A New King, a New Portrait

January 16 2014 to April 15 2014

Artists Iris van Dongen, Rineke Dijkstra and Femmy Otten have been selected to realise the three official portraits of King Willem-Alexander.

foto Sketch designs by Iris van Dongen, Rineke Dijkstra en Femmy Otten

The Mondriaan Fund announces that artists Iris van Dongen, Rineke Dijkstra and Femmy Otten have been selected to realise the three official portraits of King Willem-Alexander. A committee of experts reached this decision on the basis of rough designs submitted by a total of 12 artists.

In a unanimous decision, the committee members chose to award the commissions to three sketch designs in which the King’s personality and symbolic function converge, and in which the artist has developed a composition that presents Willem-Alexander as an icon of kingship. Each of the three selected designs is rooted in the tradition of Dutch official portraiture, while the artists have simultaneously managed to stay true to their own oeuvre. The committee highly appreciates the strong integrity shown in the three sketch designs as both portraits and works of art.

Without wishing to detract from the strong efforts made by the other nine artists or the quality of their contributions, the proposals submitted by Iris van Dongen, Rineke Dijkstra and Femmy Otten reflected a serious engagement with this specific challenge. In the short timespan allotted to each of the artists, the three winners were able to produce conscientious and remarkably rounded-out portraits. The committee of experts has full confidence in the end result and expects to welcome three powerful state portraits of King Willem-Alexander in the course of 2014. These portraits can be ordered by Ministries, provincial authorities, municipalities, courts and other interested parties, including private citizens.

Tremendous boost

Minister Bussemaker (Education, Culture and Science) is delighted with the committee’s choice of artists: “This honourable commission forms a tremendous boost for the artists and for the visual arts in general. The selection made by the committee of experts is a splendid mix of young up-and-coming talent and proven quality. It once again shows the wealth of talent we have here – and the broad range it covers.” In September, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Netherlands Government Information Service assigned the Mondriaan Fund the responsibility and budget for overseeing the realisation of three 2-dimensional official portraits. The Mondriaan Fund was happy to accept this assignment, since the Fund’s objective is to stimulate the development and visibility of the contemporary visual arts and cultural heritage.

The artists

Iris van Dongen (Tilburg, 1975) made two sketch designs from different perspectives: a friendly monarch who looks the viewer straight in the eye, and a formal portrait of the King assuming a more majestic pose. In the final version of the official portrait, Van Dongen intends to merge the two perspectives. The committee was impressed by the skill and profundity with which the artist developed her sketch portraits in pastels and charcoal sketch, and her striking yet well-wrought elaboration of both perspectives.

Rineke Dijkstra (Sittard, 1959) has photographed King Willem-Alexander before, in 2013, for a special royal stamp. For this official portrait however, she decided to work from a different point of departure, in which the perception of modern kinghood by both the sitter and the viewer plays a key role. Through a seemingly minute rotation of the composition that emphasises its frontal nature, Dijkstra lends a monumental quality to the King’s appearance that is reminiscent of the portraits of the Dutch Golden Age. The committee was impressed by this incisive move, which has resulted in a self-confident and confrontational portrait that cannot fail to make an impact – even from a distance. In addition, Dijkstra’s portrait completely leaves aside the struggle between the King’s regal and private personas, in its equally intense and nuanced depiction of Willem-Alexander as a unique individual.

Femmy Otten (Amsterdam, 1981) sought to establish a unity between the sitter and his royal position in her sketch design. She combined Willem-Alexander’s image with emblazonry from the House of Orange-Nassau. Femmy Otten’s sketch design is distinguished by its highly refined style. The committee was pleasantly surprised by her ability to use the ethereality that characterises so much of her work to produce a powerful portrait that is difficult to ignore.

Committee of experts

The committee of experts is made up of:

  • Taco Dibbits, Director of Collections at the Rijksmuseum.
  • Wilma Sütö, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.
  • Luc Tuymans, visual artist, known among other things for his portrait of Queen Beatrix, which was gifted to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 2013.
  • The committee is chaired by Birgit Donker (Director of the Mondriaan Fund).
    The committee of experts selected the twelve artists from a long-list made by scouts Hester Alberdingk Thijm, Arno Kramer, Tirzo Martha and Hripsimé Visser.

Exhibition at the Rijksmuseum

The twelve sketch designs will be exhibited until 15 April at the Rijksmuseum in a presentation called ‘A new king, a new portrait – Designs for the state portrait of King Willem-Alexander’.