Palazzo Grassi
 
« La Pelle.
Luc Tuymans »
 
<a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Jonas Storsve</b><br> <span style="display: none;"> Keeper of the <br/> Cabinet d’art graphique <br/> Musée national d’art moderne </span>
 
“La Pelle” (its title borrowed from Curzio Malaparte’s 1949 novel) is a survey of the work of Luc Tuymans (born in 1958 in Mortsel, lives and works in Antwerp), conceived by the artist with Caroline Bourgeois. It is the eighth “carte blanche” that the Pinault Collection has extended to a major artist as part of its program of monographic exhibitions presented in its Venice museums, and includes a new work created for the atrium of Palazzo Grassi. The non-chronological organization of the exhibition reveals the artist’s recurrent obsessions: Nazism, the manipulation of images, the power of light, utopia and dystopia, the real and the fake.



<span class="alinea"></span>Venice has become a familiar territory for Flemish painter Luc Tuymans. In 2001, his exhibition “Mwana Kitoko (Beautiful White Man),” which focused on Belgium’s painful colonial past in the current Democratic Republic of Congo, was presented at the Belgian pavilion during the 49<sup>th</sup> Venice Biennale. Two years later, Tuymans was included in the exhibition “Pittura/Painting: From Rauschenberg to Murakami, 1964–2003,” part of the 2003 Biennale. Tuymans was quite naturally included in “Where Are We Going?,” the inaugural exhibition at Palazzo Grassi following its restoration, undertaken under the aegis of François Pinault, in 2006; he was also present when Punta della Dogana opened its doors, in 2009, with “Mapping the Studio.” As with major monographs of the works of Rudolf Stingel, Martial Raysse, Sigmar Polke, and Albert Oehlen, this retrospective presents Tuymans with the opportunity to display his work in the entirety of Palazzo Grassi’s spaces. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Beginning in the late 1980s, and even more so since the early 1990s, Tuymans led European painting in a new direction, away from the Transavangarde and neo-expressionist movements of the early 1980s. He created a new form of history painting, depicting tragic scenes, often linked to the Second World War and the Holocaust, and based on historic photographs. Working often in polyptics or series, he used a palette of dull, almost faded colors in his cinematographic compositions, applying paint in a distinctive way, by quick touches, creating flat, small canvases. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Regular exhibitions—first at the Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, then at David Zwirner Gallery in New York, both of whom he still works with to this day—introduced his work to enlightened private collectors and museum curators. Among the most important institutional exhibitions of his early years were those at the Kunsthalle in Bern (1992), the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld (1993), the Renaissance Society in Chicago, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1994). Representing his country at the 2001 Venice Biennale contributed significantly to Tuymans’ international acclaim; since then, his work has been celebrated in museums around the world. Over time, his technique evolved. While he has stayed committed to the color palette of his early work, his application of paint has become more fluid, even pointillist at times. Most striking is his investment in larger formats: one of his first monumental works, <i>Untitled (Still Life)</i>, created in 2002, is nearly 3.5 meters wide and 5 meters tall! Inspired by a still life by Paul Cézanne, this work was first presented at documenta 11 (2002). In it, Tuymans explicitly questions—less than a year after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—the relationship between art and politics, thereby confirming his attachment to his conception of contemporary history painting, which, rather than describing an event in exhaustive detail, seeks to evoke it indirectly, through a portrait or an object. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Curated in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition “La Pelle” brings together works from throughout Tuymans’ career—a significant number of which are part of the Pinault Collection—each canvas accorded ample breathing room, in an aerated hanging (often featuring a single work on a given wall) meant to encourage visitors to wander at a slower pace. Rather than following a strict chronological order, the paintings are organized in such a way as to highlight the stylistic evolution and overall conceptual coherence of Tuymans’ work. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The title chosen by Tuymans, “La Pelle” (“the skin,” in English), refers to the eponymous book by writer Curzio Malaparte, published in 1949, set during the liberation of Naples by American troops and the eruption of Vesuvius in 1944. On reflection, this title could serve as a metaphor for painting, that viscous material which, as it dries, forms on the canvas “the deepest part of man”: skin.
<i>Secrets</i>, 1990 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 52 × 37 cm
<i>Schwarzheide</i>, 2019<br/>  Marble mosaic (based on the 1986 eponymous oil-on-canvas painting) <br/> Fantini Mosaici, Milan <br/> 960 × 960 cm
<i>Mountains</i>, 2016 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 283 × 187,5 cm
<i>Turtle</i>, 2007 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 368 × 509 cm
<i>Pigeons</i>, 2018 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 97,8 × 90,5 cm
<i>Untitled (Still Life)</i>, 2002 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 347 × 500 cm <br/> — <br/> <i>William Robertson</i>, 2014 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 50 × 37,5 cm
<i>Hut</i>, 1998 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 123,2 × 115,2 cm
<i>Corso II</i>, 2015 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 195,5 × 152,5 cm <br/> — <br/> <i>Dirt Road</i>, 2003 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 153,5 × 127 cm
<i>Niger</i>, 2017 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 180,7 × 236 cm <br/> — <br/> <i>Twenty Seventeen</i>, 2017 <br/>  Oil on canvas <br/> 94,7 × 62,7 cm
 

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