Exhibition — Fall 2021

With the exhibition ‘Kirchner and Nolde: Expressionism. Colonialism’, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam sheds light on a hitherto unexplored aspect of the work of these two prominent artist: the close connection between the work they created between 1908 and 1918 and the colonial reality in which it originated. This major exhibition is an active attempt to illuminate the interplay between Expressionism and colonialism — a new perspective.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde are famous for their unconventional portrayals of people, landscapes and objects rendered in bold colours and energetic brushstrokes. It is the first-ever exhibition that addresses how their themes and ideas were shaped by the framework of colonialism, through which the artists encountered non-European peoples and art. Both artists drew and painted objects in ethnographic museums, and staged situations with performers of colour. Kirchner in particular painted black models in studio environments, while Nolde travelled to Papua New Guinea to paint and draw the people and landscape. It is the story of the appropriation of another visual culture and, by scrutinising the way in which people are portrayed, also confirms a racist world view.

Not only does the exhibition lay out the artists’ art historical backgrounds, wherever possible it also tells the stories of the people and objects portrayed. Shown alongside paintings, drawings and sculptures by Kirchner and Nolde, are works by artists from other parts of the world and documentary material that dates from the period between 1884 and 1918.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Seated Woman with Wooden Sculpture (Sitzende Frau mit Holzplastik), 1912. Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

*During the Bruce Nauman exhibition (running until 24 October 2021), there’s an additional one-off surcharge of €3.

This exhibition is the culmination of four years of research in close collaboration with the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen and a group of external experts. The following experts participated in the advisory group at various stages:

Lisa Hilli (an artist whose practice explores the politics of cross-cultural identity), Nancy Jouwe (cultural historian specialising in racism and intersectionality, and one of the co-founders of Framer Framed), Susan Legêne (Professor of Political History at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (VU)), Dr. Erna Lilje (Junior Curator for Western New Guinea at the National Museum of Worldcultures), Michael Mel (Curator Oceania at the Australian Museum in Sidney and professor at the University of Goroka in Papua New Guinea), Prof. Dr. Birgit Meyer (cultural anthropologist and professor of Religious Studies at Utrecht University), Wayne Modest (Director of Content for the National Museum of Worldcultures and professor of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies (by special appointment) at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (VU)), Yvette Mutumba (curator-at-large at the Stedelijk and co-founder & editor-in-chief of the art magazine Contemporary And (C&)), Jeftha Pattikawa (project leader Inclusion for the Nationaal Archief in The Hague), Mariska ter Horst (independent museum curator, art historian), Dr. Anke Tonnaer (cultural anthropologist at Radboud University, Nijmegen), Dr. Fanny Wonu Veys (curator Oceania for the National Museum of Worldcultures)

The exhibition ‘Kirchner and Nolde: Expressionism. Colonialism’ is realised with the generous support of the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne. The exhibition is a co-production of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Statens Museum for Kunst, National Gallery of Denmark and is curated by Beatrice von Bormann (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) and Dorthe Aegesen (Statens Museum for Kunst).