14 OCTOBER 2023 TO 4 FEBRUARY 2024
Old Masters Collection
Press Preview: Friday, 13 October 2023, 9.30 am
The Romanian artist Victor Man (*1974) has for years been considered one of the most sought-after and at the same time rarest protagonists of contemporary art. His intimate paintings, which seem to have fallen out of time, elude immediate interpretation. In the midst of the Old Masters Collection, the Städel Museum presents an exhibition from 14 October 2023 to 4 February 2024, featuring twenty works by the painter from the last ten years, dedicated to his artistic focus: portraits. In deep dark green, blue, and black, Man creates portraits as sensitive as they are enigmatic, dominated by an existentialist, sombre, and introspective tone. Subtle influences of the pre-Renaissance, dense with metaphors, emerge in his melancholic imagery. Stylistically complex and difficult to categorize, his inimitable oeuvre reveals numerous art historical references while at the same time representing a unique position in contemporary painting. At the Städel Museum, a fascinating dialogue between history and the present emerges.
The title of the exhibition, The Lines of Life, is a quote from Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem To Zimmer (1812) and refers to Victor Man’s close connection to poetry and literature. These references, as well as connections to his own life reality, are repeatedly found in his painting – for example, the individuals depicted in the portraits in the main part of the exhibition come from his family environment and circle of friends. Immersed in predominantly dark scenarios and with a contemplative gaze, the sitters are enveloped in existential heaviness. The paintings bear witness to an intense exploration of human existence and speak of the poetic as well as tragic ambivalence of life. In the second part of the exhibition, the genre of portraiture is continued and at the same time deconstructed with the series The Chandler (since 2013). Victor Man presents the same motif in various paintings, always in a slightly different form – a seated figure with a head on its lap – and invites us to explore our own perception. The Städel Museum brings together all the works from this series, which has rarely been seen in its entirety – including the latest work, which has never been shown before.
“As a museum of pictures, the Städel is the perfect place for the first institutional solo exhibition of Victor Man’s works in Germany in almost a decade. Man’s oeuvre is committed to painting. Surrounded by the collection, which spans 700 years, his paintings open a dialogue anchored in the richness of art history. The quiet and timeless portraits appear as an antithesis to our highly technological and complex living environment. Let us see them as an invitation to embark on a quest for the essence of our own existence”, says Philipp Demandt, Director of the Städel Museum.
Svenja Grosser, curator of the exhibition, further elaborates: “Victor Man’s work is timeless, and his paintings thus resist art-historical classification according to criteria such as style, date of execution, or even the period to which they belong. Multi-layered references from art history and literature also open up a wide range of possible interpretations. However, one thing is always at the center: Victor Man’s entire oeuvre revolves around painting itself and its inherent possibilities to put us as viewers to the test.”
Curator: Svenja Grosser (Deputy Head of the Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum)
Project Coordinator: Maja Lisewski (assistant curator, Collection of Contemporary Art, Städel Museum)
The exhibition is supported by: Deutsche Bank
Download the complete press release here.