Born in 1977 in Baia Mare, Romania, Adrian Ghenie’s gestrural paintings draw on historical figures and events of Europe’s violent past in order to tap into a collective unconciousness. Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Josef Mengele feature prominently in his ouevre and reveal Ghenie’s preoccupation with the darkness that lurks within humanity. Foregoing traditional methods, Ghenie uses palette knives and stencils to create his large-scale works, resulting in a blurred imagery that ocillates between memory and fact. Ghenie creates figures marked by constrating states of clarity and decay using primarily a dark, sombre palette which he pours onto and scrapes from the canvas. His expressive handling of paint has earned him comparisons to Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko, though the artist never explicitly drew inspiration from them.
Ghenie often engages with art historical discourse such as in his work Sunflowers of 1937 which offers a reimagining of Van Gogh’s still life of the flower. In an interview with The Art Newspaper in June of 2018, the artist stated that “At this point in my career, I do what I always did—I steal from everybody.” This work is also notable for fetching well above its estimate at auction and selling for £7million, the highest price ever achieved for a Romanian artist. Ghenie’s limited annual output ranges between ten and fifteen works resulting in a finite number of paintings up for sale at any given time.
Ghenie graduated from the University of Art and Design in Cluj, Romania in 2001. Four years later he co-founded the Galeria Plan B in Cluj and in 2006 opened a venue in Berlin where he had his first solo exhibition. Since then, Ghenie has exhibited internationally in galleries including Haunch of Vension in Zurich and London, Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp, Pace Gallery in New York and London, Mihai Nicodim in Los Angeles and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris. Ghenie’s work has also been exhibited in museums such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst in Ghent, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. In 2015, Ghenie was chosen to represent Romania at La Biennale di Venezia.
Ghenie’s paintings are held in the public collections of several institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, SFMOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst in Antwerp.
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