The Ouborg PrizeThe Ouborg Prize is awarded in alternate years to a Hague artist producing work of both national and local importance. Named after Hague artist Pieter Ouborg (1893-1956), it is the City of The Hague’s prize for the visual arts. The award comprises a sum of € 4750, an exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and a publication issued by Stroom Den Haag. The jury has awarded this year’s Ouborg Prize to Zeger Reyers (b. 1966), undoubtedly one of the most singular and remarkable contemporary artists of today.
Zeger Reyers (b. 1966) trained from 1990 to 1995 at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and is known primarily for installations in which he covers the interiors of spaces with living fungi or moulds. For the ‘Breeze of air/ Hortus Conclusus’ exhibition at the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2001), he colonised old office-type equipment with oyster mushrooms. His photo-series entitled Volumes (also dating from 2001) shows various objects overgrown by fungi, the fruiting bodies of which are photographed at their most rampant and luxuriant.Natural processes
Reyers’ oeuvre betrays his fascination with natural processes of growth, blossoming and decay and his closely connected interest in food and eating. In 2001, for example, he premiered his ‘Mussel Chair’ installation. This involved ‘harvesting’ Parisian pavement café chairs earlier ‘seeded’ in the Eastern Scheldt, cooking them in a pan specially designed for the purpose, and dishing them up as a steaming ‘dish of the day’ which the public was invited to ‘gather’ from each chair. In 2004, for his Aqua Boogie installation, he flooded the deepest of the underground exhibition spaces at the Hague’s GEM Museum of Contemporary Art. Visitors to the space found themselves in an environment with an entirely different smell, acoustic and humidity level. Reyers had imported a new biotope into a place where it had, in fact, every right to be – indeed, according to the artist, a far greater right than the museum gallery that now occupies the subterranean area.
Hard Water (2003), displayed at the Gemeentemuseum in 2006 as part of an exhibition of the Bouwfonds Art Collection, is another of his outstanding installations. In that case, Reyers created a vast and chaotic heap of white Mosa porcelain plates and dishes, the appearance of which was reminiscent of an outbreak of fungi against a wall. In a way, this installation represents a turn-around in his usual procedure since he uses ‘manufactured’ material to suggest a natural process rather than actually provoking such a process.
For ‘Among Ourselves’, Zeger Reyers employs his ever-expanding collection of found mattresses. These mattresses have witnessed the whole of human life, from birth to death. They bear the imprint of life itself. He cuts out the stains and treats them as if they were paintings.
Aqua Boogie II, the installation that Reyers has created especially for his Ouborg Prize exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum, is likewise based on human and natural processes. Aqua Boogie II has been created with the financial assistance of the Fonds BKVB (formerly known as the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture) and Stroom Den Haag. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication.
Work by Zeger Reyers will also be on show from 9 November to 9 December at the Maurits van de Laar Gallery in The Hague ( www.galeries.nl/mvdl ).