8 September – 30 December, 2013

The exhibition ‘Café Dolly’ presents three adventurers in the figurative – Francis Picabia, Julian Schnabel and Jens Ferdinand Willumsen – each of whom, with great self-assurance and a strong personal approach to painting, has formed and captured his artistic visions across the boundaries of the predominant currents of his time.

Common to all three artists is an intensely painterly language with recognizable motifs, clear contours and raw colours in bold combinations which reveal a firm belief in painting and at the same time a need to explore its traditions.

The work of the three artists with figuration, narrative and portraiture in a time dominated by abstraction and a dissociation from painting as an up-to-date mode of artistic expression has made them controversial, and their works have often been subjected to harsh criticism. Picabia’s late, figurative works from the 1940s were written out of his oeuvre, and Schnabel’s figure paintings from the 1980s were accused of lacking critical potential and perpetuating an obsolete type of artistic expression. As for Willumsen’s late works, they have been regarded for decades as banal and eccentric, and unlike his early works they have never been part of the Danish artistic canon.

At the centre of the bringing-together of Picabia, Schnabel and Willumsen lies the observation of how the reception of their works has alternated between rejection and admiration as the times have changed and new narratives have become possible. Although Picabia and Schnabel – and increasingly Willumsen – at present enjoy great esteem, their paintings still provoke questions about style, good taste and even ethics in art.

The title of the exhibition, ‘Café Dolly’, refers to the world’s first cloned sheep, Dolly, which ruffled our cultural notions of authenticity and genuineness in 1997. In a visual-art context Picabia, Schnabel and Willumsen challenge the same concepts in their unprejudicial treatment of the traditions of art history and mass-mediated images as well as private photographs and stories.

‘Café Dolly’ has been curated by the visual artists Claus Carstensen and Christian Vind in collaboration with Anne Gregersen, PhD researcher at the University of Copenhagen, and J.F. Willumsens Museum. With a point of departure in narratives, moods and painterly traces, they have staged the exhibition in a series of associative spaces that are open to interpretation.

This is the first major presentation of Francis Picabia’s paintings and the hitherto largest exhibition of Julian Schnabel’s figure paintings in Denmark.

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