Renowned Dutch Photographers Observe New York
Stunning and highly original images of New York and New Yorkers created by 13 prominent Dutch photographers—some internationally renowned (Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Hendrik Kerstens, and Rineke Dijkstra, among others), some young and emerging—will be on view in Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered, one of three exhibitions at the Museum of the City of New York organized in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s epic 1609 voyage into New York Harbor, and the original Dutch colonies in New York. Dutch Seen, on view from June 10 through September 13, 2009, is presented in association with one of the world’s leading photography museums, FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam; the exhibition is organized by Kathy Ryan. The other exhibitions are: Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson (April 4 through September 27), presented in collaboration with the Scheepvaartmuseum/Amsterdam and the New Netherland Project, which explores the character of New Amsterdam and reveals the importance of its Dutch roots; and Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City (May 20 through October 12) presented in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which will provide a virtual recreation of the island of Manhattan before Hudson’s arrival.
Commented Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York, “Dutch Seen features an artistic engagement with New York City at a milestone in our history. It is almost as if Dutch explorers have come back to follow up on their experiment of 400 years ago, to report on how it all turned out.”
The celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage for the Dutch East India Company provided the occasion for commissioning this inventive portfolio of photographs by artists who are breaking new ground in the field. The work in Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered, virtually all of which is being created expressly for the exhibition, provides a riveting portrait of New York City, including its people, its natural and human environment, and the continuing dialogue between its past and present.
For example, Hendrik Kerstens’ iconic portraits of his daughter Paola—virtually his sole subject throughout his career—make reference to her Dutch origins through the surprising incorporation of elements of contemporary New York—a plastic shopping bag, a napkin from a New York restaurant—in a kind of double exposure uniting antiquity and modernity.
Other artists have used the anniversary of Hudson’s sail into New York Harbor and the founding of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to recreate the original sense of discovery and newness experienced by the first Europeans to step foot on Atlantic shores. Among these is Misha de Ridder, whose monumental landscapes evoking the “new world” that Hudson and Dutch settlers encountered upon their arrival, captures the stunning and pristinely beautiful wilderness that possibly seduced and captivated, yet terrified the earliest explorers. In this same line of inquiry, Jaap Scheeren has said, “I will bring the wilderness back to Manhattan.”
Still others are focusing on an essential “New York” quality. For example, Wijnanda Deroo’s photographs of New York City’s popular and renowned eateries and restaurants are unpeopled, evoking the comical or the eerie, the fantastic or surreal in their décor and design. Most distinctive in these images is the quietude or emptiness that her pictures can suggest, a quality that is rare among the city’s more commercial venues.
Still other artists are engaged in a study of New Yorkers themselves, focusing on the people who comprise the city; one such study, by Erwin Olaf, will imaginatively portray African-Americans in the early 20th century through a series of narrative tableaux. Other portfolios focusing on the inhabitants of the metropolis will include, surprisingly, Charlotte Dumas’ portraits of regal-looking, though fearsome, shelter dogs.
As a whole, the photographs on view will provide a portrait of New York City that draws on the historic, cultural, geographic, and even political factors that contributed to the evolution of New York City and to what it is today.
The 13 artists and their lines of inquiry are (listed alphabetically):
Morad Bouchakour—street photography taken in neighborhoods throughout the city, including those in Harlem, the Bronx, and along Park Avenue
Misha de Ridder—monumental landscapes, including the forests, the wetlands, the rolling hills, and abundant wildlife; Jamaica Bay, Great Kills Park, and other exotic and beautiful places along the Hudson river banks will be featured
Wijnanda Deroo—interiors of restaurants, including coffee shops, snack bars, and eateries in East Harlem, Chinatown, and other city neighborhoods, reflecting New York’s diversity
Rineke Dijkstra—large portraits from her series depicting bathers at Coney Island
Charlotte Dumas—portraits of shelter dogs, made in all five boroughs, lit and styled in the tradition of Dutch old master paintings
Hendrik Kerstens—large formal portraits of his daughter, Paola, who has been his muse and virtually only sitter throughout his career; the portraits evoke “Dutchness” with wit and deceptively clever time-warping through the use of costume and painterly lighting
Arno Nollen—portraits of people on the street, arranged in a grid
Erwin Olaf—conceptual, staged portraits of African-American families of the early 20th century, photographed entirely in his studio
Jaap Scheeren—playful photographs of situations and encounters that the 17th-century explorers may have found, staged within modern-day New York City
Danielle Van Ark—New Yorkers attending art gallery and museum exhibitions
Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin—portraits of well-known New Yorkers and celebrities, many of which have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, including their images of Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Marc Jacobs, Natalie Portman, Heath Ledger, Mickey Rourke, and many more
Hellen van Meene—portraits of New York City school children
Marloes Krijnen, director of FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, has written: “FOAM has become by far the most popular photography museum in the Netherlands, and its broad range of activities holds a clear position within the (inter)national photography field.”
Krijnen continued: “NY400 is an important opportunity to strengthen this position and to work together with international partners. This manifests itself in a collaboration aiming at presenting Dutch photography to an international public. Significant in Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered is the combination of established Dutch names and the new, talented generation.”