Portraits: 1962 - 2017

May 25 - Aug 31, 2020

Portraits: 1962 - 2017 examines the use of portraits in art across different mediums such as photography, oil paintings and drawings. 


The journey takes us from Europe to Asia and from Africa to North America. We revisit Marilyn Monroe's famous "The Last Sitting", watch Georg Baselitz remix his provocative work "Big Night", explore Jean-Michel Basquiat's use of materials such as found wood or his early adoption of xerox photocopy and are mesmerized by Alex Katz's big scale portrait "Martha" or Jiro Takamatsu's Shadow (No. 1430).

  • Charles Drybergh, Sans Titre (1962)

    Charles Drybergh

    Sans Titre (1962)

    We start our journey in the Belgium of 1962. Born some 30 years before, Belgian painter Charles Drybergh was paretic for most of his life. Having experimented with mostly black and white abstract expressionist paintings in his early careers, he destroyed most of these paintings and turned to more figurative art around the time this particular work was created. He was clearly ahead of his time as this work could easily be mistaken for a work from Richard Hambleton's famous Shadow Paintings Series of the 1980s. Drybergh left figurative art for a short visit to Pop Art in the late 60s and early 70s before returning back to black and white paintings from 1973 until the 1980s. His tragic life was cut short in 1990.


    Drybergh was awarded the Talenprijs (1959), the Prix Olivetti (1961), the Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst (1961), the Grote Prijs van de Stad Oostende voor Schilderkunst (1961), the Prix de la Critique, Musée des Beaux Arts, Charleroi (1968),  and the Europaprijs voor Schilderkunst van de Stad Oostende (1969 and 1973). 

    His work has been exhibited widely and can be found in numerous public collections:
    Musea en openbare verzamelingen
    Brussel, Kon. Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België
    Oostende, Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst (PMMK)
    Oostende, Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
    Vlaamse Gemeenschap
    Brussel, Belfius Collectie (ex-Gemeentekrediet en ex-Dexia)


  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled Samo Drawing (1978)

    Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Untitled Samo Drawing (1978)

    Fast forward 16 years and we arrive at the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1970s, where rap, punk and street art evolved into the early hip hop culture. Jean-Michel Basquiat and his partner Al Diaz were starting to gain notoriety as street artists under the tag "SAMO". As Jeffrey Deitch put it:

    "Back in the late seventies, you couldn't go anywhere interesting in Lower Manhattan without noticing that someone named SAMO had been there first".

    After a fallout in early 1980 Basquiat started writing "SAMO IS DEAD" all over the streets of downtown, went out on his own and the rest is art history.

    This early drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat gives us a first glimpse at what was to come and the neo-expressionist paintings that made him an art world sensation in a matter of months.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981)

    Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Untitled (1981)

    We stay with Jean-Michel Basquiat who by now has transitioned from street artist to gallery artist. Having had his first solo show with Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, Italy in May 1981, Basquiat was about to be propelled to the echelons of art world legend. His phenomenal rise to art world darling started in December 1981, when René Ricard published "The Radiant Child" in Artforum magazine saying:


    "If Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet had a baby and gave it up for adoption, it would be Jean-Michel."


    This work, Untitled (1981) actually once belonged to René Ricard and quite possibly was one of the reasons he wrote the now infamous article about Jean-Michel.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled - Self Portrait (1982)

    Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Untitled - Self Portrait (1982)

    After another trip to Modena in March of 1982, Basquiat travelled west to work from the ground-floor display and studio space of Larry Gagosian in Venice, California. Accompanied by his girlfried at the time, this iconic self-portrait was produced. It features his most important theme: the human skull. 

    The girlfriend, who during that time also acted as a driver for Larry Gagosian and Jean-Michel Basquiat, later achieved unprecedented fame herself: Madonna.

  • Jiro Takamatsu, Shadow (No. 1430) 1989 / 1997

    Jiro Takamatsu

    Shadow (No. 1430) 1989 / 1997

    On our next stop, we visit Japan in 1989, a time in which Japan experienced an immense real estate bubble and dominated the global art market. At their peak, prices in central Tokyo were such that the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds were estimated to be worth more than all the land in the entire state of California.

    Let's go back to the beginning of our journey in the 1960s though. Two years after Charles Drybergh produced Sans Titre, Jiro Takamatsu was about to become one of the most influential and important artists in Japan and began his signature Shadow Paintings series, which he continued until the end of his life.
    He boasts an impressive career that includes representing Japan at the Venice Biennale (1968), the Paris Biennial (1969), the Sao Paulo Biennial (1973) and Documenta 6 (1977). 
    Shadow No. 1430 was started in 1989 and completed by Jiro Takamatsu in 1997.

  • John Baldessari, Equestrian (Flesh) In Brackets With Orange Showdown (1992)

    John Baldessari

    Equestrian (Flesh) In Brackets With Orange Showdown (1992)

    We travel back to the United States in the year of 1992 and visit another legendary art world figure.

    Describing himself as "the guy that put dots over peoples faces", others have called him

    "The godfather of conceptual art"

    "A master of appropriation"

    "A surrealist for the digital age"

    Having burned everything he ever made in 1970 saying "I will not make any more boring art", Baldessari has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and more than 1000 group shows.

    Created in 1992, Equestrian (Flesh) In Brackets With Orange Showdown is one of his signature works and was even featured in a short documentary about his astonishing life that can be watched below.

  • Alex Katz, Martha (2004)

    Alex Katz

    Martha (2004)

    Let's head back over to the east cost and into the new millenium. 

    Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927, Alex Katz achieved great public prominence in the 1980s. His signature paintings are about half landscapes and half portraits, making him an obvious choice for this show. Defined by their flatness of colour and form and their seemingly emotional detachment, his large paintings are now seen as precursors to Pop Art. His work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group shows. He has been honoured with retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, the Staatliche Kunsthalle, the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga and the Saatchi Gallery. He is also set to have an upcoming retrospective at the Guggenheim New York.

    His work is in the collections of over 100 public institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Tate Gallery and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

    Created in 2004, Martha exhibits all of Katz's trademarks: large scale, bold simplicity, heightened colours and a seemingly emotional detachment.

  • Georg Baselitz, Big Night (Remix) 2008

    Georg Baselitz

    Big Night (Remix) 2008

    We head on over to Germany where another figurative painter started to become famous around the time of the start of this portrait show in the 1960s. His name is Georg Baselitz (or rather Hans-Georg Kern) and his rise to fame has a lot to do with this work. After studying at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, he adopted the name Georg Baselitz as a tribute to his home town in 1961.

    His first solo exhibition at Galerie Werner & Katz in 1963 caused a public scandal as two of his paintings, "The Big Night Down The Drain" and "The Naked Man" were seized by the police due to their explicit nature. An international scandal was born and Baselitz would become one of the most important German painters of the 20th century. 

    In 2008, as part of his Remix series, he revisited "The Big Night Down the Drain" and produced the work at hand.

    His 80th birthday on January 23, 2018 was celebrated with several retrospectives in his honor at Pinakothek der Moderne, Fondation Beyeler, Kunstmuseum Basel and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.

  • Mohau Modisakeng, Untitled - Qhatha Series (2010 - 2011)

    Mohau Modisakeng

    Untitled - Qhatha Series (2010 - 2011)

    Our next stop takes us from Europe to Africa and from painting to photography. We explore the work of Mohau Modisakeng, born 1986 in Soweto and currently living and working in Cape Town, South Africa.

    His work has been widely exhibited internationally and is included in the collections of 

    Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa..

    Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

    Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

    University of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa.

    New Church Museum, Cape Town, South Africa.

    Shanti Art Collection.

    Modern Forms.

    Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

    Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada.

  • Bert Stern, Marilyn Monroe, Crucifix, 2012

    Bert Stern

    Marilyn Monroe, Crucifix, 2012

    We stay in the genre of photography but fly back to the United States where we observe one of its most famous stars of the 20th century: Marilyn Monroe.

    Rising to fame in the early 50s and 60s, she continues to be a major popular culture icon more than 50 years after her untimely death. 

    Shortly before passing away at only 36 years old, portrait and fashion photographer Bert Stern

    shot with Marilyn for Vogue, producing a set of photographs that would become famous as "The Last Sitting".


  • Gavin Bond, Mr. Brainwash 7 - 2013

    Gavin Bond

    Mr. Brainwash 7 - 2013

    What better way to proceed than with an artist portraying another artist. More precisely, Gavin Bond, a graduate of St Martin's School Of Art, famous for shooting at international runway shows in the 1990s and today one of the most sought after celebrity photographers in the world portraying Mr. Brainwash, french street artist and one of the protagonists of "Exit Through the Gift Shop".

  • Li Wei, Flying over Venice (2013)

    Li Wei

    Flying over Venice (2013)

    In our next stop, China meets Europe. 

    Chinese performance artist and photographer Li Wei (born 1970) takes on the laguna of Venice, Italy. Using mirrors, metal wires, scaffolding and acrobatics rather than computer montages, he creates illusions of sometimes dangerous reality.

    His work has been shown in the Katonah Museum of Art, United States (2012), the Beijing Times Art Museum, China (2011), the Daegu Photo Biennale 2010 in Korea (2010), the Palazzo Reale Museum, Milan (2009), the Olympic Museum, Switzerland (2008), the Criterion Gallery, Australia (2007), the Toulouse Art Museum, France (2006), the Ox Warehouse, Macau (2005), the MMAC exhibition, Japan (2004), the Prague Biennial in Czech Republic (2003), the Beijing Red Square, Beijing (2002), the Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong (2001), the Performance Art Festival, Beijing (2000).

  • Zachary Armstrong, Self Portrait (Black and Raw on White Ground) - 2014

    Zachary Armstrong

    Self Portrait (Black and Raw on White Ground) - 2014

    Back in the United States in the year 2014, Zachary Armstrong points us towards our inner child. 

    Armstrong continuously repeats and gradually transforms the same motive derived from children sketches - one, a self-portrait he did when he was 4 years old; the other a portrait drawn by his younger brother.

    Differing only in the use of materials or the painting process, his work serves as an inquiry into the process of making art.

  • Javier Calleja, Alice - 2016

    Javier Calleja

    Alice - 2016

    2016 takes us to the exciting world of Javier Calleja. Having apprenticed under the tutelage of Yoshitomo Nara, his big eyed characters clearly draw influences from Pop, Surrealism, Minimalism, Street Art and Japanese Cartoon and Manga culture.

    Javier has previously expressed a fondness for the work of René Magritte and reinterprets surrealist techniques through contemporary portraiture.

    Japanese aesthetics have developed a strong attachment to "big eyes" and Javier Calleja cleverly reimports these into this works, thus connecting Asia to Europe and showing us all what a global world the art circus has become.

  • Edo Bertoglio, Helmet 1982 - 2017

    Edo Bertoglio

    Helmet 1982 - 2017

    We conclude our journey with a work form 2017 but have to travel back to 1982 to understand its importance.

    In the early 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat was starting to be regarded as "the artist of his generation" as Jeffrey Deitch put it. It was during those times, that Edo Bertoglio (Born in Lugano, Switzerland in 1951) spent time in New York and directed New York Beat (later released as Downtown 81) starring Jean-Michel Basquiat.