News — 23 Jan 2021

The Stedelijk Museum is rounding off the acclaimed exhibition In the Presence of Absence with the purchase of a number of works by seven artists. The exhibition is part of the biennial project Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions, which invites artists or designers who live and work in the Netherlands to submit work in response to an open call. This edition presents a selection of artworks and design projects that question the idea of collective knowledge by presenting stories that are unseen, ignored, or deserve to be told more often within public institutions. From the group exhibition, the Stedelijk will purchase work from the following artists: Remy Jungerman, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Ahmet Öğüt, Farida Sedoc, Ghita Skali, Jennifer Tee and Gilleam Trapenberg.

Installation view In the Presence of Absence. Proposals for the museum collection. Remy Jungerman, 'PROMISE IV', 2018–2019 (left) and Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, 'Sing Like the Southerners Do', 2019 (right). Photo Peter Tijhuis.

Rein Wolfs, director of the Stedelijk Museum: “The acquisition of work by these seven artists expands the collection with stories that have not yet become embedded within collective knowledge institutions such as museums. The work of these artists stands alone, but also offers alternative ways of reading the Stedelijk collection. The Municipal Art Acquisitions budget the museum receives every two years from the Municipality of Amsterdam and the additional support of our patrons ensure that we can continue to serve as a platform for these stories in the future.

Touria Meliani, Alderperson of the Municipality of Amsterdam: “The artworks and design projects of the exhibition In The Presence of Absence left a deep impression on me. By purchasing these artworks from artists working in a variety of disciplines, the Stedelijk not only adds incredible works to its collection, but an array of fresh perspectives.

Britte Sloothaak, curator Stedelijk Museum: “Also on behalf of co-curator Fadwa Naamna, I would like to thank all the artists and designers who participated in the group show. By presenting archival material, imagery, writing, music, installations, film and performance in the exhibition, they invited us to re-examine what we know about our society and expanded our perspectives with new insights. I’m thrilled that a selection of these works has found a permanent place in the collection.

The group exhibition In the Presence of Absence was extremely well received by both the media and the general public. De Volkskrant gave the show a four-star rating, saying: “self-reflection in a sparkling, fresh exhibition”. The NRC awarded the exhibition four stars and commented: “excellent contemporary art that also shows the multi-faceted nature of things.” Het Parool called the exhibition: “important, especially now”.

The exhibition ends during the lockdown and will not be extended. But the website is packed with info, long reads and artist’s pages with background details for those looking to dive deep into the work and themes. Next week, there also will be an online tour on the website. The artists also share thoughts and ideas with each other in a series of three talk show episodes (English). The show finishes with a three-part podcast series (Dutch) launched by the Stedelijk’s young adult team, the Blikopeners, who zoom in on selected works, and chat with Rein Wolfs about ways of telling as many stories as possible in a museum.

More information about the new acquisitions:

Remy Jungerman, PROMISE IV, 2018-2019.

PROMISE IV was inspired by shrines built by the Surinamese Maroons, a community of people of African descent who escaped enslavement in the former Dutch colony to settle in inland Suriname in the 18th century. In PROMISE IV, Remy Jungerman connects a variety of visual languages and influences that have relevance for him, incorporating the culture and traditions of his Surinamese Maroon ancestors as well as 20th-Century modernist artists like stanly brouwn and Mondrian, and the work is an important connection between these artists in the collection.

This work has been purchased partly thanks to the BankGiro Loterij.

Remy Jungerman, 'PROMISE IV', 2018–2019. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Remy Jungerman, 'PROMISE IV', 2018–2019. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Sing Like the Southerners Do, 2019.

In this drawing installation, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji explores and weaves together personal narratives, animation, graphic diaries, and a sound-drawing installation, interlaced by a collective sense of solidarity with anyone who has experienced exodus. Sing Like the Southerners Do is part of an ongoing project, in which the artist traces a story of the displacement of himself and his family. The installation is accompanied by traditional Southern Iraqi mawāwīl (an Arabic music genre), sung by Salman Al-Mankoub, about life, farewell, ruins, love, death, and dreams.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, 'Sing Like the Southerners Do', 2019.
Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, 'Sing Like the Southerners Do', 2019.

