News — 6 Nov 2014

On Monday 10 November Ger van Elk’s last art work, Replacement Piece, will be realized beneath the canopy of the Stedelijk Museum. It is the very last work that can be installed in accordance with the recently deceased artist’s instructions.

Replacement Piece consists of removing a square meter of ground surface, and its replacement by a photograph of the removed section. With this Van Elk comments on the image and its representation. This intervention invites viewers to consider the way they see things. Van Elk was an artist who strove for an art without hype, an art that wasn’t made from costly materials and was often infused with a heavy dose of the absurd.

Van Elk first executed Replacement Piece at the invitation of Harald Szeeman for the seminal exhibitionWhen Attitudes Becomes Form in 1969. This very first version involved replacing a section of asphalt outside the Kunsthalle in Bern, but the photograph was soon destroyed by weather and traffic. The artist installed the second, more robust, version in 2011 in front of the Kröller-Müller Museum. In 2013 he executed the work at the Fondazione Prada work in Venice, in a remake of When Attitudes Becomes Form.

Over recent years, Bart Rutten, curator of the Stedelijk Museum, had remained in close contact with the artist about this work: “One of Ger’s heartfelt wishes was to create a Replacement Piece for the entrance of the Stedelijk, the museum with which he had such a meaningful relationship throughout his life. For us, it’s so important that he was able to pick the location himself. With the humor that was so integral to his work, this small, whimsical piece is a nod to the monumental sculpture by Richard Serra.”

The Amsterdam artist Ger van Elk, who died last summer at the age of 73, was one of the most influential figures in conceptual art. In 1969 his work achieved recognition in a number of prestigious exhibitions, including Op losse schroeven, which introduced conceptual art to the Netherlands.

The Stedelijk collection holds over 50 works by Ger van Elk, and his work has featured prominently in exhibitions over the years. In 2010, shortly before the reopening of the Stedelijk, his Well-Polished Floor Sculpture of 1969-1980 was recreated for the third time at this museum during Temporary Stedelijk. For Temporary Stedelijk 2 in 2011, artwork by Van Elk was highlighted in both the collection presentation and in the exhibition Recollections, which reconsidered the impact of the influential exhibition Op losse schroeven.

After the Stedelijk reopened in 2012, a comprehensive selection of work by Ger van Elk went on view in the museum’s permanent collection. A gallery space is currently devoted to Ger van Elk as part of the exhibitionBad Thoughts – The Collection of Martijn and Jeannette Sanders. This collection remains on view at the Stedelijk until 11 January.

Replacement Piece is a gift from the artist to the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, made possible by Adieu BV, with thanks to Grimm Gallery.