Exhibition — 25 Nov 2018 until 7 Apr 2019

This autumn, the Stedelijk Museum dedicates six galleries to the exhibition ‘Spirits of the Soil’ by Raquel van Haver. Especially for this exhibition Van Haver will produce a new series of monumental paintings. The exhibition at the Stedelijk is Van Haver's first solo exhibition at an Amsterdam museum.

Van Haver refers to her work as ‘loud’ paintings that sympathetically portray people on the fringes of society. 

Favelas, barrios and slums

In this new series, Raquel van Haver (1989, Bogotá, Colombia) gives an expressive and raw form to her experiences in Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighborhood while reflecting on the time she spent in the barrios and favelas of larger cities in the Caribbean, Latin America, and other regions; areas that often arose as a consequence of the African diaspora. Van Haver is interested in the social dynamics of such neighborhoods, where multiple cultures and generations coexist and struggle to get by. Life in these areas is chaotic, unpredictable, and not without danger. Van Haver recently spent considerable time in Lagos, Nigeria. There she engaged in friendships with slum residents, communities, and gangs – the “spirits of the soil.” Van Haver made sketches and pictures of daily life in the slums: how people pass the time, converse, or eat and drink.

Straat (diptych), 2015. Courtesy Jack Bell Gallery, London

In Amsterdam the photographs and drawings came to form the basis for a new series of figurative compositions. The paintings carry a highly specific sense of form and a broad material complexity. They are monumental, collage-like constructs painted on jute fabric, layer by layer, using plaster, oil paint, spray paint, plastics, charcoal, tar, paper, ashes, and hair. Some parts of the image surface appear almost molded and grow into reliefs, while adjacent areas are marked by a sparseness akin to drawing. Van Haver's dynamic figuration, dark palette, and expressive style recall the figural compositions of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco and forms of street art such as graffiti, but also the sinister realism of American painter Leon Golub. As with Orozco and Golub, her work communicates an empathy with groups situated at the margins of society. With her self-described “loud” painting practice, she gives them a central place in culture. Raquel van Haver lives and works in Amsterdam Zuidoost.

"Eating and drinking is the main connecting factor in these communities. The meal is the moment when everyone comes together and exchanges news, and when the social order is established."

— Raquel van Haver


While the artist usually works in a small studio in the base of a classic flat building in the Bijlmer, for her Stedelijk Museum exhibition, van Haver was able to use a large space in the studio of National Opera and Ballet in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Through this opportunity she was able to create paintings on a much larger scale.

The studio of the National Opera and Ballet was provided to Raquel van Haver at the request of CBK Zuidoost. Since 2001, the Stedelijk Museum and CBK Zuidoost have been partners in the residency programme BijlmAIR, which provides young international artists an opportunity to work in Amsterdam


In 2017, the Dordrechts Museum awarded Raquel van Haver “De Scheffer,” a Dutch prize in recognition of young art talent. In 2012, 2013 and 2016 she was nominated for the Royal Award for Modern Painting. Van Haver was recently shortlisted for the Wolvecampprijs, a national biannual award for painting. The winner will be announced on 29 September 2018.


The exhibition Raquel van Haver: ‘Spirits of the Soil’ is curated by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, curator at the Stedelijk Museum, and opens during the Amsterdam Art Weekend 2018.

The exhibition is part of the 50 Jaar Bijlmer manifestation, with support from CBK Zuidoost.


The Stedelijk Museum continuously presents dynamic solo exhibitions by a young generation of artists. Many of these are new productions and recent purchases that tie in with the museum’s acquisitions policy. The Stedelijk seeks to respond to current events and stimulate contemporary talent by, in some cases, also taking on the position of commissioner. Its commitment to developing lasting relationships with young artists shapes the future identity of the museum’s collection.

Raquel van Haver – Spirits of the soil is generously supported by Ammodo.