Marlene Dumas Interview

ArtInfo has interviewed Marlene Dumas in New York recently. The South African born painter, now living in Amsterdam, is famous for her sexually charged, often controversial figurative paintings. She also claims the title of most expensive painting to sell at auction, by a living female artist ($3.34 million for “The Teacher”)

marlene dumas

Anyway, I stole some quotes from the interview with Marlene Dumas, which can be found here at ArtInfo (the ArtInfo website is worth a visit for those that haven’t been there yet.)

  • The worst kind of artist is one who thinks they’re so wonderful because they don’t understand that there have been all these wonderful things done already, and that you exist in relation to that. Just because an artist from the past is dead doesn’t mean the work is dead. Art is something that relates you to the past, and hopefully to the present as well.
    Marlene Dumas
  • I see teaching as a very important thing, and not only because I teach them things, but also because we have a dialogue, and you see what you really want. You find things out.
    Marlene Dumas
  • I get asked about the fact that I once said Jesus is the most erotic figure in art. I have to say, “No, I don’t mean I get excited when I see a dead person, I’m saying that in the history of painting, he has been the main figure, and he’s this naked man who struggles between spirituality and physicality. I didn’t invent that. That is what he is supposed to stand for, and in other cultures you do not have that.”
    Marlene Dumas

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About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I enjoyed your link today, that was a very interesting read and interview. she made some great points about how the size of her work represented in magazines.
    I was shocked when I saw Salvidor Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory”.
    I had always imagined it as a BIG painting, but it is only 9 1/2″ x 13″.

  2. Interesting post! I just came across Dumas a little while ago, but have only seen her faces in ink (and some colours as well) that I find abslutely amazing.

  3. Great link! Thank you! I had never heard of her before. I really like her work – and her mindset too.

    I HAD to swipe this and post her in mine…i hope that is okay.

  4. Yeah, she’s an interesting artist. I was shocked when i first learned how big/small the persistence of memory painting was too.

    Just goes to show that it’s not just size that matters!

  5. I had decided that my me-too with regard to Dali’s Persistence which was so much smaller than the reproduction that i had did not warrant saying anything.
    However, I did go over to the site for the Dumas interview and there found one with Brice Marden (so that I did not read the Dumas. I have seen the MoMA retrospective four or five times in whole or part, ending my recent stay in NYC with a thorough viewing. Having seen only two or three of his works previously, the seeds of the exhibition fell on fallow ground.
    First off, I would never say it to him, knowing it is supposed to be insulting to anyone but Matisse, but his later work is wonderfully decorative, particularly the two final items in the show, each six panels wide, with an interweaving of color and line which is quite stimulating. Don’t tell him I mentioned it.
    Second, beyond that, what I was able to see with intensity, a limited amount since it is quite an exhausting exercise, was often interesting and intriguing.
    Third, if one is not Albers, however, it is hard to see the point
    of so many variations on a theme (unless, you have been steeped in the intellectual/aesthetic background which lends it meaning of not visible to one not so steeped-most people who look at and make art.
    Summary,for contemporary artists with a desire to see one of the directions one can go with abstract expressionism this is an excellent show to see.
    For the rest of us, there will be more than enough to make the visit worthwhile.
    I mentioned Albers above. The exhibition at the Whitney in which he is partnered with the middle European whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce, is also quite rewarding. Not only does it sample the Hommage to the Square, but shows that he had a life before that. To what extent the Hommage is textbook illustration rather than textbook illustration that people pay a great deal of money for, I cannot say.
    Also just opened at the Whitney is a retrospective for Kiki Smith. Seeing so much of her work induced a bit of bewilderment, how can the same person who does such striking figurative sculpture (and prints) also do the dozen or so bottles labelled for various bodily fluids and waste products. I should think, with a forty year career behind her, I imagine about the same as Marden, she should also have something to say to other younger contemporary artists.
    Final note: the Whitney continues with Picasso and the Americans which, justifiably, has been a blockbuster for them. See it if you can.
    Similarly, the Hopper continues minus woman looking out a hotel window which was removed from the exhibition to be sold at auction for 18 or 20 million (or some such amount). One can only hope that it will eventually end up in a public collection. I commend to one and all my favorite by him, not generally ranked as “classic”. It is a self-portrait when he was, if I recall, in his early fifties (1938 or thereabouts). If ever I saw a portrait which was universalistic and particularistic at the same time, this is it. (I mean that it is both The American Middle Class Man of 1938 and also Edward Hopper in 1938,) One can compare it with four self-portraits of him 35 or 40 years earlier which are on the opposite of wall of the same gallery.
    In other words, one can spend a very fruitful few days at the Whitney alone.

  6. Correction.
    Just read the email sent by Sotheby’s with winning bids at their recent American auction.
    The actual total price for Hoppers, woman looking at Hotel Window was, quoting: 26,896,000
    The estimate had been between 10 and 20 million as I recall.
    What does one make of this when immediately under it on the list is a Maxfield Parrish, which brought in 800.000 US dollars. I must say the Parrish’s were marked by most attractive colors. A newly discovered Norman Rockwell brought in 15,416,000.

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