Marlene Dumas’s work is currently 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, this year’s edition of the biennial has been conceived in a spirit of ongoing, decentralized collaboration. "At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeship,” Dube states, "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 writes 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."
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 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.
Image: Marlene Dumas, Venus with the Body of Adonis, 2015–2016 (detail). © Marlene Dumas
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. Further details about the exhibitions and a related talk can be found here.
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.
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.