News — 26 Sep 2018

The Stedelijk Museum becomes Europe’s General Idea knowledge center thanks to a significant acquisition of work by this influential ’80s artists’ collective

The Stedelijk Museum has recently been gifted General Idea Collection, an extensive archive of the Canadian artists' collective. The donation provides an important context for the works that are already in the Stedelijk collection, such as Mondo Cane 2 (1984), the work Nightschool (1989), and a series of videos and magazines. Together with the Centraal Museum Utrecht and with the help of the Rembrandt Association and its Titus fund, the work AIDS Wallpaper (1988) has also been purchased. This, along with a selection from the General Idea Collection, a number of File Megazines and the work Nightschool is featured in the exhibition True Luxury...: art acquisitions 2012-2018 in the Stedelijk.

Director Jan Willem Sieburgh: 'The extensive donation of the General Idea archive reflects the special bond that the Stedelijk traditionally has with artists. A significant number of artworks in our holdings entered the museum as gifts. Also, our relationship with General Idea can be traced back many years. The Stedelijk gave them their first exhibition in 1979. Now, with this new acquisition, we instantly become the General Idea knowledge center, and the place in Europe where scholars can come to research their work.'

Installation view AIDS Wallpaper inTrue Luxury...; art acquisitions 2012-2018, 2018, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photo: Peter Tijhuis.

General Idea

The Stedelijk began collecting the multidisciplinary work of General Idea in 1980, and has been eager to expand this collection for some years. The first museum exhibition was held in 1979 at the Stedelijk, soon after the group was founded by Jorge Zontal, Felix Partz and AA Bronson. General Idea would become one of the most prominent collectives of the ’80s and garnered considerable international attention with their provocative ideas about identity, the role of the mass media, AIDS activism and gender issues. When the AIDS epidemic erupted in the 1980s, General Idea embraced it as their main focus. In 1994, when Zontal and Partz died prematurely from AIDS-related complications, General Idea ceased to exist. Nonetheless, they continue to be a major influence on successive generations, and the collective remains a source of inspiration for other artists.

Stedelijk and Centraal Museum jointly purchase AIDS Wallpaper (1988)

AIDS Wallpaper is a parody of the famous LOVE logo created by Robert Indiana, which General Idea recast by changing the word LOVE to AIDS. Where the LOVE logo was a symbol of the sixties, the AIDS logo was intended to do the same for the 1980s. Despite the fact that General Idea's work was highly visible in the Netherlands from the beginning, their oeuvre has been grossly underrepresented in the Dutch collections. The Stedelijk and the Centraal Museum now own this work together. Both institutions are therefore very grateful to the Rembrandt Association for their financial contribution.

Fusien Bijl de Vroe, director of the Rembrandt Association: 'Because of their originality, striking visual language and impact in the art world, General Idea deserves to be better represented in the Dutch state collection. With the purchase of AIDS Wallpaper, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Centraal Museum in Utrecht can now show one of the group's most iconic works.'

Bart Rutten, Centraal Museum Utrecht: 'AIDS Wallpaper fits seamlessly into our collection and expositions of modern art. This is the reason we have previously featured it in our exposition Bye Bye de Stijl. It is great that we were able to realise this purchase together with the Stedelijk Museum and the Rembrandt Association.'

True Luxury...: art acquisitions 2012-2018 at the Stedelijk opens to the public on 22 September. An exhibition of some 35 works that have never previously been on display in the museum. Among the presentation highlights are the above-mentioned room-filling installation by Erik van Lieshout, the imposing video installation by Arthur Jafa and the work of General Idea. The share of gifts from a.o. also artists is in striking. The exhibition will be opened until March 3rd, 2019.

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