Archive: Issue No. 124, December 2007

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Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas

Magdalena (Newman's Zip) 1995
Oil on canvas
300 x 100 cm

Marlene Dumas

The First People 1991
Oil on canvas
180 x 90 cm each

Marlene Dumas

Fingers 1999
Oil on canvas
40 x 50 cm

Marlene Dumas

The Teacher (sub a) 1987
Oil on canvas
160 x 200 cm

Marlene Dumas

Barbie 1995
Watercolour on paper
66 x 50 cm

Marlene Dumas

Helena 1992 Oil on canvas
62 x 50 cm

Marlene Dumas

Moshekwa 2006
130 x 120 cm

by Sue Williamson (December, 2007)


'Art is a lie that makes us realise truth', said Picasso, and perhaps this has never been as true as when applied to the work of the internationally famous painter, Marlene Dumas. Taking as her source material photographs from an eclectic range of media, from family snapshots to news journals and porno magazines, Dumas paints her way into the very essence of the image, using it to work out an idea which the artist has conceived. The painting that emerges almost invariably engages the viewer at a deeply visceral and emotional level, with a power that far transcends the photographic original. The spotlight of her gaze upon her subject is clear and merciless, yet tender and ambiguous.

Her 1991 series, First People, portrays four dyspeptic babies, each almost two metres high. Originally photographed from above as they lay on their backs, now painted vertically, the babies, with their cross faces, distended bellies, flailing arms and scrawny little legs radiate a furious energy. The artist has jammed them into the picture frame like dolls in boxes which are slightly too small, thus increasing, as she often does, the level of discomfort.

Another case in point: Dumas' monochromatic watercolour portraits. I do not believe there is another artist, living or dead, who has been able to master to the same instinctive level the art of the diluted black ink wash on paper, painting wet on wet, the features of the portrait sometimes barely suggested with a swift black flick or swirl, yet devastatingly accurate, instantly recognisable as a particular human being. In her studio, Dumas lines sheets of paper up on the floor, working from one to the next. Often, these portraits will be shown as large scale grids of images, such as The Next Generation, a series of 66 images donated to Iziko, the South African National Gallery.

Cape Town born, studying at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Dumas left for the Netherlands after graduation to study further at the Ateliers 63 in Haarlem. She has been living in Holland ever since, though her links to her homeland remain strong, and her support of local artists and art institutions like the SANG and the Constitutional Court art collection have been steadfast.


'I am an artist who uses secondhand images and firsthand experiences.'

'My people were all shot by camera, framed before I painted them. They didn't know I'd do this to them'

The more I paint and draw, or rather, the more exhibitions I have, the less I feel like talking about them beforehand, or explaining them afterwards'

'All the white artists want to be black. I can't pretend I'm not stuck with snowwhite as my name.'

'At the moment my art is situated between the pornographic tendency to reveal everything and the exotic inclination to hide what it's all about.'

Quotes from 'Sweet Nothings', Notes and text, Marlene Dumas, (1998)


Dumas' first solo show in her home country opened at the SANG in November � and the fact that this had never happened before would be surprising only if one did not understand how in demand Dumas is internationally, and how very limited funds are in South Africa for bringing in art from abroad. Curated by Emma Bedford, sponsored by the Standard Bank, (and reviewed by Virginia MacKenny in this edition), 'Intimate Relations' brings together more than 60 works, painted in watercolour and oil, and also puts on display for the first time old papers and artschool sketches ferreted out from Dumas' family home.


Dumas' 'Before that's' are too numerous to mention, with her long list of museum shows and biennials at the very highest level. See her cv below. But one might perhaps look at the moment in February 2005, when Dumas hit art news headlines worldwide. On an auction at Christie's in London, two competing bidders drove the price of The Teacher (sub a) up to an astonishing $3.34 million, setting a world record for an artwork by a woman artist � and about 10 times the gallery price of the artist's new paintings at the time.

