press release

Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean presents a major exhibition dedicated to the work of London-based Portuguese artist João Penalva. Organized by Mudam's Chief Curator Clément Minighetti the exhibition brings together large-scale installations, artist’s books, and photographic and video works dating from 2001 to the present.

João Penalva is a teller of a very particular genre of tale that is both fantastic and prosaic, that leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. Through meticulous composition specific to each exhibition, Penalva’s multiple plot lines lend his works the mechanisms of a fable, plunging the viewer into a world that oscillates between reality and the uncanny.

Penalva’s exhibition at Mudam highlights the multiple dimensions of his work, of which the large installation Pavlina and Dr. Erlenmeyer (2010) is emblematic. Composed of two distinct spaces, the first places the visitor in the muffled atmosphere of an exhibition salon in an indeterminate time. It chronicles the life of German chemist Carl Emil Erlenmeyer (1825-1909), whose research led him to propose the formula of naphthalene. In a second space, the haunted dream of Pavlina, a retired entomologist, is played out with the moving image of a giant clothes moth.

Men Asleep (2014), a double-slide projection installation, the acclaimed film Kitsune (2001), and Door (2018), a new moving image work produced by Mudam, form part of the artist’s carefully choreographed installations. The exhibition also includes a retrospective of his large-format, unbound artist’s books, that he has exhibited since 2007.

To coincide with the exhibition, Mudam and Edition Cantz have published The Asian Books, gathering all of the image books created by Penalva that relate to Asia, whether factually or fictionally.

João Penalva was born in Lisbon in 1949. He lives and works in London. He was awarded the DAAD Berlin Artists Residency in 2003 and represented Portugal in the Venice Biennale in 2001. He has had numerous solo exhibitions, amongst which, at Camden Arts Centre, London, 2000; Serralves Museum, Porto, and Ludwig Museum, Budapest, 2005; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006; Lunds Konsthall, Sweden, 2010; Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, 2011; and Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Norway, 2014.