innocence, sexuality, metamorphosis, and death: Munch’s Alpha and Omega prints from 1908, and Dumas’s Venus and Adonis drawings (2015-2016). Over the course of twenty-two black-and-white lithographs, Alpha and Omega tells the tragic story of a fantasy battle of the sexes between the first humans on an island and their encounters with its animals and flora. (The title of the exhibition nods to an early, Eden-like scene in which the couple sit watching the moon rise over the water.) Dumas first saw these works in 1981 on a visit to the museum and was drawn to Munch’s depiction of humankind and nature, subjects she examines in her series of thirty-three watercolors based on Shakespeare’s narrative poem Venus and Adonis (1593). Tender and erotic with hints of violence, Dumas’s drawings depict the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and her tragic passion for the handsome youth Adonis. These singularly expressive ink wash drawings were first on view in Myths & Mortals, the artist’s recent solo exhibition at David Zwirner New York.
During the course of the exhibition, Cinematek in Oslo hosted a series of related films, also curated by Dumas. She spoke at Cinematek about the influence of film on her work on October 21.
March 29–October 30, 2017
As part of I Am Me—a season exploring art, gender and identity at the National Portrait Gallery—wo portraits by contemporary artist Marlene Dumas (b. 1953) of Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) and Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), also known as ‘Bosie’, are featured on display. These portraits are based on nineteenth-century photographs and were originally exhibited as part of Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison (2016) an installation developed by Artangel that responded to Wilde’s time in Reading. The portraits are exhibited here to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality and are resonant of the conflict that existed between public and private identities in the Victorian era. Dumas's work explores constructions of identity, often probing questions of gender, race, and sexuality.
Oscar Wilde is one of the most significant writers, dramatists, and poets of the late nineteenth-century. His relationship with Bosie, which took place when male homosexuality was illegal, led to his incarceration in Reading Prison between 1895 and 1897. Wilde’s final works, De Profundis (1897, published 1905) and The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) emerged from the profoundly affecting experience of his imprisonment.
I have been a fan of Oscar Wilde ever since I can remember. As a writer of great wit, his combination of intelligence and humour is unique. He was imprisoned at Reading for two years for loving the beautiful, untrustworthy 'golden boy' Bosie. I have painted Wilde before the entry into the prison that destroyed his life and tried to show him less as a proud author and more as a vulnerable man in relation to the young lover who led to his tragic end.
—Marlene Dumas, Amsterdam, 2017
Marlene Dumas wins the Hans Theo Richter Prize
Marlene Dumas has been awarded the 2017 Hans Theo Richter Prize for art by the Saxon Academy of Arts (Sächsische Akademie der Künste) in Dresden. Dumas is the 11th recipient of the annual prize, which was founded by the widow of the artist Hans Theo Richter.
Dumas was presented with the prize, which was reported in Dresden Magazin, on November 23, 2017. Upon receiving the award, the artist announced that she would donate the $23,000 prize to a scholarship program at Dresden’s Kupferstich-Kabinett in support of young artists. Read more in Artforum.
Two concurrent exhibitions and an altarpiece by the artist were on view in Dresden through January 14, 2018.
November 23, 4PM
Accompanying concurrent presentations of the artist's work in Dresden—Marlene Dumas. Skulls at the Albertinum and Marlene Dumas. Hope and Fear at The Kupferstich-Kabinett—Kathleen Reinhardt and Björn Egging discussed Dumas's work at the city's Staatliche Kunstsammlungen.
A 36-part work created from 2011-2015, Skulls was exhibited following the unveiling of a mural by Dumas in St. Anne's Church on Dresden's Freiberger Platz in March 2017. Hope and Fear presented 50 of the artist's works on paper at The Kupferstich-Kabinett. This exhibition ran parallel to the show Käthe Kollwitz in Dresden, also at the Kupferstich-Kabinett.
Concurrent Presentations of Marlene Dumas’s Work in Dresden
March 2017 saw the unveiling of a mural by Marlene Dumas in St. Anne's Church on Freiberger Platz in Dresden. Dumas's painting replaces the original altarpiece painted by Osmar Schindler in 1910, which was badly damaged during World War II. News of the commission was published in The Observer. Following the unveiling of the altarpiece, Marlene Dumas. Skulls (October 17, 2017–January 14, 2018, Albertinum, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister) presented this 36-part work created from 2011–2015.