Michael Borremans: The Acrobat | David Zwirner
A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans  titled The Double, dated 2022

Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat

David Zwirner is pleased to announce The Acrobat, an exhibition of new paintings by Michaël Borremans (b. 1963), taking place at the gallery’s 525 West 19th Street location in New York. This will be the artist’s seventh solo exhibition with the gallery and his first in New York since 2011.

Many of Borremans’s new works are realized on an intimate scale that draws the viewer into them. This play with scale is further explored through their featured imagery: enigmatic scenes of groups of figures looking at what appear to be rectangular, sealed display cases. Depicted from an elevated vantage point, the characters and settings seem staged, as though they are miniature models rather than real figures. These scenes are presented alongside portraits that both honor and subvert the historical associations of the genre. In this recent body of work, Borremans continues to explore surface and artifice in his careful consideration of mise-en-scène, combining technical mastery with subject matter that defies straightforward interpretation.

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Image: Michaël Borremans, The Double, 2022 (detail)

A photo of Michaël Borremans by Alex Salinas

Michaël Borremans. Photo: Alex Salinas

Michaël Borremans. Photo: Alex Salinas

“I try to be introspective in painting, to have a certain silence in the image.… I want to create an image that just sticks out and doesn’t leave you alone. That could also be due to something irritating I put into the work, or an element of beauty. It can be both.”


—Michaël Borremans

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled With Animals, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

With Animals, 2021
Oil on wood panel
7 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (19.4 x 24.9 cm)
Framed: 15 1/4 x 17 inches (38.7 x 43.2 cm)

“To describe Borremans’s masterworks, a riff on Jan van Eyck is gorgeously unoriginal. Borremans anticipates the lineage in which critics and historians will place him, then sends those comparisons down a rabbit hole. In a neat model of the evolution of art, Borremans’s work is a mutant in a five-piece suit: an evasive omnivore that devours van Eyck with as much pleasure as it does Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, and Francis Bacon.” —Katya Tylevich

Unless otherwise noted, texts throughout are excerpted from Tylevich’s catalogue essay in the forthcoming David Zwirner Books publication Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, 2022.

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches (19.5 x 24.4 cm)
Framed: 15 x 16 7/8 inches (38.1 x 42.9 cm)
A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021

Michaël Borremans, Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), 2021 (detail)

Michaël Borremans, Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), 2021 (detail)

“It is the vitrine, and not the human, that is the recurring character across The Acrobat’s landscape paintings, which really aren’t landscapes.… The Acrobat’s concepts are related to Rosa (2017), a large-scale sculpture in the snowy mountains of Gstaad, Switzerland, that depicts a hooded human figure … planted headfirst in the snow, bare feet bowing above the bystander.”

A Photo by Stefan Altenburger of Michaël Borremans, Rosa, 2017.

Michaël Borremans, Rosa, 2017. Courtesy LUMA Foundation. Photo: Stefan Altenburger

Michaël Borremans, Rosa, 2017. Courtesy LUMA Foundation. Photo: Stefan Altenburger

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
6 3/8 x 10 1/8 inches (16.1 x 25.8 cm)
Framed: 14 x 17 3/8 inches (35.6 x 44.1 cm)

“Notice the distance at which the onlookers gaze at the vitrines, as if the contents might tumble out and crush them. Yes, these are paintings made across two years of a global pandemic, and an allegory of isolation leaps out in a puff of confetti. Then again, Borremans’s works have always cautioned against standing too close.”

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021

Michaël Borremans, Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), 2021 (detail)

Michaël Borremans, Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), 2021 (detail)

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Fog (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Fog (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
8 3/8 x 12 1/8 inches (21.3 x 30.8 cm)
Framed: 15 3/4 x 19 3/8 inches (40 x 49.2 cm)

“At first you expect a narrative, because the figures are familiar. But then you see that some parts of the paintings don’t match, or don’t make sense … the work switches between an aspect of the absurd and a romantic connotation.”


—Michaël Borremans

Installation view Michael Borreman The Acobat dated 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Cutter, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Cutter, 2022
Oil on canvas
14 1/8 x 11 3/4 inches (36 x 30 cm)

The Acrobat’s (so-called) portraits initially register as cohesive and sane, anchored by familiar symbols, such as the human face and torso, and the tranquilized postures of religious icons.…

 

Like the paintings themselves, the titles are a hazy amalgam of the present (pilot) and timeless (witch), fantastical and ordinary, dangerous and funny, charmed and cursed. These references all dwell in the same enchanted forest, declaring neutrality.”

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Double, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Double, 2022
Oil on canvas
14 3/8 x 11 3/4 inches (36.5 x 29.9 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Apprentice, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Apprentice, 2022
Oil on canvas
21 x 16 5/8 inches (53.3 x 42.2 cm)
A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled The Apprentice, dated 2022

Michaël Borremans, The Apprentice, 2022 (detail)  

Michaël Borremans, The Apprentice, 2022 (detail)  

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans  titled The Double, dated 2022

Michaël Borremans, The Double, 2022 (detail)

Michaël Borremans, The Double, 2022 (detail)

“Of the ‘portraits,’ The Witch (2022) is the most obvious visual misfit.… He is the most terrestrial of the characters, average in his build and trappings, but he carries the most otherworldly designation. The painting mummifies him in a pose reminiscent of a patron saint.”

