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'Vanitas: Contemporary Reflections on Love and Death from the Collection of Stéphane Janssen' opens in Phoenix
Stéphane Janssen seems to have linked these two impulses early in his own thinking. He began to collect art as a very young man, and some of his earliest acquisitions were works of the CoBrA school, with content that reflected the context of the Second World War. At age 22 he lived in Mexico for six months and became fascinated by the Mexican attitude towards death and the art inspired by the subject. Janssen has also collected the work of artists such as, Lucien Murat, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Spencer Tunick.



PHOENIX, AZ.- In the 14th century, the pandemic of plague commonly known as the Black Death killed somewhere between 30 to 60% of the total population of Europe. It took the continent about 150 years to recover from this devastation, marking deeply the continent’s culture and imagination.

Two centuries later, the pictorial trope of the vanitas—demonstrating the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits—came into its own in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. It deployed the enormous wealth, material well-being and privilege of the Northern Renaissance to explore the fleeting nature of life and beauty. The still-life was its main form and the skull was its central symbol, a primordial reminder of the certainty of death.

Any current reflection on the subject of the vanitas in contemporary art cannot ignore the global pandemic that HIV/AIDS in our own time. AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981 in the United States and has caused about 30 million deaths worldwide. Following the sexual revolution and a period of great social change in the United States and Western world, the disease devastated a younger population on the leading edge of social, personal and artistic innovation. Artists like Nan Goldin documented this monumental shift from carefree hedonism to the darkest moments of the siege of a disease that appeared unstoppable. Thirty years later, we have found an uneasy truce that allows individuals to live with the disease but the spectre of this period haunts us. It profoundly influenced the rise of many artistic ideas and forms over the past thirty years including those of masquerade, theories about the cyborg as well as redefining how we think about and represent death.

Stéphane Janssen seems to have linked these two impulses early in his own thinking. He began to collect art as a very young man, and some of his earliest acquisitions were works of the CoBrA school, with content that reflected the context of the Second World War. At age 22 he lived in Mexico for six months and became fascinated by the Mexican attitude towards death and the art inspired by the subject. Janssen has also collected the work of artists such as, Lucien Murat, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Spencer Tunick.

Vanitas: Contemporary Reflections on Love and Death from the Collection of Stéphane Janssen explores the visual material of this waking nightmare from the divine and beautiful to the sorrow and pain of all we have lost.










Today's News

November 3, 2014

Alberto Giacometti sculpture set to fetch $100 million at Sotheby's New York auction

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Head of the World Jewish Congress warns Swiss museum not to accept gift of Nazi art

Landmark exhibition of paintings by Paul Cézanne opens at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

'Vanitas: Contemporary Reflections on Love and Death from the Collection of Stéphane Janssen' opens in Phoenix

Major exhibition of 19th-century French floral still-life paintings debuts at Dallas Museum of Art

With some 250 items on display, funeral museum rises again in death-fixated Vienna

Incisive in every sense of the term, exhibition at Jewish Museum Berlin explores male circumcision

First New York exhibit of the work of legendary French photographer Jean-Daniel Lorieux opens

Galerie Jaeger Bucher announces retrospective on the 100th anniversary of Wilfrid Moser's birth

Monumental and involving installation by Alfredo Jaar is focal point of his first solo exhibition in Poland

Solo exhibition of the work of Spanish painter Antonio Cazorla opens at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery

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'Little Berlin' village remembers how its own Wall fell

The Peacock and Beauty in Art at the Hudson River Museum

Art in the Making: FreedmanArt in New York opens group exhibition

Exhibition of 18th-century gold boxes from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on view at LACMA

Key work within Norwegian conceptual art on view at Astrup Fearnley Museet

Archive from groundbreaking BBC programme to be sold at Bonhams

Julian Opie's collection exhibited at the Bowes Museum

'moby innocents' opens at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York

Curator announced for fig-2: 50 projects in 50 weeks

Two years, 1,242 drawings: Blanton exhibition spotlights draftsmanship of James Drake




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