Marlene Dumas

For Whom the Bell Tolls

My exhibition Mankind showed how every age produces it’s own ‘Most Wanted’ faces [1]. The emphasis of this show was on male suspects.

In 2007 my mother died at noon at the age of 86.

For Whom the Bell Tolls was about loss and departure, but also about transformation and freedom [2]. A spirit set free, my grief and her relief. So I made the (film) stars and the gods weep for her.

As a child I was fascinated by portraits of (female) film stars. A movie star can love, cry and die and then get up and do it all over again, each time in a different time and place and with a different lover, staying desirable yet distant forever. They can play both victim and persecutor.

It also paid homage to Hiroshima mon amour, a most touching example of the modern cinema’s ability to portray the intimacy of a (fictional) love affair, the (documentary) tragedies of politics, and simultaneously expose the language of film and time itself.

[1] Mankind, solo exhibition, Paul Andriesse Gallery, Amsterdam, 2006
[2] For Whom the Bell Tolls, solo exhibition, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, 2008
[3] Hiroshima mon amour, Alain Resnais, 1959

For Whom the Bell Tolls. First published as Contra o Muro. Marlene Dumas 2010 (cat.), Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, 2010, p.80; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.