Commented Carol Kino in the New York Times in an article on Dumas' popularity at auction, 'Aside from testifying to the market's heat, the price spike suggests what is sought after in art today � her work intermingles high and pop-cultural imagery and touches on favoured hot buttons, from politics to female sexuality to race. Her overall subject can be construed as the ambiguity of the pictorial image, a major critical talking point right now.'


A full schedule of international exhibitions includes solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.


Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1953
B.A. Fine Art, University of Cape Town, 1972--1975
Ateliers '63, Haarlem, Netherlands, 1976--1978
Lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands


2007 'Broken White', MOT, Tokyo; MIMOCA, Marugame, Japan
2006 'Man Kind', Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam
2005 'Female', Kunsthalle Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; Nordic Watercolour Museum Sk�rhamn,
Sweden; Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden
'Selected Works', Zwirner and Wirth, New York
2004 'The Second Coming', Frith Street Gallery, London
'Con Vista al Celestiale' (with Marijke van Warmerdam), Montevergini,
Syracuse, Italy
'Hin und Weiter', BAWAG Foundation, Vienna
2003 'Marlene Dumas: Time and Again', The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
'Marlene Dumas: Wet Dreams', St�dtische Galerie Ravensburg
'Suspect', Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Venice
2002 'Name No Names', De Pont Stichting voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Tilburg; New Museum of
Contemporary Art, New York
'Time and Again', Galerie Zeno X, Antwerp
2001 'Nom de Personne', Mus�e National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
'All is Fair in Love and War', Jack Tilton/Anna Kustera Gallery, New York
'One Hundred Models and Endless Rejects', Institute of Contemporary Art,
2000 'MD', Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp; Camden Arts Centre,
London; Henie-Onstad Art Centre, H�vikodden, Oslo
'strippinggirls' (with Anton Corbijn), Theaterinstituut, Amsterdam;
S.M.A.K., Ghent
1999 'M D: Light', Frith Street Gallery, London
1998 'Miss World', Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam
'Fantasma', Funda��o Calouste Gulbenkian, Centro d'Art Moderna, Lisbon
1997 'Wolkenkieker', Produzentengalerie, Hamburg
1996 'Marlene Dumas', Tate Gallery, London
'Pin-up', Museum het Toreke, Tienen, Belgium
'Youth and Other Demons', Gallery Koyanagy, Tokyo
1995/96 'Models', Salzburger Kunstverein; Portikus, Frankfurt am Main; NGBK, Berlin
1995 'The Particularity of Being Human: Francis Bacon/Marlene Dumas', Malm¨o;
Konsthall, Sweden; Castello di Rivoli, Turin
1994 'Chlorosis', Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
'Not from Here', Jack Tilton Gallery, New York
'Manneransichten', Kunst-Station Sankt Peter, Cologne,
1993 'Give the People What They Want', Galerie Zeno X, Antwerp
'Marlene Dumas', Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn; ICA, London
1992 'Miss Interpreted', Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Institute of
Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
Selected Group Exhibitions: 2007 'The Painting of Modern Life', Hayward Gallery, London
2006 'Afrika Remix', Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
'Essential Painting', The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
2005 'The Experience of Art', Biennale di Venezia, Venice
'The Triumph of Painting: 20th Anniversary Exhibition of the Saatchi Collection',
The Saatchi Collection, London
'Drawing from the Modern, 1975�2005' MoMA, New York
2004 'Afrika Remix', Zeitgen�ssische Kunst eines Kontinents, Museum Kunst Palast,
'In Bed: Images from a Vital Stage', Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Tokyo
2003 'Happiness', Mori Art Museum, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo
'(In Search of) The Perfect Lover', Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany; MDD,
Deinze, Belgium
2002 'Loud and Clear', video production Ryuichi Sakamoto, Marlene Dumas, Erik Kessels,
Stedelijk Bureau Amsterdam, Amsterdam
2001 'Painting at the Edge of the World', Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
2000 'Shanghai Biennial', Shanghai Art Museum, China
'Mixing Memory and Desire', Neues Kunstmuseum, Luzern
1999 'Trouble Spot Painting', Muhka, Antwerp
1998 'Examining Pictures', Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Museum of
Contemporary Art, Chicago
'Regarding Beauty', Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC
1998 'Eight People from Europe', The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma, Japan
'Szenenwechsel XIII', Museum f�r Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main
'Examining Pictures, Exhibiting Paintings', Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Museum of
Contemporary Art, Chicago
1996 'Floating Images of Women in Art History', Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Art, Japan
1996 'Distemper: Dissonant Themes in the Art of the 1990s', Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture
Garden, Washington DC
1995 'Africus: Johannesburg Biennial', Johannesburg, South Africa
'XLVI Biennale di Venezia', Dutch Pavilion, Venice, Italy
'Ripple across the Water', Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
'Carnegie International', The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
1994 'Du concept a l'image', Mus�e d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
1993 'Der zerbrochene Spiegel', Messepalast und Kunsthalle, Vienna, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg
1992 'Documenta IX', Kassel

