Memling Now: Hans Memling in Contemporary Art


Memling in dialogue with contemporary art

This exposition creates an interaction between five contemporary artists and five hundred years of art and history in one of Europe’s oldest and best preserved care institutions.

Five artists, three continents

Art inspires. Artists, both past and present, consciously and actively allow themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, to be inspired by the work of their predecessors. This is the rationale behind the exhibition ‘Memling Now’. The unique masterpieces of the 15th century painter Hans Memling in the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges have inspired painters throughout the subsequent centuries. Five contemporary artists from three different continents are participating in this exhibition. They will not only display some of their existing works, but have also created new pieces especially for ‘Memling Now’.

David Claerbout

‘Wildfire’ by David Claerbout is one of the new creative commissions, which takes as its starting point the shocking experience of the great forest fires that have devastated parts of California and Australia in recent years, which must be regarded as a direct consequence of global warming. The traumatic and life-threatening sea of fire has been ‘frozen’ by David Claerbout, so that it seems to acquire an almost crystalline quality. In this way, the artist connects with Memling’s imagination of what the Apocalypse would be like, whilst at the same time also exploring in his own way – either consciously or unconsciously – concepts such as Purgatory.

Diana Al-Hadid

Al-Hadid comes originally from Syria, but when she was a child moved with her family to the United States, where she has developed an impressive artistic career. She is one of the most productive artists of our time and has been creatively engaging with the work of Hans Memling for decades. Her art has redefined the boundaries between painting and sculpture, particularly in her three-dimensional wall objects and her various monuments. She has always been intrigued by Memling’s allegorical depictions of women and has re-interpreted his themes in her own authentic feminist manner in her own work. Her participation in ‘Memling Now’ combines some of her older work with a new creative commission

Kehinde Wiley

Some years ago, Kehinde Wiley created a furore in the United States with his Memling project. He is renowned for his creative dialogues with the Old Masters to produce portraits of Afro-American models that have allowed the under-privileged masses of today to stake their claim to the ownership of history. This series, which has already been exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, will now be confronted directly for the first time with the art of Hans Memling, which offers an interesting and exciting range of presentational possibilities.

Aydin Aghdasloo

Aydin Aghdasloo is an Iranian artist with Azerbaijani roots. He is well-known as a painter, graphicist, writer, lecturer and curator. During the 1970s, his ‘seemingly’ naturalist style was regarded as an artistic reaction to the neo-traditionalist and nativist movement that dominated Iranian Modernism at that time.

Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth is an American artist who is regarded as one of the foremost exponents of conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1981, he began to make use of the theories of Sigmund Freud in series like ‘Cathexis’, which depicts a text with inverted reproductions of the paintings of Old Masters, each marked with a coloured X. He created them for ‘documenta’ by Rudi Fuchs in 1982. This was intended as an ironic satire on the revival of ‘traditional’ painted art that was taking place at that time. Memling was one of the artist’s treated in this way: pictures of artworks, such as his portraits were displayed upside down in conservative wooden frames. In psychoanalysis, kathexis is also defined as the process of investing mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea.

Link to Exhibit: Memling Now