Marlene Dumas

The Art of Exhibiting

It is not ‘the imaginary’ we need, neither is it ‘the museum’ we desire.

  1. An imaginative exhibition is fine (creativity needs dreaming). An Exposition imaginaire is wishful thinking. Those who live too much in their imagination get run over by reality.
  2. There can be no failure in the realm of the imaginary. That is probably why the Netherlands Office for Fine Arts, like many other authoritarian structures, can view their own activities with such illusions of success and self-satisfaction. They decide on their shows, not through concrete dialogues with artists, but by preconceptions and conceptual self- deceptions.
  3. The museum has lost its aura. Some galleries are more important than most museums.
  4. The museum is losing its authority. Reproductions turn meaning into an ambivalent free for all. The question revolves around attempts to control meaning. Artists cannot deny this power struggle. To quote Barbara Kruger: ‘We won’t play nature to your culture’.
  5. The elitist nature (by choice) of this meeting and discussion shows that artists have not gained their rightful places when ‘the art of exhibiting’ is at stake.
  6. When I say ‘artists’ I mean artists in general, but in case of Holland I especially refer to the Dutch artist who often still believes (just like ‘the authorities’) that an artist should be seen and not be heard.

The Art of Exhibiting. Sections 1 to 5 formed Marlene Dumas’ written reaction to a debate organized by the Netherlands Office for Fine Art (Rijksdienst voor Beeldende Kunst) prompted by the book L’Exposition imaginaire. Dumas did not participate in the debate and her comments were not broached. They were finally published as “The Art of Exhibiting: It Is Not ‘The Imaginary’ We Need Neither Is It ‘The Museum’ We Desire”, Metropolis M, no.3 (January 1990), p.16-17 [with section 6 and other text in Dutch as addendum]; and is included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts | Politics (of Art), first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.