Selected Bibliography

The following list includes monographic publications and magazine articles only. Exhibition catalogues are not included in this list.

2006 Steve McQueen, 'Steve McQueen | Caresses (The Finger and the Eye: A Conversation
between Steve McQueen and Marlene Dumas
)', Cat. MIMOCA, Marugame, Japan
2005 Ernst van Alphen, Art in Mind: How Contemporary Images Shape Thought, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press
Carol Kino, 'And then her number came up', New York Times, 27 March 2005
Massimo Gioni, 'Marlene Dumas, ton visage demain: your face tomorrow',
Artpress, November 2005
'The power 100', ArtReview, November 2005
2004 Robert Enright, 'The fearless body', Border Crossings, no. 91, 2004
Dumas, Marlene, 'The right to be silent ( a conversation on elitism and accessibility)',
Frieze, January/February 2004
2003 Emma Dexter, 'Painting fear', Modern Painters, Autumn 2003
2002 Valerie Breuvart (ed.), Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, New York: Phaidon Press
2001 Simona Vendrame, 'Marlene Dumas', Tema Celesta Contemporary Art, November/
December 2001
Wendy Steiner, The Trouble with Beauty, New York: Random House
1999 Dominic van den Boogerd, Barbara Bloom and Mariuccia Casadio, Marlene Dumas,
London: Phaidon Press
Adrian Searle, 'I'm a dirty woman. That's why I paint', The Guardian (London),
30 March 1999
1998 Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings: Notes and Texts, edited by Mariska van den
Berg, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij de Balie
Gavin Jantjes, A Fruitful Incoherence: Dialogues with Artists on Internationalism, London:
Institute of International Visual Arts
1997 Jonathan Turner, 'Sometimes clever, sometimes smutty', Artnews 96, no. 1, January 1997
1994 Barry Schwabsky, 'Marlene Dumas', Artforum 33, no. 2, October 1994
Dan Cameron, 'Marlene Dumas', Frieze, November/December 1994
1993 Ulrich Loock, Ingrid Schaffner, Anna Tilroe and Marina Warner, Parkett, no.38


Sanell Aggenbach
(Sept 2005)

Alan Alborough
(July 2000)

Jane Alexander
(July 1999)

Siemon Allen
(June 2001)

Bridget Baker
(March 2006)

Emma Bedford
(March 2007)

Willie Bester
(Aug 1999)

Ralph Borland
(Jan 2006)

Willem Boshoff
(Aug 2001)

Conrad Botes
(Dec 2001)

Andries Botha
(April 2000)

Wim Botha
(April 2003)

Kevin Brand
(June 1998)

Candice Breitz
(Oct 1998)

Lisa Brice
(Jan 1999)

Lisa Brice
(Oct 2007)

Jean Brundrit
(March 2004)

Angela Buckland
(Mar 2003)

