Marlene Dumas. open-end

The exhibition

Marlene Dumas. open-end
Palazzo Grassi, 27/03/2022 - 08/01/2023

From March 27, 2022, to January 8, 2023, Palazzo Grassi presents 'Marlene Dumas. open-end', the solo show dedicated to Marlene Dumas (1953, Cape Town, South Africa), as part of the cycle of monographic shows dedicated to major contemporary artists, launched in 2012 and alternating with thematic exhibitions of the Pinault Collection.

The exhibition, entitled “open-end”, is curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with Marlene Dumas. It brings together over 100 works and focuses on her whole pictorial production, with a selection of paintings and drawings created between 1984 and today, including unseen works made in the last few years. Presented over the two floors of Palazzo Grassi, the works exhibited come from the Pinault Collection, as well as from international museums and private collections.

Considered one of the most influential artists on the contemporary art scene, Marlene Dumas was born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa. She grew up and studied fine arts during the brutal Apartheid regime. In 1976, she came to Europe for further studies and settled in Amsterdam, where she still lives and works. If in the early years of her career she was known for her collages and texts, Marlene Dumas today works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper. Her work largely consists of portraits, which are universal representations of suffering, ecstasy, fear, desperation, but are also often comments on the act of painting itself. A crucial aspect of her work is her use of images from which she draws inspiration, be it in newspapers, magazines, film stills, films or polaroids she herself has taken. Of her work she says: “I am an artist who uses second-hand images and first-hand emotions”. (1) Love and death, gender and race, innocence and blame, violence and tenderness are the major questions she raises, and which combine the intimate sphere with socio-political aspects, news stories and main topics of art history. Her work is based on an awareness that the endless flow of images we see daily impacts our perception of ourselves and our ability to read the world. For her, painting is a very physical act, revolving around eroticism and its different histories.

Marlene Dumas’ work focuses on the representation of human figures dealing with the most intense emotions and paradoxes: “Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard.” (2)

The exhibition catalogue will be co-edited by Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana with Marsilio Editori, Venice.

The exhibition will remain open to the public from 27 March 2022 to 8 January 2023.


(1) Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.

(2) Ibid.

Biography of Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas was born in South Africa in 1953. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Cape Town (1972–1975). She then studied at Ateliers ’63 in Haarlem, The Netherlands (1976–1978). She is well known for her interest in the relation between image and text. Her paintings and drawings, often devoted to depictions of the human form, are typically culled from a vast archive of images collected by the artist.

Solo exhibitions of her work include ‘The Image as Burden’, Tate Modern, London, 2015; ‘Measuring Your Own Grave’, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008–2009; ‘Nom de Personne’, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2001.

Her work has been exhibited in Venice on the occasion of collective shows: “The Particularity of Being Human: Marlene Dumas – Francis Bacon”, Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 1995; “Marlene Dumas, Maria Roosen, Marijke van Warmerdam”, 46th Biennale di Venezia, Dutch Pavilion, Venice, 1995; “Marlene Dumas: Suspect”, Fondazione Bevilacqua la Masa/Palazzetto Tito, Venice, 2003; “Sorte”, Fondazione Stelline, Milan, 2012; “All the World’s Futures”, 56th Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2015.

The catalogue

The catalogue (in Italian, English, French) of the exhibition “Marlene Dumas. open-end” is co-edited by Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana with Marsilio Editori, Venice.

Graphic design by Roma Publications (Roger Willems).

256 pages, 180 illustrations in colour

The Podcast

A Sort of Tenderness
Marlene Dumas between Words and Images

Palazzo Grassi and CHORA are proud to present a two-part podcast - available in three languages - produced with the participation of Marlene Dumas and many other guests, available to enjoy free of charge on the website (, as well as on all major podcast streaming platforms.

A brand-new editorial project aimed at providing an intimate insight into the artist’s universe which can be enjoyed not only when visiting the exhibition, but also before or after, in its own right. It consists of 2 episodes in Italian, 2 in English and 2 in French, each approximately 30 minutes long and featuring different guests.

With the participation of Marlene Dumas, the podcast - created by Ivan Carozzi, author and writer for Baldini & Castoldi, Einaudi and Il Saggiatore - involves numerous figures from the international cultural scene, each called upon to contribute to a collective narrative on the themes and world explored by the artist.

The many voices contributing to the story include philosopher Adriana Cavarero, Strega Prize winner Walter Siti, writers Olivia Laing and Marlene van Niekerk, writer and art historian Donatien Grau, art historian Elisabeth Lebovici, curator Caroline Bourgeois and the staff of Palazzo Grassi.

Listen to the podcast on Spreaker, Spotify or Apple.

Press kit

Images of the exhibition

Visitor's guide