Isa Genzken: Mach Dich Hübsch!
29 Nov 2015 - 6 Mar 2016

Largest retrospective ever in the Netherlands of one of the most influential artists of the last forty years. The exhibition is the first comprehensive retrospective of Isa Genzken’s work. 

Isa Genzken (1948) is an artist prepared to risk everything in her pursuit of artistic renewal. Her oeuvre is rooted in the medium of sculpture, and is distinguished by a constantly evolving visual language and the unconstrained use of media. Genzken’s work encompasses sculpture, installation, film, video, painting, work on paper, collage, and photography. In the 1970s, she produced computer-designed sculpture in relation to American Minimalism and Conceptual Art. These sculptures were followed by one radical step after another.

I always wanted to have the courage to do totally crazy, impossible, and also wrong things.
(Isa Genzken, 1994) 

The innovativeness and inventiveness of her work, rich in autobiographical elements and subtle comments on society, serve as a reference point and source of inspiration for generations of artists and art lovers. The survey at the Stedelijk presents a broad spectrum of Genzken’s work, from her early films, drawings, ellipsoids, and concrete sculptures to complex narrative collages and assemblage-tableaux integrating everyday objects, which over the last ten years brought a renewed sense of urgency to her work.

“Glamcult loves German artist Isa Genzken for her unorthodox vision of the world around us.” - Glamcult

The exhibition, which occupies both the upper galleries of the new wing and half of those of the Stedelijk’s historic building, offers a dynamic framework for Genzken’s unorthodox vision of the world around us. The presentation highlights themes such as modernity, the human body, the portrait, urban culture, and architecture.

Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum, says about the artist: “Radically inventive in her oeuvre since her early computer-calculated abstract sculptures in the mid-1970s to the assemblages of her latest body of work, Isa Genzken has proven to be one of the most influential artists challenging her artistic media and continuously redefining their aesthetics. Genzken is an unstoppable inspiration for many artists, especially for recent generations. This exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum – one of the most extensive surveys ever presented in an institution – will present an important figure who has an enormous influence on the young artists with whom the Stedelijk has close relationships. The exhibition underlines the Stedelijk’s mission to acquaint significant artistic figures with a larger audience.

The Stedelijk Museum first acquired work by Isa Genzken in 1985, and recently purchased the painting Zwei Lampen (1994), which was the first artwork Beatrix Ruf acquired for the Stedelijk collection.

Isa Genzken: Mach Dich hübsch! is curated by Beatrix Ruf and Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen.

Public program

Friday Night, March 4
Ode to Isa

A panel of fans, critics, artists and connoisseurs will reflect on Genzken’s work.
Language: Dutch
Location: Audi gallery 0.1 

More info and reservations

Stedelijk|forum, Jan 2016 – Mar 2016

Isa Genzken through the eyes of...
Language: Dutch and English
Location: Exhibition galleries
More dates and speakers will be announced soon

  • Melanie Bonajo, artist, Jan 15, 2016
  • Arno van Roosmalen, director STROOM The Hague, Jan 22, 2016
  • Valentijn de Hingh, model, writer and DJ, Jan 29, 2016
  • Cas Hieltjes, musician and lead-singer Go Back to the Zoo, Feb 12, 2016
  • Willem de Rooij, artist, Feb 19, 2016


The retrospective is accompanied by a special artist’s publication entitled Mach Dich hübsch! The Stedelijk Museum is also co-initiator of the first catalogue raisonné on Genzken’s work, the first part of which will be published to coincide with the exhibition tour.


Isa Genzken studied art history and fine art in Hamburg, Cologne, and Berlin, and completed her studies at the art academy in Düsseldorf. Genzken’s work has been featured at Documenta in Kassel (2002) and the Venice Biennale (German Pavilion, 2007). In the Netherlands, she held a solo exhibition of her work at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in 1989. Her first German retrospective was staged at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and traveled to Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. In 2013, her first comprehensive survey exhibition toured America, appearing at the MoMA, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Dallas Museum of Art. The artist lives and works in Berlin.

This exhibition is made possible with leading support of Stichting Hartwig Foundation, the LUMA Foundation and support of a private donor.


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