Pitso Chinzima
(Oct 2001)

Marco Cianfanelli
(Aug 2002)

Julia Rosa Clark
(July 2005)

Peter Clarke
(Sept 2003)

Steven Cohen
(May 1998)

Keith Deitrich
(July 2004)

Paul Edmunds
(Feb 2004)

Leora Farber
(May 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(April 2002)

Bronwen Findlay
(Sept 2006)

Pierre Fouché
(Sept 2007)

Tracy Lindner Gander
(April 2004)

Kendell Geers
(June 2002)

Linda Givon
(Dec 1999)

David Goldblatt
(Dec 2002)

Thembinkosi Goniwe
(Oct 2002)

Frances Goodman
(Aug 2006)

Dan Halter
(July 2007)

Brad Hammond
(Jan 2001)

Randolph Hartzenberg
(Aug 1998)

Kay Hassan
(Oct 2000)

Matthew Hindley
(Sept 2004)

Nicholas Hlobo
(June 2006)

Stephen Hobbs
(Dec 1998)

Robert Hodgins
(June 2000)

Pieter Hugo
(April 2006)

William Kentridge
(Nov 2007)

William Kentridge
(May 1999)

Isaac Khanyile
(Nov 2001)

David Koloane
(July 2003)

Dorothee Kreutzfeld
(Jan 2000)

Terry Kurgan
(Aug 2000)

Moshekwa Langa
(Feb 1999)

Chris Ledochowski
(June 2003)

Kim Lieberman
(May 2003)

Mandla Mabila
(Aug 2001)

Churchill Madikida
(May 2004)

Veronique Malherbe
(June 1999)

Mustafa Maluka
(July 1998)

Thando Mama
(June 2004)

Senzeni Marasela
(Feb 2000)

Colbert Mashile
(May 2006)

Brent Meistre
(May 2005)

Santu Mofokeng
(July 2002)

Zwelethu Mthethwa
(April 1999)

Samson Mudzunga
(Oct 2004)

Zanele Muholi
(Dec 2006)

Thomas Mulcaire
(April 2001)

Brett Murray
(Sept 1998)

Hylton Nel
(Feb 2002)

Karel Nel
(Oct 1999)

Sam Nhlengethwa
(Oct 2003)

Walter Oltmann
(July 2001)

Jay Pather
(Dec 2004)

Malcolm Payne
(Nov 2002)

Tracy Payne
(March 1998)

Peet Pienaar
(Dec 2000)

Jo Ractliffe
(Mar 1999)

Robin Rhode
(Nov 1999)

Colin Richards
(Aug 2003)

Tracey Rose
(March 2001)

Ruth Sacks
(Oct 2006)

Claudette Schreuders
(Sept 2000)

Berni Searle
(May 2000)

Berni Searle
(Jan 2003)

Usha Seejarim
(May 2001)

Penny Siopis
(Sept 1999)

Cecil Skotnes
(July 2006)

Kathryn Smith
(Dec 2003)

Dave Southwood
(March 2002)

Doreen Southwood
(Sept 2002)

Nathaniel Stern
(Feb 20006)

Greg Streak
(Feb 2001)

Mikhael Subotzky
(Aug 2007)

Guy Tillim
(Jan 2005)

Clive van den Berg
(Nov 1998)

Hentie van der Merwe
(Mar 2000)

Strijdom van der Merwe
(Jan 2002)

Storm Janse van Rensburg
(June 2005)

Minnette Vári
(Feb 1998)

Nontsikelelo 'Lolo' Veleko
(Feb 2007)

Andrew Verster
(May 2007)

Diane Victor
(Feb 2003)

Vuyile Voyiya
(Aug 2005)

Jeremy Wafer
(Nov 2000)

James Webb
(Aug 2004)

Sue Williamson
(Nov 2003)

Ed Young
(Nov 2005)

Billie Zangewa
(June 2007)

Mlu Zondi
(Nov 2006)