Artists Bill Viola, Marina Abramović, Bruce Nauman, Steve McQueen, Abraham Bloemaert, Roeland Saverij, Jan van Scorel, Dirck van Baburen, Gerard van Honthorst
Date 08.10.22 - 15.01.23
Curator Bart Rutten
Venue Centraal Museum Utrecht
All images Courtesy by the artists and Kramlich Collection
Double Act brings together two major collections, spanning centuries and media, to explore universalities in creative expression and the human condition: breathtaking installations of media art from the internationally renowned collection of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and 17th-century masterworks from the Centraal Museum’s holdings. With works by contemporary artists including Bill Viola, Marina Abramović, Bruce Nauman, and Steve McQueen, paired and presented with paintings by Hendrick Goltzius, Paulus and Johannes Moreelse, and the Utrecht Caravaggisti painter Dirck van Baburen among others, Double Act is a tribute to the power of imagination and expression, inviting audiences to experience each artwork beyond its respective media. The path-breaking exhibition reveals formal affinities in image production, including the artists’ manipulation of the technical effects of light and dark, and of stasis and movement, as it simultaneously explores how artists through the ages have addressed enduring social themes, including the impact of imperialism and war, and the desire for emancipation.
“It has always been a dream of mine to pair paintings from the Dutch Great Masters with contemporary video art. With the Kramlichs’ collaboration, it has finally become a reality,” said Bart Rutten, Artistic Director of the Centraal Museum.
Added Pamela Kramlich, “I consider video artists to be key figures in a longer art history; they respond to issues of our time while investigating human perception and the human condition.”
Highlights of the exhibition include Marina Abramović’s iconic performance and video work, Art must be beautiful, Artist must be beautiful (1975), in which the artist aggressively brushes her hair while repeating the phrases of the artwork’s title. This work is presented alongside the lush 17th-century paintings of Dutch women depicted by Van Honthorst and Van Bronckhorst as coy, voluptuous, and alluring; the juxtaposition dramatizes Abramovic’s critique of the male gaze in art history and its construction of female beauty.
Another poignant pairing in the exhibition is Richard Mosse’s ambitious video installation The Enclave (2013), alongside Hendrik ter Brugghen’s painting Mars asleep (1629). Mosse’s installation comprises six projections of soldiers — waiting, yet ready for combat —underscoring the constant threat and harrowing conditions of an endless war. Similarly, Brugghen’s painting depicts the god of war in the guise of a sleeping Dutch soldier, with a precautionary hand clutching his sword. An allegorical representation of the fleeting period of peace during the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain, the painting speaks to the exhaustion that war inflicts on societies and the fragility of peacetime during which war can awaken at any moment.
Other major works on view from the Kramlich Collection include Raw Material – Ok, Ok, Ok (1990) by Bruce Nauman; The Crossing (1996) by Bill Viola; Returning A Sound (2004) by Allora and Calzadilla; and Just Above my Head (1996) and Lynching Tree (2013) by Steve McQueen. These works are joined by a major installation Expecting (2001 – 2004) by Pipilotti Rist from the Centraal Museum’s collection — which features works by Roelant Saverij and Jan van Scorel, also on show in the exhibition — as well as two additional 17th-century paintings by Hendrick ter Brugghen on loan from the Rijksmuseum.