Michaël Borremans: The Advantage

Dates : January 11 (Saturday) – March 30 (Sunday), 2014

The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Shinagawa, Tokyo) is proud to present Michaël Borremans: The Advantage, the first solo exhibition at a Japanese museum by the Belgian artist Michaël Borremans featuring over 30 oil paintings that portray the fate of humans living within a complex and uncertain world.

As an artist who worked with photographic expression, Michaël Borremans turned to painting during the mid-1990s. He has since skyrocketed to fame for work that has been compared in style to early-modern and modern-era artists such as Diego Vélasquez and Édouard Manet, and in spirit to the Surrealistic tradition of his native Belgium. In his paintings, a vague dis-ease permeating the stillness of his images draws the viewer into a deep contemplation. His main motifs are people divorced from reality in a temporal and spatial sense, mindlessly engaged in some private ritual or task.

“It’s not important who they are or what they’re doing exactly. They’re more universal, symbolic metaphors. I paint various kinds of people, but in each case they’re important not as portraits of particular people but as general ‘human beings’. “*1

In most cases, his images deftly defy theorization, making interpretation difficult. One thing that can be said, however, is that Borremans conveys the feeling of another era with a style rooted in the history of painting, at times using old photographs as the basis of his work, at times preserving the individuality of his subjects by capturing the uniqueness of their faces. And yet his subjects appear as creatures with a common universal existence, saddled with a fate that comes from being human. Such images mirror the difficult lives that many in Japan face today, and are sure to strike a chord that transcends national boundaries.

Several years ago, during a visit to the Hara Museum, Borremans was struck by the museum’s architectural history and appearance. The desire to hold a solo exhibition there took hold of him from that moment on. As the former home of the Hara family, it was originally a place of rest. It would go on to survive the war and then continue its quiet existence as an art museum. In this place, Borremans discovered an atmosphere that resembled his own work.

Applying the strictest standards, the artist has limited the output of paintings that he considers finished. He has described his attitude as follows:

“It must move me, cut me at a certain point, ‘a knife in the eye’.”*2

This exhibition of 30-some pieces selected by the Borremans himself thus represents a rare opportunity to become acquainted with the work of this very special artist. Also introduced are video pieces which Borremans began producing in recent years.

*1. From an interview of the artist. ART iT
*2. Michaël Borremans – A Knife in the Eye, VRT CULTUUR voor CANVAS, 2009.

Featured artist

Michaël Borremans

Organized by

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Supported by

Flemish authorities

Sponsored by


Cooperation provided by

Gallery Koyanagi, Zeno X Gallery