Toter Gang, 2018
Here, Luc Tuymans once again tackles Nazism, a recurring theme throughout his oeuvre. He used the image of the steel entrance door of Hitler’s Berchtesgaden bunker and its network of tunnels. But here, nothing informs the viewer about the source and the German title, which means “the corridor of the dead”, is not directly informative either. The artist hence did not wish to see this painting interpreted as a comment about Nazism. The theme that is clearly apparent, on the other hand, is confinement, but presented here in a paradoxical way. Indeed, on what side of this closed door are we standing? Inside or outside? Are we protected or detained? Both options are open. As often in Luc Tuymans’ work, the subject is decontextualized: the door is not related to any architectural element and the composition is abstract, with two black horizontal strips— black being the color of all colors, rarely used by the artist and in figurative painting— framing the black, vertical rectangle of the door. It is surrounded by a semi-circular halo of light, which gives the door a surreal, metaphysical dimension, as if it was inviting us to cross over to the hereafter. The question is whether there is a possibility of redemption behind the door, including for the absolute evil that was Nazism. The painting also questions the veracity of images. This image is an incomplete record of our history; it reminds us that we should not forget this dark period while also pointing to our own ambivalence.