Already in the second year of my study in Art History, however, from the past year, I would like to share the following: for the course Collections & Artefacts of prof. Dr Peter de Ruiter, I conducted research on one artwork from the collection of Museum Bijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The work was part of the exhibition The Collection as Time Machine (2018/ 2019) curated by Carel Blotkamp, artist and emeritus professor of the history of art in Amsterdam. My goal was to select a contemporary artwork by a woman artist since I believe that art history sorely lacks research in that area. I chose Bitch, 1995, by British artist Sarah Lucas (UK, 1962). My research focused on the period from the start of her career until a few years after Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen acquired the work in 1996, so roughly from 1988 to 2000. Later works by Lucas show a different approach in material, content and context. In line with what was required of this research paper, the data used is mainly based on literature reviews. Since the artwork is contemporary, there was hardly any academic research available. As a result, the information used comes from exhibition catalogues, art magazines and interviews. The emphasis of the paper lies on the oeuvre of the artist and the interpretations of the work.
First, I was sceptical about the work’s quality, but it slowly grew on me while working on the research and in the process of writing the paper. Investigating this artwork opened up a wider range of interpretations than I thought would be possible. From the first reading of Bitch as a feminist “one-liner”, I was taken to a more sophisticated understanding of the context of the work. It was interesting to detect a lineage from the Young British Artists to sculptors in the 1980s and feminist art from the 1970s, subsequently going all the way back to the beginning of the last century, rediscovering the Duchampian attitude and the Surrealist movement. I believe that this is precisely what a contemporary artwork can do: connecting the present with the past, trying to make sense of who we are.
As a final assignment for the course, we had to develop an exhibition with the chosen artwork in the heart of the presentation. I decided to focus on questions of gender and identity, titled Constructed Identities, comprised with works of the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen with two additions. Arranged around the work Bitch by Sarah Lucas, the various works question positions and constructions of identity and power. Although especially concerned with the position of women and the representation of the gendered body, the artworks touch upon all sorts of facets of identity. Believing that these kinds of realities play an essential role in determining how we see, understand and experience the world.
If you are interested in reading the paper, just drop me a line.
Featured image: Sarah Lucas, Bitch 1995, in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.