Marlene Dumas Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It

06.10 – 14.11.2012 Marlene Dumas Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It

Zachęta National Gallery of Art

curator: Hanna Wróblewska
cooperation: Katarzyna Kołodziej

The exhibition of works by Marlene Dumas marks the first presentation of this outstanding artist in Poland (not counting the episodic participation in the Second Triennial of Drawing in Wrocław in 1981). Rather than a comprehensive retrospective, this exhibition developed in collaboration with the artist, focuses on a number of themes present in Dumas’ rich output. Although Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It takes as its point of departure the artist’s early works – drawings and collages from the first half of the 1980s – the show also includes recent paintings. Its title, borrowed from one of Dumas’ first works, can be read as a fitting commentary to the whole of her practice.

Dumas’ paintings do not lend themselves to one-line definitions, although, at the same time, they seem to offer critics a whole number of keywords, not to say clichés, which are widely used in interpreting both painting as well as contemporary art in general. These include politics and feminism, gender and engagement, iconographic and stylistic tropes from the history of art and film, direct and indirect quotes, painterly representations of that which was already processed in cinema, photography, etc. –  to name but a few. Each of these concepts is correct in the above context and, at the same time, none of them fully grasps the essence. Love and hate, tenderness and cruelty, innocence and guilt, sanctity and blasphemy, life and death – such ambivalence seems to dominate the descriptions of Dumas’ works. Eros and Thanatos, sex and death, eroticism and pornography. Presented in groups, her paintings often come into a dialogue, or violent conflicts, with each other – even though they are separated by a massive white wall or an empty space. Varying in scale – from three meters to merely several dozen centimeters – either too big or too small, too vivid or too grey, they are never neutral in relation to the surrounding space. They never seem ‘fully at home’, eluding the aesthetic of the white cube.

Sometimes, the figures in the paintings-portraits meet, forming matching pairs in the exhibition space. Mother and son. Mamma Roma and Pasolini. Pasolini and his mother. Pasolini and Christ. A child and a corpse. Christ and Osama bin Laden, dead Céline and Emily alive. The landscape and the body. The image of the Rondanini Pietà from Milan, a reference to Michelangelo and his unfinished work, a form left undeveloped in the stone material, seems to be an imperfect, or deficient pair – one without a match. The images of women in the artist’s early collages from the 1980s, also featured in the exhibition, seem as similar deficient pairs. These are the wives of the imprisoned, missing, or murdered fighters and political leaders from Africa and the Americas (among them Coretta Scott King, Ntsiki Biko, and Hortensia Bussi).

Dumas’ painting has always inspired strong reactions among critics – from hostility to adoration, from undisguised dislike to delight. It rarely leaves one indifferent. Her art is not a tale, but a bold artistic statement which is, at the same time, a call to action. A call for a fulfillment – a live reaction, a passionate feeling, rather than just (though not necessarily excluding) cool-headed calculation.

Perhaps the missing match to Dumas’ art, the second half of the pair – one that is accounted for but not represented – is the viewer?

And love hasn’t got anything to do with it.
Hanna Wróblewska

Marlene Dumas was born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa. Having studied Fine Art at the University of Cape Town she left for the Netherlands in 1976. At that point, as she herself admits, Dumas was more interested in contemporary American art (Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman), rather than European, and especially Dutch art, which she saw as related with history, and history of art. Dumas had won a scholarship to Ateliers ’63 in Haarlem, an art school established in the 1960s for artists by artists tired with the mass and superficial education at the state academies (now ateliers ’63 is known as de Ateliers and is located in Amsterdam, while Dumas is one of the tutors). Since the 1980s the artist has been working with Galerie Paul Andriesse in Amsterdam. Gaining increasing recognition from critics, art circles, and audiences, and establishing herself as an accomplished artist, Dumas became an icon of contemporary Dutch art. In 1995, along with Maria Roosen and Marijke van Warmerdam, Dumas presented her work in the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Art. She also participated in the Documenta 7 and 9 in Kassel. In the years 2008–2009 a comprehensive retrospective show of her work Measuring Your Own Grave travelled across the US (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Menil Collection, Houston). Today, Dumas is among the most acclaimed painters in the world, represented additionally by, among others, Zeno X Gallery (Antwerp) and David Zwirner Gallery (New York). Dumas is currently working on a large scale exhibition for Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2013), Tate Modern, London (2014) and The Beyeler Foundation in Basel.

In October this year the artist will receive the 2012 Johannes Vermeer Award, a state prize awarded to outstanding artists working in the Netherlands across all disciplines.

Marlene Dumas works with painting, drawing and gouache, as well as writes texts which often serve as a personal commentary to her visual works.

based on:

Exhibition under honorary patronage of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherland in Poland.
Exhibition supported by Mondriaan Fund


Related media
  • Grafika obiektu: Marlene Dumas. Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do
    mediateka / folders / Texts
    Marlene Dumas. Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do
    Folder accompanying the exhibition
  • Grafika obiektu: Marlene Dumas Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It
    mediateka / posters
    Marlene Dumas Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It
  • Grafika obiektu: Marlene Dumas
    mediateka / video-documentation
    Marlene Dumas
    Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It


Marlene Dumas
Love Hasn’t Got Anything To Do With It
06.10 – 14.11.2012

Zachęta National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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sponsors of the gallery: Lidex, Netia
sponsors of the opening reception: DeLonghi, Kenwood, Blikle, Freixenet, Kinga Pienińska
media patronage: Gazeta Wyborcza, Polskie Radio, The Warsaw Voice, Stolica, PANI,