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Karel Appel | A retrospective

Internationally, Karel Appel (1921-2006) is perhaps the most renowned Dutch artist of the latter half of the twentieth century. In 2016 it will be ten years since his death: time for a new generation of visitors to look afresh at an oeuvre that many people still associate with Cobra and the 1950s, although it actually extends over a period of more than sixty years. In this major retrospective, therefore, Cobra is just one of the many aspects of Appel’s work that will be reconsidered from a number of (sometimes unexpected) points of view. The show will revisit, for example, the artist’s early interest in psychopathological art, his stylistic experiments and his highly personal – and sometimes almost abstract – interpretation of traditional subjects like the nude, the portrait and the urban or rural landscape. The exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will be a pivotal part of a wider international reappraisal of Karel Appel’s work, which is also to include exhibitions in Paris, London and Washington.

The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag’s new exhibition of 67 paintings, 12 sculptures and more than 60 drawings demonstrates that Karel Appel was more than just a member of the Cobra movement and more than his flamboyant personal image. The show will revisit, for example, Appel’s early interest in Outsider Art, his wide-ranging stylistic experiments, and his highly individual – sometimes almost abstract – interpretation of traditional genres like the nude, the portrait and the urban or rural landscape. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag’s relationship with Karel Appel goes back many years. The museum has held a number of major exhibitions and in 1983 and 2002 the artist donated a large number of drawings to the museum. This retrospective is further evidence of that close relationship.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an impressive work of reference on Karel Appel. The book is being published in English and Dutch by publishers Walther König of Cologne. In addition to essays by Rudi Fuchs, Klaus Ottmann and Dr Franz-W. Kaiser, it will contain an interview with art critic Michel Ragon, one of the last remaining first-hand witnesses of Appel’s Cobra period in Paris. In addition, thanks to new research, the publication will include both a detailed chronology and a completely updated version of Karel Appel’s renowned counter-cultural manifesto.

The exhibition is supported by the Karel Appel Foundation.


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