Exhibition — 1 Apr until 16 Jul 2023
General Idea is a groundbreaking Canadian artist group that in the 70’s and 80’s was renowned for their satirical approach to the deconstruction of the media and the art world. The exhibition is the largest-ever survey of their oeuvre, comprised of large sculptures and installations, paintings, videos and publications, archival material – and their signature wallpapers.
Pop Art to the next level
General Idea consisted of Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson and came to an end in 1994, with the untimely deaths of Partz and Zontal of AIDS. General Idea critiqued popular media and the art world through witty and visually arresting artworks. General Idea took on mass media, consumer culture, queer identity, the art economy, social inequality, and the AIDS epidemic with their unique brand of ‘serious humor’: a subversive and absurdist approach to language and imagery, always with an earnest intent. General Idea can be seen as pioneers of ‘creative activism’; their practice of inserting their artwork directly into the public sphere, as they did with their AIDS posters, laid the groundwork for conceptually driven activist engagement for a new generation of artists.
Pop Art to the next level
General Idea, like their Pop Art contemporaries, fully embraced mass media, always spinning it with their satirical and critical messages. Their involvement with all kinds of mass media was unprecedented for artists. General Idea always encouraged the public to interact with their work playfully, through mail art, in museums, and on the street.
The biggest-ever survey at the Stedelijk
Thanks to its special relationship with General Idea, the Stedelijk can now present the largest-ever survey of their oeuvre. In 1979, the Stedelijk was the first museum in the world to host an exhibition of their work and began collecting it. Because of this history, General Idea came to consider Amsterdam as their ‘second home’ and gifted the Stedelijk a large part of General Idea’s archive in 2018, making the museum a major knowledge center for their work. With over 300 works, this traveling exhibition’s stop in the Netherlands is a second homecoming for General Idea.
General Idea touches upon subjects of queerness, sexuality, and HIV/aids in their art. Are you looking for information concerning sexuality? Visit www.sexualiteit.nl. Have you had sex and have complaints that could be caused by an STI and looking for more information? Visit www.soaaids.nl. This website provides information about all types of STIs, where you can get tested and what you can do to prevent them. (Dutch only)
General Idea also drew attention to the AIDS crisis, among other things. Two members of this group of artists have died of AIDS. In the month of May, the Stedelijk will donate the proceeds from the donation column and online donation button to the AIDS fund.
The exhibition General Idea is organized by the National Gallery of Canada in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Curated by Adam Welch, National Gallery of Canada, and Beatrix Ruf for the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
General Idea is generously supported by Fonds 21, the benefactors of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands and the Mondriaan Fund.
Header image: General Idea, Infe©ted Mondrian #2, 1994, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Acquired with the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund and the International Collector Circle and Curator Circle of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds. General Idea, AIDS (Wallpaper), 1990. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired with the generous support of the Vereniging Rembrandt and the latters Titus Fonds. Joint acquisition of Centraal Museum, Utrecht, and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Image 1: General Idea, P is for Poodle, 1983/89, Royal Bank of Canada © General Idea. Photo: General Idea Archives, Berlin, courtesy the artist. Image 2: General Idea, AIDS, 1987. Met dank aan Blondeau & Cie. © General Idea. Foto: Blondeau & Cie. Other images: General Idea, Fruits de Mer, 1992 – 1994. Courtesy the artist. General Idea, INFE©TED Mondrian #7, 1994. Collection Drs. Chung-Wai Chow anf John R. Wright. INFE©TED Mondrian #3, 1994. Collection James Brenzel and Lisa Dinnick. INFE©TED Mondrian #2, 1994. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired with the generous support of the Mondrian Fund and the International Collector Circle and Curator Circle of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds, 2019. General Idea, AIDS Sculpture, 1989/2021. Courtesy Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin. General Idea, Fin de Siècle, 1990. Graci Collection. General Idea, One Month of AZT, 1991. Private collection. Achrome (Manzoni) #2, 1993. Courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Photos: Peter Tijhuis. © General Idea.
Campaign and print design Armand Mevis, Kinetic animation So-Yeon Kim. Image credits animation: see credits header img. + General Idea, P is for Poodle, 1983/89, Royal Bank of Canada © General Idea. Photo: General Idea Archives, Berlin, courtesy the artist. General Idea, AIDS, 1988. Art Gallery of Ontario. © General Idea. General Idea, AIDS “gewinnen und helfen”, 1989. National Gallery of Canada. © General Idea.