Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business | Viewing Room | David Zwirner

The Belgian artist Luc Tuymans (b. 1958) has long been invested in the relationship between moving and static images. Drawing has been central to Tuymans’s practice from the start, and he has periodically made short animated clips from his paintings and drawings over the course of his decades-long career. As is common in the artist’s practice, the images presented here are rendered equally from history as they are from film stills, magazines, and iPhone photos. Created during the pandemic, these works are further mediated through the lens of the internet and restricted access to the outdoors.

A photograph of Luc Tuymans in his Studio, dated 2020

Luc Tuymans at his studio in Antwerp, 2020. Photo by Mieke Verbijlen for T Magazine's Artist Questionnaire

Luc Tuymans at his studio in Antwerp, 2020. Photo by Mieke Verbijlen for T Magazine's Artist Questionnaire

Inquire about works from this Online Viewing Room

“I work from a reaction upon images that are already represented because I believe nothing is really original.”

—Luc Tuymans

An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper in five (5) partsby Luc Tuymans, titled Orchid (Seconds IV), dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Orchid (Seconds IV), 2020
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper in five (5) parts, and animated video, 4 seconds (loop), colour, silent

Each sheet: 9 7/8 x 7 1/4 inches (25 x 18.5 cm)
Each framed: 18 1/8 x 13 3/4 inches (46 x 35 cm)

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans, dated 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

The emblematic, muted qualities of Tuymans’s well-known paintings—a cool detachment, verging on unease—carry into his animations. He presents seemingly innocuous subject matter that, on closer inspection, might reveal a condensed representation rooted in political critique. Tuymans playfully casts his disenchantment in a series of translucent, fuzzy, delineated objects and figures, directing attention back to the medium itself.

An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper, titled Orchid, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Orchid, 2020
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper

11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)
Framed: 20 7/8 x 16 3/4 inches (53.3 x 42.7 cm)

Tuymans has returned to the image of the orchid, as he is drawn to its complexity and innate sensuality. Seen here is the artist’s Orchid (1998), which details a bright green sprig of the plant, heightening its artifice. Likewise, the flower in the animation is set against a filmic black backdrop, adding a further cinematic dimension and sense of artificiality to the work.

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans, dated 2019

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: La Pelle, 2019, Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: La Pelle, 2019, Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

A detail from a painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Orchid, dated 1998

Luc Tuymans, Orchid, 1998 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Orchid, 1998 (detail)

“Breaking up our certainties, using the fragmentary and inadequate as forces in a world that values efficiency and strength, is what Tuymans achieves above all.”

—Éric de Chassey,
in Luc Tuymans: Good Luck

A charcoal drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Italy, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Italy, 2020
Charcoal on paper
22 5/8 x 30 1/8 inches (57.5 x 76.5 cm)
Framed: 24 1/2 x 32 inches (62.2 x 81.4 cm)
A painting by Giorgio di Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico, Turinese Melancholia; Malinconia Torinese, c.1938–1940
Photo © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

Giorgio de Chirico, Turinese Melancholia; Malinconia Torinese, c.1938–1940
Photo © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

Italy (2020) looks at a normally bustling square in Venice during lockdown. Not unlike Giorgio de Chirico’s barren, alienating Italian cityscapes, this otherwise generic scene is overlaid with a play button, foregrounding our restrained connection through the two-dimensional space of our screens.

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans at David Zwirner London, dated 2021.

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans at David Zwirner Paris, dated 2021.

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

A colored pencil drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Tulip, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Tulip, 2020
Colored pencil on paper

37 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches (96 x 64 cm)
Framed: 39 5/8 x 27 1/8 inches (100.8 x 68.8 cm)

When Tuymans was a child, he had a mechanical toy monkey with a cymbal in each hand. The toy appears in an animated work he created in the 1980s, in which the monkey is set ablaze. The burning monkey is also the basis of his seventeen-second 2020–2021 animation Monkeys.

