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b. 1953, South Africa

Marlene Dumas Biography

Over nearly half a century, leading painter Marlene Dumas has used her portraiture-centred practice to investigate emotion and interrogate preconceptions around notions of class, gender, sexuality, and race. Her artwork consistently explores constructions of identity and the fluid distinctions between the public and the private.

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Through her focus on the human figure in both self-portraits and portraits of others, Marlene Dumas works to merge socio-political themes with personal experience and art-historical antecedents to create a unique perspective on a range of pressing contemporary concerns, including homophobia ('Great Men', 2014–ongoing) and the Israel-Palestine conflict (The Wall, 2009).

Across her prolific practice Marlene Dumas' subjects have ranged from strippers and stars to infants. Of the latter category, The First People (1990) is a set of four large-scale oil paintings of four new-borns that has been particularly lauded. In these 180-centimetre-tall paintings, Dumas presents infant figures taller than most adults, creating a surprising role-reversal in which the adult viewer begins to seem more vulnerable than the depicted infant.

Born in 1953 in Cape Town, Marlene Dumas studied at the University of Cape Town before moving to The Netherlands in 1976 to study art and psychology. She continues to live and work in Amsterdam. In 1995, she represented The Netherlands at the Venice Biennale with a series of large-scale portraits that brought together references to photographs of English supermodel Naomi Campbell and depictions of Mary Magdalene.

Marlene Dumas' 2014 solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam was titled Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden, and was a major retrospective of the artist's work, comprising almost 200 drawings and paintings from private and public collections world-wide. The show travelled to Tate Modern in London and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2015.

The Image as Burden (1993)—the titular artwork of the exhibition—is an oil-on-canvas piece in which one figure carries another. Generally understood as a portrayal of Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor in the romantic drama Camille (1936), Dumas intended the title to focus on the complex relationship between paintings and images, and in particular her interest in the way that a painting can affect an image.

In 2008, Marlene Dumas' critically acclaimed retrospective Measuring Your Own Grave was presented at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in association with New York's Museum of Modern Art. The prior year, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo had hosted Broken White, the artist's first major solo exhibition in Japan; the show was subsequently presented at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art.

Numerous museums world-wide count artworks by Marlene Dumas in their collection, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; Museum für moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; and Tate, London.

In 2012, a solo exhibition of the artist's work was shown at the Fondazione Stelline in Milan. In 2008, a critically acclaimed retrospective, Measuring Your Own Grave, was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in association with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, which toured to The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas in 2009. Intimate Relations marked her first solo exhibition in South Africa and was held at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town in 2007 and the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg in 2008. The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo hosted the artist's first comprehensive solo show in Japan in 2007. Titled Broken White, it traveled to the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, Marugame, Japan. Other institutions which have presented one-person exhibitions from the past decade include the Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (2008); Taidehalli, Helsinki (2005); Art Institute of Chicago (2003); New Museum, New York; De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands (both 2002); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2001).

Work by Dumas is represented in museum collections worldwide, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Gallery, London.

Biography by Ocula | 2020


Marlene Dumas Featured Artworks

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Eden by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasEden, 2020Oil on canvas
40 x 30 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
Helena and Eden by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasHelena and Eden, 2020Oil on canvas
60 x 50 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
Shèrkènt and Eden by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasShèrkènt and Eden, 2020Oil on canvas
60 x 50 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
IO by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasIO, 2008Oil on canvas
100 x 90 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
Helena Michel by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasHelena Michel, 2020Oil on canvas
40 x 30 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
Luana Carretto by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasLuana Carretto, 2020Oil on canvas
40 x 30 cm
Zeno X Gallery Contact Gallery
Skyros by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasSkyros, 2016Oil on panel
59 1/8 x 59 1/8 inches
David Zwirner Contact Gallery
Amy - Back to by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork
Marlene DumasAmy - Back to, 2015Piezography
40.5 x 47 cm
Sprüth Magers Contact Gallery

Marlene Dumas Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Marlene Dumas, Double Takes at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Open Now
27 May–25 July 2020 Marlene Dumas Double Takes Zeno X GalleryAntwerp
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich
Open Now
22 February–18 July 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, On Painting: Art Basel Online at David Zwirner, New York
Closed
20–25 March 2020 Group Exhibition On Painting: Art Basel Online David ZwirnerOnline Only

Marlene Dumas Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong
Zeno X Gallery contemporary art gallery in Antwerp, Belgium Zeno X Gallery Antwerp

Marlene Dumas In Ocula Magazine

4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life Ocula Report 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life By Natalie King, Kochi

Curated by Anita Dube, the 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life (12 December 2018–29 March 2019) 'places access at its core', writes Natalie King.

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Basel Tov! Art Basel 2015 Ocula Report Basel Tov! Art Basel 2015 By Diana d'Arenberg, Basel

With over 200 fairs held every year, I feel like a hamster stuck on an ever-spinning wheel. I just can’t seem to hop off, and after several years of this it has all become a bit of a blur.

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The Best Exhibitions to See in Basel Ocula Report The Best Exhibitions to See in Basel By Stephanie Bailey, Basel

Ocula correspondent Stephanie Bailey reports on top exhibitions around the city during Art Week

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Marlene Dumas In Related Press

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A Radical Artist Takes a Startling Turn Toward Love Related Press A Radical Artist Takes a Startling Turn Toward Love 8 May 2018, The New York Times

AMSTERDAM — A painting by Marlene Dumas of her pregnant daughter Helena — her belly wide and full, her hands raised at the elbow, her feet splayed — stood nearly 10 feet tall in the South African artist’s studio here two weeks ago. It was the night before a few dozen of Ms. Dumas’s new paintings would be shipped to New York for her first solo...

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A Mega-Gallery Marks a Quarter Century Related Press A Mega-Gallery Marks a Quarter Century 3 February 2018, Hyperallergic

With five New York spaces, outposts in London and Hong Kong, 165 employees, more than a half-billion dollars in sales last year alone, and a Renzo Piano-designed flagship slated to open on 20th Street in 2020, it's no wonder that David Zwirner Gallery is routinely, and sometimes derisively, called a mega-gallery, and Zwirner himself a mega-dealer...

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'The last taboo is the penis': John Cheim on 'The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men' at Cheim & Read Related Press 'The last taboo is the penis': John Cheim on 'The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men' at Cheim & Read 10 August 2016, ARTNews

The Female Gaze, Part II: Women Looking at Men,  a group show that runs at Cheim & Read through September 2, is as ambitious in scope as it is in ideology, showcasing work by a wide range of artists–including Tracey Emin, Alice Neel, Diane Arbus, and Jenny Holzer–who have applied a nontraditional lens to viewing and depicting...

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What do women see: 'The Female Gaze' Related Press What do women see: 'The Female Gaze' 5 August 2016, Whitewall

Currently on display at Cheim & Read is a look at men from the perspective of 32 female artists. The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men  is the second half of a two-part exhibition at the Chelsea gallery. The first debuted in 2009 titled Women Look At Women.  This latest exhibition offers multiple portrayals of men...

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