21st Century

The 21st century can really be seen as beginning in the second half of the 1980s, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the growing domination of a new economic world order. Things gained momentum when the Internet seemed to democratize information and ideas about truth came under threat. In the past, movements and trends had been able to germinate and come to fruition in the relatively protected environment of small social communities; now, thanks to the World Wide Web, painting, sculpture, graphic art and reproducible media like video and photography all operated on a level playing field and the artist became either an entrepreneur or a relatively solitary maker operating in isolation from the market.

Building on the achievements of art since 1960, the finest artists sought to relate to those intrinsically personal works in their quest to establish themselves as champions of the inner life. The work of Paul Thek, Günther Brus, Reinhard Mucha, Markus Lüpertz and Isa Genzken transcends the limits of the chosen stylistic form – whether Minimalism, Surrealism, Arte Povera, traditional painting or pop culture – in order to access far-reaching mental and even physically experienced realities. The way they break down the boundaries of preceding movements has something subversive about it. Their art succeeds in evoking physical sensations in the viewer, perhaps because it originates in such experiences. The same is true of the work of Mark Dion, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Carla Black and Tacita Dean.

Artists sometimes do this in a highly disciplined way, as in the work of Tjebbe Beekman, Torsten Brinkman, Robert Zandvliet and Daniël Richter – all artists who show that painting is winning back lost ground. Sometimes, however, they adopt a loose and improvisational approach, as in the work of Emo Verkerk, Marcel van Eeden and Raquel Maulwurf, who demonstrate a renewed interest in drawing. The Gemeentemuseum is following the careers of all these artists. It is keen to form major areas of their work in the collection and present them to the public. The common denominator – both in their work and in the museum’s collecting policies – is the aesthetic quality that incites the viewer to tap into unfamiliar emotions and explore a personal reality.

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