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Witch, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Witch, 2021
Oil on canvas
27 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches (70.2 x 60 cm)

“When Kazimir Malevich, in the 1930s, abandoned abstractionism under duress and made figurative portraits, including a self-portrait, he cast some figures in similarly pious poses. These later works are commonly interpreted unironically, as an about-face from abstraction to representation.”

A painting by Kazimir Malevich, titled Self-portrait, dated 1933

Kazimir Malevich, Self-portrait, 1933, oil on canvas, 73 x 66 cm (28.7 × 25.9 in), Collection of the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

Kazimir Malevich, Self-portrait, 1933, oil on canvas, 73 x 66 cm (28.7 × 25.9 in), Collection of the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans  titled The Witch, dated 2021

 Michaël Borremans, The Witch, 2021 (detail)

 Michaël Borremans, The Witch, 2021 (detail)

“It is unlikely that Borremans is directly quoting Malevich, but his work is so exhilaratingly permeable that disparate references easily pass through and live within it comfortably. The artist revels in unexpected interpretations. (Malevich, by the way, also painted faceless, masked, and hooded figures.)”

Installation view Michael Borreman The Acobat dated 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Pilot, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Pilot, 2021
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 34 5/8 inches (120 x 88 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Acrobat, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Acrobat, 2021
Oil on canvas
27 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches (70.2 x 60 cm)

“For the person who breezes past titles, ignores museum didactics, and sees a collection of images as purely visual, it is reasonable to understand The Acrobat as portraits of automatons in the off mode.… The artist’s expressionistic deepfake is his subjective, sensitive ability to depict human life while simultaneously suggesting the absence of a beating heart.”

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled The Pilot, dated 2021

 Michaël Borremans, The Pilot, 2021 (detail)

 Michaël Borremans, The Pilot, 2021 (detail)

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled The Acrobat, dated 2021

Michaël Borremans, The Acrobat, 2021 (detail)

Michaël Borremans, The Acrobat, 2021 (detail)

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Racer, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Racer, 2022
Oil on canvas
22 1/4 x 17 3/4 inches (56.5 x 45.1 cm)

“The temperament in this body of work is something different. It is nervous. Borremans says that in comparison to his other works, ‘The Acrobat has a different psychological depth.’”

A detail of a painting by Michaël Borremans titled The Racer, dated 2022

Michaël Borremans, The Racer, 2022 (detail)

Michaël Borremans, The Racer, 2022 (detail)

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Commuter II, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Commuter II, 2022
Oil on canvas
15 1/4 x 12 3/4 inches (38.7 x 32.4 cm)

“[Painting] is a historically charged medium. I wanted to use that weight of history in my work.… It’s like a hammer: you can replace the material of a hammer with modern technology but the function stays ever the same. Painting is highly rudimentary; it has always existed and always will.”


—Michaël Borremans

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

Installation view, Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat, New York, 2022

Michael Borreman: The Acrobat, David Zwirner Books

Michaël Borremans: The Acrobat


Accompanying the exhibition is a new David Zwirner Books publication with text by Katya Tylevich, excerpted throughout this page.

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Inquire about works by Michaël Borremans

A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled With Animals, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

With Animals, 2021
Oil on wood panel
7 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (19.4 x 24.9 cm)
Framed: 15 1/4 x 17 inches (38.7 x 43.2 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

Five Writers (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches (19.5 x 24.4 cm)
Framed: 15 x 16 7/8 inches (38.1 x 42.9 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

Milk (or The Acrobat) (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
6 3/8 x 10 1/8 inches (16.1 x 25.8 cm)
Framed: 14 x 17 3/8 inches (35.6 x 44.1 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Fog (Design for a Sculpture), dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Fog (Design for a Sculpture), 2021
Oil on wood panel
8 3/8 x 12 1/8 inches (21.3 x 30.8 cm)
Framed: 15 3/4 x 19 3/8 inches (40 x 49.2 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Cutter, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Cutter, 2022
Oil on canvas
14 1/8 x 11 3/4 inches (36 x 30 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Double, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Double, 2022
Oil on canvas
14 3/8 x 11 3/4 inches (36.5 x 29.9 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Apprentice, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Apprentice, 2022
Oil on canvas
21 x 16 5/8 inches (53.3 x 42.2 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Witch, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Witch, 2021
Oil on canvas
27 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches (70.2 x 60 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Pilot, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Pilot, 2021
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 34 5/8 inches (120 x 88 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Acrobat, dated 2021.

Michaël Borremans

The Acrobat, 2021
Oil on canvas
27 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches (70.2 x 60 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Racer, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Racer, 2022
Oil on canvas
22 1/4 x 17 3/4 inches (56.5 x 45.1 cm)
A painting by Michaël Borremans, titled The Commuter II, dated 2022.

Michaël Borremans

The Commuter II, 2022
Oil on canvas
15 1/4 x 12 3/4 inches (38.7 x 32.4 cm)

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          The Acrobat

          Michaël Borremans

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