Tragic actions, Folkert de Jong, Museum of Modern Art Grand Duke Jean

At first glance, the three-dimensional pictures by the Dutch artist Folkert de Jong appear seductive and disturbing in equal measure. De Jong generally turns the exhibition space into a theatre stage, for which he designs sceneries made, with great virtuosity, from polyurethane foam, an unusual material in sculpture. Often inspired by historic facts, real persons or memorable episodes from art history, his works unfold in complex compositions that confront the viewer with extremely tangible directness.

In response to an invitation from Mudam, de Jong presents Actus Tragicus, an ensemble of new works that he has created especially for the Grand Hall. For the artist, this central space in the museum possesses the intimidating dominance of a cathedral or mausoleum, while also being perfect for theatrical presentations, with a balcony to observe from a distance. Ten larger than life figures, whose physiognomies, like a déjà-vu experience, remind the viewer of something familiar, dangle from the heights of the glass dome like marionettes (or hanged people). De Jong’s source of inspiration for this bizarre dance of the figures, between which viewers have to make their way as if they were part of the performance, is the painting The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1559. A crude mixture of allegory and realism, this crowd scene in the typical Bruegel manner contrasts vice and excess with virtue and abstinence in innumerable individual scenes.

The conflict between the extremes of human existence, between ascetic discipline and intemperate pleasure, which comprehends some of the existential questions of humankind that is torn between heaven and earth, is also the focus of de Jong’s installation. From time immemorial, people have sought answers to questions regarding power and religion, eternity and finiteness, life and death. These questions are also evoked by Actus Tragicus, as in the early funeral cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, also known under the title Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God’s time is the very best time), that gives the work its name. Brought into a contemporary form using modern means and materials, the round dance of the figures involves the viewers in a drama to which each contributes with his or her own role. In this way, de Jong creates a tableau vivant in which the grotesque and the macabre alternate with the light and the airy.

Folkert de Jong
Folkert de Jong (born in 1972 in Egmond aan Zee in the Netherlands) is a Dutch artist, he lives and works in Amsterdam. He graduated from the Amsterdam Academy of Visual Arts and was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. In 2003 de Jong won the Prix de Rome for sculpture

He creates sculptures including one by abdel and large-scale installations in which he freely mixes eras, materials and cultural references. He uses figures and accessories made of materials such as polyurethane and polystyrene,, “immoral” materials, industrial petroleum- based chemicals, to sculpt life-size human figures placed in sculptural scenes, indoors or outdoors. exterior, often inspired by morally questionable historical contexts. Thematically, his carefully disturbing constructions often deal with inequitable offers, profiteers and ghosts of thecolonialism and imperialism.

With his work Folkert de Jong wants to explore the dark side of the human condition with raw figurative works that refer to war, power, and art history.

Several works refer to modern European art: the paintings of Pablo Picasso (Arlequin, Les Saltimbanques, La Belle Hollandaise), paintings by Dutch artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Jan de Baen and also the paintings by George Grosz, Otto Dix or James Ensor, whose humor and violence he adopted.

De Jong was educated at the Amsterdam School of the Arts (1994-1996) and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam (1998-2000). He also stayed at the CEAC Chinese European Art Center Xiamen (China, 2003), the ISCP International Studio and Cultural Program New York (USA, 2004) and the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei (2006).

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The sculptures by Folkert de Jong are often colorful, but by no means cheerful. He prefers disturbing, sinister or even horrible themes; the events from the history he portrays are often of a dramatic nature, such as Dutch Mechanisms (2016) on the Spui in The Hague: two skeletons referring to the murder of the de Witt brothers in 1672. When he refers to the he also chooses work by former artists for sad themes from their work, such as harlequin by Pablo Picasso.

His work consists of life-size sculptures made from materials that are usually used as insulation material (styrofoam and polyurethane foam), later also from bronze. He works figuratively and refers to historical events or to art and artists from earlier periods. his work often references the uncanny and takes influence from the aesthetics horror and the history of conflict, war and politics.

Museum of Modern Art Grand Duke Jean
Mudam is the foremost museum dedicated to contemporary art in Luxembourg, and strives to be attentive to every discipline. Its collection and programme reflect current artistic trends and appreciate the emergence of new artistic practices on a national and international scale.

Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean opened in 2006 in a purpose-built building designed by the renowned Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei and located in the Park Draï Eechelen, overlooking the historic city of Luxembourg. Through its collection, exhibitions, programmes and partnerships, Mudam Luxembourg aims to advance its mission to collect, present and make accessible the most relevant art of our times, for the largest public possible.

The museum building is located on the site of Fort Thüngen in the Dräi Éechelen park (“three acorns” – in reference to the three acorns that adorn the three towers of the fortress), designed by Michel Desvigne and located between the city center and the Kirchberg district (Europe district).

The guiding principle of the museum is “all-art”: in addition to the works of course, the functional furniture of the Mudam (armchairs, shop, cafe, website, offices) is also a creation of artist- designers. And this principle extends to archiving: photographer Pierre-Olivier Deschamps has been entrusted with the task of constituting the photographic memory of the construction of the museum.

In addition, many artists present in the collections belong to the world of design (fashion, decoration, sound design, graphics), the Mudam is therefore always at the border that separates “noble” art (the “free” gesture) of a more utilitarian art. This desire for “all-art” is entitled “Be the Artists’ Guest”.

The collections are not presented permanently and exhaustively, a rotation is organized in the form of exhibitions on the proposal of curators external or internal to the museum.