Ahmet Öğüt, Bakunin’s Barricade, 2015.

Inspired by the anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin’s never realized proposal to use cultural heritage as a barricade, Ahmet Öğüt created a barricade made of fencing, car wrecks, construction materials, and other objects that might be encountered in public space, and juxtaposed them with several artworks he selected from the Stedelijk collection. Bakunin’s Barricade raises questions about the value of art in times of sociopolitical change. Should valuable artworks be used to defend democratic values? To whom do artworks in public collections belong? What cultural heritage should be preserved—and who decides?

This work was acquired thanks to the support the Mondriaan Fund.

Ahmet Öğüt, 'Bakunin’s Barricade', 2015. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Ahmet Öğüt, 'Bakunin’s Barricade', 2015. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

Farida Sedoc, The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be, 2020.

The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be tells a story from the historical and contemporary perspectives of the transatlantic textile trade conducted by the Netherlands with Indonesia and West Africa. Textiles play a part in this story not only as a consumer product, but also as bearers of meaning. Collectively, the printed fabrics can be seen as an archive of memories: of the countries from which they came, and of the worldwide connections that have contributed to the forming of national identities. When worn on the body, they connect the personal with the collective and society. The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be challenges and interrogates notions of identity, political messaging, and economic structures.

Farida Sedoc, 'The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Farida Sedoc, 'The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

Ghita Skali, Ali Baba Express: Episode 2, 2020.

In Ali Baba Express: Episode 2, Ghita Skali brings to light an underground transport economy that connects Morocco to numerous places in Europe. The physical form of the work appears as an endless supply of verbena tea leaves that changes over time, depending on the amount of tea taken home by the audience. Through mediating new transactions when restocking is necessary, Skali maintains a direct exchange between the museum and the day to day reality outside the museum walls. The work depicts a system in which supply and demand is driven by an economy centered on memory and reliving memories through taste: Why is a taste more intense when you know your access to it is limited?

Skali’s recent film installation The Hole’s Journey was purchased in conjunction with the donation of the work Ali Baba Express: Episode 2.

Ghita Skali, 'Ali Baba Express: Episode 2', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Ghita Skali, 'Ali Baba Express: Episode 2', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

Jennifer Tee, Tampan Ship of Souls #2 and Tampan the Collected Bodies, 2020.

Tampan Ship of Souls #2 and Tampan the Collected Bodies are tulip petal collages whose patterned arrangements reference Indonesian tampan and palepai textile from the Lampung region of South Sumatra. The designs often featured ship motifs, which led to them being known as “ship cloths.” Human figures, animals, and objects can be seen on board the ships, and the mast branches out to form a tree of life, which is surrounded by ornaments. The ships themselves are associated with the idea of life being a spiritual journey. These cloths were said to connect the material and spiritual worlds during ceremonies and rites of passage.

This work was acquired with the support of the Van Berckel-Boehmer Fund.

Jennifer Tee, 'Tampan Ship of Souls #2' en 'Tampan the Collected Bodies', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Jennifer Tee, 'Tampan Ship of Souls #2' en 'Tampan the Collected Bodies', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

Gilleam Trapenberg, This Surely Must Be Paradise, 2020.

The pictures Renita & Steven (2020), Party chairs (2020) and Jessy (2020) by Gilleam Trapenberg’s photography project This Surely Must Be Paradise will become part of the Stedelijk's photography collection. This Surely Must Be Paradise is set on the island of Sint Maarten that addresses the imaging and imagining of the Caribbean. Gilleam Trapenberg, currently based in Amsterdam, was born in Curaçao and frequently visited Sint Maarten, where his father’s business is located, as a youngster. His photo installation contains portraits of personal acquaintances and friends, images of Sint Maarten’s landscapes and residential areas, as well as panoramas that are commonly featured in travel brochures.

This work was partly purchased with the support of the Mondriaan Fund and a private patron of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

Gilleam Trapenberg, 'This Surely Must Be Paradise', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.
Gilleam Trapenberg, 'This Surely Must Be Paradise', 2020. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

These acquisitions were realized thanks to financial support from the Municipality of Amsterdam, the Mondriaan Fund, the Van Berckel-Boehmer Fund, the BankGiroLoterij and additional contributions from private patrons of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.