An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper in six parts by Luc Tuymans, titled Monkeys, dated 2020 to 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Monkeys, 2020-2021
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper in six (6) parts, and animated video, 17 seconds (loop), colour, silent

Each sheet: 8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches (21 x 29.7 cm)

Framed: 22 5/8 x 42 3/8 inches (57.5 x 107.5 cm)

A painting by Peter Breugel the Elder, titled Two Chained Monkeys, dated 1562

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Two Chained Monkeys,1562. Photo: Jörg P. Anders
Gemaeldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Two Chained Monkeys,1562. Photo: Jörg P. Anders
Gemaeldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany

Tuymans’s animation also intentionally recalls the 1562 painting Two Chained Monkeys, by the Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The curious painting of two animals looking out on Antwerp’s harbor has been read as a provincial political cartoon or wry commentary on the artist “aping” nature by virtue of the creative act of imitation.

“This is the way I work: I really premeditate, so that when I start I don’t have to think about it anymore . . . . I have to prepare myself mentally, but there’s a moment where the intelligence goes from my head to my hands.”

—Luc Tuymans

An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Candy, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Candy, 2020
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper

11 5/8 x 8 1/4 inches (29.5 x 21 cm)
Framed: 21 5/8 x 17 1/2 x inches (55 x 44.4 cm)

A detail from a drawing by Luc Tuymans, titled Candy, dated 2020

Luc Tuymans, Candy, 2020 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Candy, 2020 (detail)

A detail from a painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Container, dated 2019

Luc Tuymans, Container, 2019 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Container, 2019 (detail)

Tuymans often returns to the subjects of his canvases many years later. He has worked with confections in the past, as seen in his previous paintings, Candy (2000) and Container (2019). The latter work is based on an iPhone photo of the empty packaging of a mass-marketed jelly candy he had eaten and discarded.

“Tuymans is less interested in representation than in evocation, or how his images are activated by both individual experience and the collective unconscious.”

—Jameson Fitzpatrick, in The New York Times

A colored pencil and watercolour drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Library, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Library, 2020
Colored pencil and watercolor on paper

25 1/4 x 37 3/4 inches (64 x 96 cm)
Framed: 27 1/8 x 39 5/8 inches (68.8 x 100.8 cm)

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans at David Zwirner London, dated 2021.

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, London, 2021

A charcoal and watercolour drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Breker, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Breker, 2020
Charcoal and watercolor on paper

29 7/8 x 22 1/2 inches (76 x 57 cm)
Framed: 31 7/8 x 24 3/8 inches (80.9 x 61.8 cm)

A detail from a drawing by Luc Tuymans, titled Breker, dated 2020

Luc Tuymans, Breker, 2020 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Breker, 2020 (detail)

A photograph of a bust by Arno Breker

Arno Breker, Frau Speer (detail), from the book Arno Breker. Sechzig Bilder

Arno Breker, Frau Speer (detail), from the book Arno Breker. Sechzig Bilder

Breker (2020) is based on a bust by Arno Breker, a German sculptor known for having been endorsed by the authorities of Nazi Germany. Tuymans has revisited devices from Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in his paintings on occasion. Their subject, however, is not the atrocities themselves, but the way they are ultimately integrated into historical narrative and collective memory.

“[Tuymans] provides avenues for reconsidering emotions, morals, and understandings of history in an unstable world: this opportunity for examination is the most profound conceptual contribution of Tuymans’s practice.”

—Su Wei, in Luc Tuymans: Good Luck

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans, dated 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Monkey Business, David Zwirner, Paris, 2021

An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Small Numbers (7), dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Small Numbers (7), 2020
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper
11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)
Framed: 18 5/8 x 14 3/4 inches (47.4 x 37.4 cm)
An acrylic ink drawing on polyester tracing paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Small Numbers (8), dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Small Numbers (8), 2020
Acrylic ink on polyester tracing paper

11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.7 x 21 cm)
Framed: 18 5/8 x 14 3/4 inches (47.4 x 37.4 cm)

“During these days of pandemic, numbers have taken on a different meaning: on one hand, they portray the idea of piling up; on the other, they imply a countdown to an end.”

—Luc Tuymans

A gouache drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Reflection, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Reflection, 2020
Gouache on paper

37 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches (96 x 64 cm)
Framed: 39 5/8 x 27 1/8 inches (100.8 x 68.8 cm)

A detail from a painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Me, dated 2011

Luc Tuymans, Me, 2011. The Broad, Los Angeles

Luc Tuymans, Me, 2011. The Broad, Los Angeles

While portraits feature prominently within his oeuvre, the artist seldom appears in his own work. In Me (2011), Tuymans is seen sitting in a chair donning reflective glasses. He considers the 2020 drawing, Reflection to be a portrait of his own mirrored image at the bottom of a vase with leaves.

