Getting the work from the US was no easy feat. First, an American museum was about to snatch up the mouldy grapes created by Kathleen Ryan (1984). Then there was the coronavirus crisis, which made it difficult to bring the work to the Netherlands. But at long last, today, the American artist’s XXXL grapes are safely in place in the LAM. The museum, located on the Keukenhof Estate, reopens on 5 June and everyone will be able to experience the 3D still life for themselves. (Tickets are available online only, each with a specific start time.)
Dried out and mouldy
Kathleen Ryan’s bunch of grapes, almost three metres long, features mouldy, shrivelled fruits. Like many of Ryan’s works, the objects are made from sparkling stones and beads. Ryan’s rotten lemons have been well received at art fairs like Art Basel Miami, FIAC Paris and Frieze Art Fair. “Her work both repels and attracts. The gems make you want to get closer. From a long way off, they show you the decay, but from up close they turn into abstract landscapes with the most beautiful colours and sparkles,” says museum director Sietske van Zanten.
The modern Vanitas
Kathleen Ryan’s work has been compared to the Dutch 17th-century Vanitas paintings, which, even in the midst of wealth and luxury, remind the viewer that everything is transitory.
The grapes also make reference to Bacchus, the god of wine and symbol of joy and fertility. Ryan previously created a series of stone grapes, titled Bacchantes. While those grapes are perfectly round and smooth, those in the LAM are shrivelled and uneven, almost raisin-like.
Craft and industry
Kathleen Ryan combines artisanry – it takes months to put all the stones in place – with industrial elements. The stalks are made from copper piping.
Ryan grew up in Santa Monica, California, and now lives and works in New York. Her work has previously been exhibited at the Cc Foundation in Shanghai, the Arsenal Contemporary in New York and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.
Like nowhere else
Sietske van Zanten: “The run-up wasn’t easy, but we’re so happy that we persevered. The artwork comes into its own in the LAM like nowhere else.”
Kathleen Ryan’s mouldy grapes fit perfectly with the food and consumption theme of the brand new LAM museum on the Keukenhof Estate. “But more than anything, it’s in keeping with our mission to encourage people to look at things differently,” says Van Zanten. “We offer an innovative viewing experience. Even after visitors go home, they look at their own familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. It only really begins after a visit to the LAM. I would bet that after seeing Kathleen Ryan’s grapes, you’ll suddenly start looking at your mouldy food at home in a totally different way.”
As of Friday, 5 June 2020, the LAM will once again be open to the public on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
To give each visitor proper personal assistance and help them see things from a different perspective, the museum always issues a limited number of tickets, each with a specific start time. At this time, five people (rather than eight) are permitted to enter the museum every 15 minutes. Once admitted, visitors can stay for as long as they want. As usual, they can use their own smartphones to take a museum tour.
LAM tickets are available online and will be released in phases. Only tickets for June will be released in the first phase.