press release

‘The milkmaid in the silly hat,The ball-breaking director of a multinational, The community-focussed politician, The sexually liberated teenager set loose on the world, The legitimised whore in her window, Vermeer’s girl with the pearl earring…’

Female identity and its representations in contemporary Dutch society are inevitably linked with both our perceptions of what is popularly viewed as a highly permissive society and what we believe about it. The dialogue between broader memes of a national social identity and the sheer weight of internal and foreign expectations of carrying the torch as a model liberal society are further muddied. Inevitably, the high profile of a rich artistic tradition in which the role and representation of women continues to be debated and discussed creates yet another layer of white noise, interfering with how we manage to see Dutch women and, certainly according to some contemporary Dutch artists, how they see themselves.

From the outside, looking in on the permissive society, it is all too easy to draw simple conclusions, to go with the flow of surface meanings arising from both our expectations, popular beliefs and, arguably, Dutch collusion with these. After all, some of our beliefs about women in the Netherlands – for example those about sexuality and commercialised sex – have proved economically fruitful. Gender and sexuality of one kind or another is an intrinsic building block in the development of a sex tourism industry after all.

However, within contemporary Dutch society itself, with its traditions of internal debate and self-reflection, it is hardly surprising that gender has proved of interest to artists. Gender, identity and gender politics have been irrevocably in rapid evolution as a necessary adjunct to the building of the Dutch social state after World War Two. And of course, with its history of the Republic and tolerance, the role of women - and representations of those roles in Dutch society- has been something of a work in progress, often deliciously out of step with its European neighbours, for centuries.

Perhaps it is the pre-eminence of work in other tropes by Dutch artists exported to the international arena. Or perhaps it’s even because of the permissive society itself; one that does not guarantee outcry in response to confrontational works of art as in so many other societies. But, for whatever reason, the rich body of work and its correlative practices by contemporary Dutch artists exploring such themes and chipping away at the conventional view remains somewhat neglected outside of the Netherlands.

‘Ladyshave’ aims to present a sample of artists working in the Netherlands today, some better known than others, whose work directly or indirectly addresses issues of gender and sexual identity in contemporary Dutch society. In so doing the intention is to both give an outside audience a chance to both see recent work from the Netherlands and, more specifically, to challenge some of the orthodoxies that exist about gender and identity within the permissive society through the work of those living within it and responding to it.

curated by Ken Pratt, MAMA Showroom, Rotterdam

Supported by The Arts Council of England, The Royal Dutch Embassy & Mondriaan Stichting


only in german

Kurator: Ken Pratt

mit Madeleine Berkhemer, Martin C de Waal, Liz Chute, Risk Hazekamp, Silvia Russel, Jennifer Tee, DJ Chantelle