A photograph of Luc Tuymans in his Studio, dated 2020

Luc Tuymans at his studio in Antwerp, 2020. Photo by Mieke Verbijlen for T Magazine's Artist Questionnaire

Luc Tuymans at his studio in Antwerp, 2020. Photo by Mieke Verbijlen for T Magazine's Artist Questionnaire

Tuymans created a series of six black-and-white portraits in 2018–2019, some of which were based on photographs of forensic facial reconstruction sculptures taken by the American artist Arne Svenson. Others were sourced from reconstructed images of people who have disappeared that Tuymans found on a police website.

The artist’s 2020 drawing Anonymous is composed from a photographic frame of the in-progress 2018 painting by the same name. Both works depict an individual who in may or may not exist in reality, imbued with an uncanny presence.

A gouache work on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Anonymous, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Anonymous, 2020
Gouache on paper

33 1/8 x 23 1/4 inches (84 x 59 cm)
Framed: 34 7/8 x 25 1/8 inches (88.8 x 63.8 cm)

A detail from a drawing by Luc Tuymans, titled Malaparte, dated 2020

Luc Tuymans, Malaparte, 2020 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Malaparte, 2020 (detail)

Malaparte (2020) is related to an earlier work that depicts a fireplace at the Villa Malaparte in Capri, Italy. Rather than illustrate the villa’s iconic vistas, Tuymans focuses on the dark, formal qualities of this isolated interior space.

A charcoal drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Malaparte, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Malaparte, 2020
Charcoal on paper

37 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches (96 x 64 cm)
Framed: 39 5/8 x 27 1/8 inches (100.8 x 68.8 cm)

The work captures a sense of melancholy and nostalgia, which likewise characterizes the 1963 Jean-Luc Godard film Le Mépris, which takes place at the villa and which serves as a reference for the 2015 painting by Tuymans.

A film still from Le Mepris by Jean Luc Godard

Jean Luc Godard, Le Mépris, 1963, Film Still. Photo courtesy Bridgeman Images

Jean Luc Godard, Le Mépris, 1963, Film Still. Photo courtesy Bridgeman Images

A painting by Lu Tuymans, titled Le Mepris

Luc Tuymans, Le Mépris, 2015

Luc Tuymans, Le Mépris, 2015

“[Tuymans] has put his finger on problems of our time by referring to past events or to current ones without depicting them.”

—Hendrik Driessen, De Pont Museum director

A graphite work on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Study, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Study,

2020

Graphite on paper
6 7/8 x 8 1/8 inches (17.5 x 20.6 cm)
Framed: 20 x 20 1/2 inches (50.9 x 52 cm)

“What could be meaningful? Because that’s the most important thing: it has to be meaningful for me, otherwise I can’t make it.”

—Luc Tuymans

A charcoal and watercolour drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Floor, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Floor, 2020
Charcoal and watercolor on paper

37 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches (96 x 64 cm)
Framed: 39 3/4 x 27 1/8 inches (100.9 x 68.8 cm)

A charcoal and watercolour drawing on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Bat, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Bat, 2020
Charcoal and watercolor on paper

37 3/4 x 25 1/4 inches (96 x 64 cm)
Framed: 39 5/8 x 27 1/8 inches (100.8 x 68.8 cm)

A charcoal and watercolour work on paper by Luc Tuymans, titled Study, dated 2020.

Luc Tuymans

Study, 2020
Charcoal and watercolor on paper

13 1/4 x 11 3/8 inches (33.5 x 29 cm)
Framed: 31 7/8 x 24 1/2 inches (81.2 x 62.2 cm)

An installation view featuring works by Luc Tuymans, dated 2019

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: La Pelle, 2019, Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: La Pelle, 2019, Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

Inquire about Works by Luc Tuymans

    Read More Read Less

      Read More Read Less

          Inquire

          To learn more about this artwork, please provide your contact information.

          By sharing your details you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
          This site is also protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

          Inquire

          To learn more about available works, please provide your contact information

          By sharing your details you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.This site is also
          protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.