From June 9 to September 4, the Mauritshuis Museum will host an exhibition which reveals not the fronts of world famous paintings, like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Vermeer's The Girl with a Pearl Earring, but their backs.
For this exhibition, celebrated Brazilian artist Vik Muniz has created a total of five new works based on paintings in the Mauritshuis collection to augment his existing Verso series. This will be the first exhibition of contemporary art in the history of the Mauritshuis.
Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Mauritshuis: “Our exhibition programme aims to present our collection of seventeenth-century paintings in new and inspiring ways, and to share this with our audience. The collaboration with Vik Muniz is an outstanding example. The Verso series establishes a meaningful link between the contemporary art of Vik Muniz and the Old Master paintings in the collection of the Mauritshuis.”
Vik Muniz began photographing the backs of famous paintings in 2002. In his book Reflex (2005) he expressed a desire to make life-size prints of the photographs and exhibit them. His first, meticulous, 3D copies of the reverse sides were made in 2008. He called them 'Versos', perfect imitations of the side that normally faces the wall.
For Muniz, the back of every painting is unique; the holes, the metal brackets, the labels and all the other markings it acquires tell the story of its past. As the years go by the back of a painting changes. New owners make their mark. The latest processes leave an imprint. The back reveals the materials from which the painting is made - stretchers, canvas or panel - and shows details of the frame and any other safety measure taken while it was on display. It is only ever seen by the museum staff. And it is this, the more intimate side of a famous masterpiece that Muniz seeks to share with the visitor.
In 2008 Muniz organized his first Verso exhibition at the Sikkema, Jenkins & Co. gallery in New York. On that occasion he presented the reverse sides of masterpieces such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (MoMA, New York), Van Gogh's Starry Night (MoMA) and Renoir’s Woman with a Parrot (Guggenheim, New York). Though more 'Versos' were made in the following years, such as Da Vinci's La Gioconda (better known as the Mona Lisa) (Louvre, Paris), they have never been exhibited as a group.
The placement of earlier 'Versos' alongside new works based on paintings from the Mauritshuis collection means that the Mauritshuis becomes the first museum ever to exhibit a group of fifteen. It reveals the backs of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earringand View of Delft, Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch, Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp and Frans Post's View of Itamaracà Island in Brazil. The latter is of particular interest, given Muniz’s own Brazilian identity and his association with Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, the original owner of the Mauritshuis, who was governor of Dutch Brazil from 1637 to 1644 and commissioned the painting by Post.
Vik Muniz is a world-renowned artist who lives and works in New York and Rio de Janeiro. Leading museums, such as the MoMA in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and the Tate in London, have acquired his work for their collections. Muniz began his career as a sculptor, but gradually shifted his interest to photographic representations of his work. Muniz creates imagery that is challenging, ironic and deceptive out of everyday materials like sugar, thread, diamonds, chocolate syrup and garbage. In his 2010 film Waste Land, which won numerous awards, Muniz returned to his native city Rio de Janeiro to embark on an unusual collaboration with garbage pickers at the Jardim Gramacho landfill, the world's largest garbage dump.
Title: Vik Muniz: Verso
Date: June 9 - September 4, 2016