For the First Time in Eight Years, Marlene Dumas Returns to New York With New Work

The show at David Zwirner features a new series based on a Shakespeare poem.

Marlene Dumas, Adonis blushes (2015–2016. ©Marlene Dumas. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong.
Marlene Dumas, Adonis blushes (2015–2016. ©Marlene Dumas. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong.

For the first time in nearly a decade, South Africa-born artist Marlene Dumas will have a solo show in New York. The exhibition, opening April 28 at David Zwirner in Chelsea, features brand new work, including an expansive series of works on paper.

Dumas created the new drawings for the Dutch-Moroccan writer Hafid Bouazza’s Dutch translation of “Venus and Adonis,” a narrative poem written by William Shakespeare in 1593. The ink wash drawings depict the tragic tale of the goddess Venus and her unrequited love for the young mortal Adonis. In her expressive hand, Dumas captures the passion, eroticism, and, at times, violence of the mythological tale.

Dumas—who sometimes goes months without painting and then suddenly returns to an image she tucked away long ago for inspiration—is best known for her portraits. At Zwirner, she will debut a number of new paintings, including monumental canvases of nude figures as well as smaller, intimate portraits.

The artist has lived in Amsterdam since 1976, but often draws on her experiences growing up in South Africa during apartheid. She works primarily from photographs and other found imagery; live models are not part of her repertoire. (“I don’t want people in my studio,” she once told the Gentlewoman.)

Marlene Dumas, She speaks (2015–2016. ©Marlene Dumas. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong.

Marlene Dumas, She speaks (2015–2016. ©Marlene Dumas. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong.

A Dumas show in New York is a relatively rare event. The Zwirner exhibition is Dumas’s first solo presentation in New York since 2010, when she made her debut at the gallery with “Marlene Dumas: Against the Wall.” (Zwirner began representing Dumas in 2008, after he spent five years courting her, according to the Gentlewoman.) 

Previously, she had had a show with Zwirner & Wirth, David Zwirner’s partnership with Iwan Wirth, in 2005, and had previously been represented in New York by Jack Tilton Gallery, where she made her American debut back in 1994.

“Dumas has had a few very busy years,” Zwirner’s senior partner Hanna Schouwink told artnet News. In 2014 and 2015, her well-reviewed retrospective “The Image as Burden” traveled from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the Tate Modern in London and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

Dumas’s market has been a force since 2005, when she suddenly became the world’s most expensive living female artist with the £1.8 million ($3.3 million) sale of The Teacher (1987) at Christie’s London. According to the artnet Price Database, her current auction record is £3.17 million ($6.33 million), achieved at Sotheby’s London in July 2008 for The Visitor (1995).

In 2017, Dumas had two concurrent solo exhibitions in Dresden at the Albertinum and the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, timed to the permanent installation of a Dumas altarpiece at the Annenkirche Dresden.

Marlene Dumas: Myths & Mortals is on view at David Zwirner Gallery at 537 West 20th Street, New York, from April 28–June 30. 


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