For the Glasses exhibition, Luc Tuymans looks back at his oeuvre thematically for the first time. It includes portraits, of nameless people and historic figures, and other works. The leitmotiv is a pair of glasses.
When at a certain point I was looking through all the portraits I've painted up to now, I was amazed to discover that there are glasses in three-quarters of them. This is certainly not a conscious choice. [...] Glasses radically change the physiognomy of a face, but are not perceived by us as a radical change. We tend to experience them as normal, something to which we react with mere indifference. --Luc Tuymans, 2009
I have always liked painting glasses. They cause a kind of distortion of the face, which we cannot see directly through glasses. They are a strange instrument, but also an almost universal reality. The banality of glasses takes on a different significance when you paint them. --Luc Tuymans, 2015
It is the first time that Luc Tuymans has made a thematic selection from his own oeuvre. The selection includes iconic works from Tuymans oeuvre, whose major themes include Nazism, colonialism and nationalism. In the series Die Zeit, SS officer Heydrich masks his face behind dark glasses, a young King Boudewijn disembarks an aeroplane in Leopoldville hidden by sunglasses, Patrice Lumumba wears glasses and a tie while looking us right in the eye at close quarters, the smiling American family man Milteer, with enlarged eyes behind his glasses, is an extremist-racist, the face of the Flemish author Ernest Claes becomes a kind of empty mask-with-glasses...
Banal but defining
The work of the painter Luc Tuymans (1958) is an ongoing investigation of images and the flood of images in which we are immersed on a daily basis; of how people and things appear to us; and of the gap between representation and reality. Because glasses help shape the way someone looks, such an apparently obvious instrument is important to an artist and image researcher. However incidental they may seem to be, glasses help determine how we read a persons identity.
Luc Tuymans and the MAS
This is not the first time that Luc Tuymans and the MAS
have worked together. His 1600 m2 mosaic Dead Skull has been on display in the square in front of the museum since 2010. It refers back to Tuymans painting of the same name of 2002, which he based on the plaque commemorating the Antwerp painter Quinten Metsys on the façade of the Cathedral of Our Lady. With Dead Skull, Tuymans links present with past, just as the MAS does. It was Tuymans first public work to go on permanent display.
A second collaboration took place in 2014. Luc Tuymans made a monumental piece entitled München for the reception hall of the Koninklijk Atheneum (Royal Atheneum) of Antwerp. The hall was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. It is a contemporary counterpart for the Allegorie van de Faam by the 19th-century artist Frans Vinck from Antwerp. That was the only painting to survive the fire in 2003. München was donated to the MAS and is part of the City of Antwerp's art collection. The MAS acts as caretaker for the canvas.
Glasses goes abroad
A portion of the presentation will travel to the National Portrait Gallery in London in the autumn of 2016.