News — 21 May 2007

Under the name The Monique Zajfen Collection, the Stedelijk Museum works in tandem with The Broere Charitable Foundation on a collection of contemporary art which will be provided to the museum on long-term loan. The exhibition The Present, with work by Marlene Dumas, Thomas Schütte, Neo Rauch, Wilhelm Sasnal, Mike Kelley, Pawel Althamer, Paul Graham, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Lisa Yuskavage and George Condo, offers a glimpse of the first works that have been acquired for the collection. Focusing on the human figure and spanning a range of disciplines, the works in this exhibition explore various aspects of the human condition.

The Monique Zajfen Collection is affiliated to The Vincent Award, the most prestigious bi-annual prize for contemporary European art, and is being developed in close collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum. The fundament of The Monique Zajfen Collection consists of acquiring work from the winners of The Vincent Award. The collection is expanded with the acquisition of other contemporary artworks. This approach to forming a collection for the benefit of a museum marks the introduction of 

a new kind of contemporary Maecenas in the Netherlands. With these works on loan, the Stedelijk Museum is able to exhibit substantially more contemporary art that complements its own collection. The Present is the first opportunity viewers have to see artworks that have been added to The Monique Zajfen Collection since 2005. The opening piece is a monumental work by Thomas Schütte – three caricatural, scarecrow-like figures, who gaze threateningly into the space. The bald-headed men refer to Chinese culture while, with blankets about their shoulders, they have the look of vagrants. Facing them is Marlene DumasThe Believer, a portrait of a Palestinian suicide from her series Mankind. In no uncertain terms, the painting comments that, as far as appearances go, the image of Mediterranean men is never free from preconceptions; at any rate we can no longer see them with an unprejudiced eye. In the same space, Mike Kelley plays with conventions with the piece Mr. and Mrs. Hermaphrodite, in this case with male and female sexual characteristics. In a series of paintings, Wilhelm Sasnal offers memories of Japan, while Neo Rauch links the pasts of the Prussian and German Democratic Republic with current issues.

In the next room, visitors can sit among the monitors of the video installation The Dancers by Pawel Althamer. The artist approached this work through social intervention: he concluded a contract with homeless men to film them dancing naked, hand in hand, in a reference to dispossession, and to Matisse. A few paces further Lisa Yuskavage evokes the romance of a teenage girl’s bedroom in an erotically-charged feast of visual pleasure – her first work to be acquired for the collection of a European museum. The improbable girl is bathed in a golden glow, remote and unattainable, rather a depiction of an odd idealised image than a young woman of flesh and blood.

A different kind of escapism is presented by Paul Graham in the very last room: he photographed teenagers in discos, and shows a detached generation that prefers to live by night. Eija-Liisa Ahtila and George Condo present people in a state of mental oppression, ground down by the jaws of contemporary society. Ahtila’s videowork The Present, also the title of the exhibition, deals with women tormented by obsessions for whom self-forgiveness would be the greatest gift.

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