Surreal: photographs from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
12 February – 15 May 2011
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has a rich and varied collection of photography numbering almost a thousand works. This exhibition brings together photographs from different periods under the title ‘Surreal’. It shows in an associative manner how artists, like Inez van Lamsweerde, Wally Elenbaas and Hiroshi Sugimoto, have used the medium of photography to conflate reality and fiction.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has never collected photography as a distinct medium but as an integral part of its collection of modern and contemporary art. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has the Netherlands’ largest collection of Surrealism, acquired since the 1960s, including an important group of Surrealist photographs in addition to paintings, drawings and sculptures by artists such as Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Max Ernst. The museum’s collection also contains various more recent works by Dutch and foreign artists who have employed the medium of photography to represent their dreams, obsessions and fears. The theme ‘Surreal’ affords an opportunity to establish playful links within such a diverse collection of photography.
The surreal body
In modern and contemporary art the body is no longer sacrosanct and often serves as a vehicle to excite or even disturb the viewer. And so the human body plays an important role in this exhibition. Artists such as Inez van Lamsweerde, Wally Elenbaas and Paul Kooiker fragmentise and undermine the body in their work: sometimes we see isolated body parts, rendering the model lifeless. Van Lamsweerde combines sexuality with childlike innocence to create photographs that are uncanny and disconcerting. She digitally manipulates her model’s bodies so that they conform to the demands of the fashion world.
In the work of Hans Bellmer, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Cindy Sherman we do not encounter real bodies, but objects that are photographed as if they are living creatures. Mannequins and dolls are a favourite motif. Hans Bellmer attempted to transform the doll into a real woman in order to live out his fantasies. In her ‘Sex Pictures’ Cindy Sherman seeks to confront this same sexual fantasy by rendering it ridiculous. In her photographs, the doll becomes a porn actress: apparently flesh and blood.
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