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Vik Muniz: Verso

Mauritshuis Museum
Plein 29,
2511 CS Den Haag,

June 9 – September 4

This summer the Mauritshuis will reveal another side to its character. From June 9th to September 4th we will host the first exhibition of contemporary art in the history of the Mauritshuis.

The exhibition Vik Muniz: Verso reveals not the fronts of world famous paintings, like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring, but their backs. For this exhibition, celebrated Brazilian artist Vik Muniz has created a total of five new works based on paintings in the Mauritshuis collection to augment his existing Verso series.

For Muniz, the back of every painting is unique; the holes, the metal brackets, the labels and all the other markings it acquires tell the story of its past. As the years go by the back of a painting changes. New owners make their mark. The latest processes leave an imprint.

The back reveals the materials from which the painting is made – stretchers, canvas or panel – and shows details of the frame and any other safety measure taken while it was on display. It is only ever seen by the museum staff. And it is this, the more intimate side of a famous masterpiece, that Muniz seeks to share with the visitor.

Vik Muniz began photographing the backs of famous paintings in 2002. In his book Reflex (2005) he expressed a desire to make life-size prints of the photographs and exhibit them. His first, meticulous, 3D copies of the reverse sides were made in 2008. He called them ‘Versos’, perfect imitations of the side that normally faces the wall.

Muniz’ first Verso exhibition was organised in 2008 at the Sikkema, Jenkins & Co. gallery in New York. On that occasion he presented the reverse sides of masterpieces such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (MoMA, New York), Van Gogh’s Starry Night (MoMA) and Renoir’s Woman with a Parrot (Guggenheim, New York). Though more ‘Versos’ were made in the following years, such as Da Vinci’s La Gioconda (better known as the Mona Lisa) (Louvre, Paris), they have never been exhibited as a group.

This summer the Mauritshuis becomes the first museum ever to exhibit a group of fifteen Versos. From the Mauritshuis collection the exhibition reveals the backs of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft, Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp and Frans Post’s View of Itamaracà Island in Brazil. The latter is of particular interest, given Muniz’s own Brazilian identity and his association with Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, the original owner of the Mauritshuis.

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