Marlene Dumas

Masterpieces and Miss World

The fairest in the land
is not the fairest on the wall

When I was young all the Miss Worlds looked alike. No Chinese or black Ghanese or Japanese ever won. It was always a white American type that was found the fairest, although the other countries were allowed to participate, which gave the event a more international feel. In relation to artworks everyone thinks and accepts that many different points of view can and even should justifiably exist next to each other.
And yet we still end up asking the question who is the best or the most beautiful; or what painting of the future will look like. No one wants to believe that in principle nothing ‘has to’ but everything ‘could’.
We want beauty to be imitable. And seeing that judgements are made by people, there’s something to be said for that. Between ‘Only the marvellous is beautiful’ of André Breton and ‘All is pretty’ of Andy Warhol, I stand.
What do I want?
I want a bit of everything. Sometimes I want more of this and less of that and some- times an overload of the other is also wonderful. I don’t become a better person, through this, only fuller and more needy.

Masterpieces and Miss World. Originally published [in Dutch ‘Meesterwerken en Miss Wereld’] in Openbaar Kunstbezit/Kunstschrift, vol.40, no.6 (November/December 1996), p.28-29; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.