Macabre, beautiful or rich in humour, the skeleton and the skull take many forms in contemporary sculpture. This autumn, Museum Beelden aan Zee presents a unique exhibition exploring the role of the skeleton in sculpture. SKELETON features work by major international names including Urs Fischer, Matthew Day Jackson, Jan Fabre and Anthony Gormley. This exhibition examines the meaning of the skeleton in contemporary art. What remains of the notion of memento mori? The skeleton is an artistic form that has more than stood the test of time, but how has this concept changed over the years?
The exhibition uses four themes to explore the presentation of the skeleton and the skull in contemporary sculpture. The theme of vanitas is arguably an obvious choice since the skeleton and the skull have moral implications – reminding viewers of their mortality, to live life in the right way and of the fact that in the hour of death, everyone is equal. We see that a considerable number of contemporary artists are also keen to address the theme of vanitas, hardly surprising given that it’s one of the most important themes in art history.
Next up is the armature and anatomy of the body. The skeleton can also be viewed as an underlying structure for a sculpture. Sculptors sometimes use a steel armature as the basis for modelling a pliable mass of clay or plaster. In the archaeology of the future, work is displayed by artists who critically examine how we live at present. The works demonstrate that the way we live is changing. What will we leave behind? Will the rubbish dumps from our consumer society become the treasure troves of archaeologists of the future?
One aspect of the theme relic and religion is showcasing pieces of art as relics in their own right. Dutch sculptor Caspar Berger (1965) is an essential element of this part of the exhibition. In his current project, the artist uses little other than his own armature, creating ‘self-portraits’ based on a 3D scan of his skeleton. Berger produces his own relics, including a gigantic golden 3D print of his humerus.
The exhibition features work by the following artists:
Carlos Arias, Gijs Assmann, Jeff Beer, Caspar Berger, Joseph Beuys, Alessandro Brighetti, Matthew Day Jackson, Nicolas Dings, Jan Fabre, Urs Fischer, Guido Geelen, Amer Ghada, Antony Gormley, Immanuel Klein, Sherrie Levine, Atelier van Lieshout, Gerhard Marx, Jonathan Marshall, Charlotte van Pallandt, Sandro Setola, Carolein Smit, Schinkichi Tajiri, Tunga, Jorinde Voigt, Bouke de Vries, Marcel Warmenhoven and Nick van Woert.
Museum Beelden aan Zee would like to thank the following lenders/consultants: GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam; Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam; Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam; Rabo Art Collection; Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; THE EKARD COLLECTION and private collections. In addition, the exhibition is the result of close collaboration with art collector Bert Kreuk. To mark the exhibition, he gifted Matthew Day Jackson’s Terminal Velocity (2008) to the museum.