Adrian Ghenie

  • Launching Adrian Ghenie's new publications

    Delve into a selection of poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction that our artists have written or turned to over the years for inspiration, escape, education and research as well as major texts on our artists published by the gallery. 

    ‘The balance of the canvas is like the twisting branches of trees: they grow from all sides, here and there they meet at right angles, but they never intertwine and never get tangled.’ Dimitri Ozerkov on Adrian Ghenie.

    Adrian Ghenie, called ‘The world’s most exciting painter under the age of 50’ by Jackie Wullschlager, Chief Art Critic of the Financial Times, has been in the limelight lately with his landmark exhibition at the Hermitage museum I have turned my only face’.

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    Installation images at 'I Have Turned My Only Face', at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia


    We are pleased to announce the launch of the much-awaited Hermitage catalogue co-published with the gallery, as well as a comprehensive monograph spanning his practice from 2014 published by Hatje Cantz and a literary essay by French writer Yannick Haenel, at Actes Sud. Adrian Ghenie has also been invited to feature in the Financial Times’s new Landscape series.

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    Adrian Ghenie ‘I Have Turned My Only Face’

    Co-published with The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

    Introduction by Mikhail Piotrovsky, texts by Dimitri Ozerkov, Anastasiia Veialko, conversation between Adrian Ghenie and Dimitri Ozerkov

    Read excerpts below | Order book here 


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    Adrian Ghenie

    Published by Hantje Cantz


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    Adrian Ghenie

    A literary essay by French writer Yannick Haenel



    On this occasion, we hope you enjoy reading In Praise of Shadows, a conversation between Adrian Ghenie and Curator Dimitri Ozerkov from the Hermitage catalogue. To delve deeper into his work, we have made extracts from two other earlier catalogues on the artist available to read, notably a poem by Gherasim Luca in light of Adrian Ghenie’s Jungles in Paris paintings and a passage from Curator Luca Massimo Barbero’s essay on Adrian Ghenie’s exhibition The Battle Between Carnival and Feast at the Palazzo Cini in Venice.


    Excerpts from 'I Have Turned My Only Face':

    A conversation between Adrian Ghenie and Curator Dimitri Ozerkov of the Hermitage Museum


     Excerpts from 'Jungle in Paris':

    A poem by Gherasim Luca in light of Adrian Ghenie’s Jungles in Paris paintings 


    Excerpts from 'The Battle Between Carnival and Feast':

    Curator Luca Massimo Barbero’s essay on the exhibition 

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  • 'I have turned my only face…'
    November 21, 2019 - February 2, 2020
    The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

    As a boy Adrian Ghenie came across a catalogue of Dutch paintings from The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, which had a profound effect on him, forming the basis for his encyclopaedic knowledge of art history.  In his solo exhibition in the White Hall at the Hermitage Museum, “I have turned my only face…” Paintings by Adrian Ghenie, the artist’s new works make reference to the work of the Old Masters in an artistic homage to the museum’s collection.

    I remember there was a window open and a curtain blowing in the wind; this detail and the memory of it gave me a lot of peace. To me the museum felt like a home for art, not like a temple to art.
    Adrian Ghenie recalling his first visit to the museum in 2017

    Taking its title from 'On horseback at dawn' by Romanian poet Nichita Stănescu (1933–1983), the exhibition is curated by Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of the Hermitage's Department of Contemporary Art, and Anastasia Veyalko, Junior Researcher and supported by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. In these new works the artist has deconstructed the image more than ever before, inviting the viewer to decipher the shifting forms in his sensuously painted canvases. As he describes, ‘the eyes don’t recognise the figure but the brain knows it is there’. These works continue Ghenie’s sustained engagement with the history of painting, recontextualising the aesthetic strategies of his predecessors, including Henri Rousseau, Vincent van Gogh and Théodore Géricault. 

    The dialogue Ghenie establishes with the Dutch Old Masters is conveyed with particular intensity as they hang in the same museum space. The fact that the viewer is able to repeat the artist’s journey and walk through the galleries that house these masterpieces is a unique situation. The locus of the Hermitage galleries forms a particular world of references and symbols in which Ghenie’s paintings exist.
    – Anastasia Veyalko

    Ghenie's The Hunter (2019) relates to Hunter with Dog in a Landscape (1625) by the Flemish painter Jan Wildens (1586–1653), which has formed the basis for several paintings and a related drawing also on view. The original is a typical genre scene in which a huntsman, flanked by his three dogs, stands in a confidently contrapposto pose, holding the rabbit he has caught. In Ghenie’s version the hunter is virtually subsumed by a maelstrom of textures, barely recognisable through the diagonals of his staff and leg, and the two abstracted dogs at his feet. Taking its title and subject from the 1649 painting Farm by Paulus Potter (1625–1654), which the artist has known since childhood, Ghenie’s riff on the theme conveys the impression of a writhing animal mass against a backdrop of corrugated iron and sunset sky, identifiable as cattle from the repeating horn shapes. Sharing the Old Masters’ fundamental concerns with both composition and colour, the works that Ghenie has selected are characteristic of genre and landscape painting of the period, and therefore their representative function is more important to him than their individual status. 

    Ghenie’s work does not break with tradition but is linked to it through the introduction of a whole system of readable allusions: recognisable subjects, details, colour tones. He establishes particular interrelationships with the art of the past, entering into dialogue with it, as if constantly looking back to his own childhood memories. In searching for a creative tension between abstraction and figuration, Ghenie makes paintings that are similar to traditional oil paintings but the techniques he uses to apply the paints are by no means traditional. – Anastasia Veyalko

    Throughout his oeuvre, Ghenie interweaves his situation with his state of mind, oscillating between the personal and the collective to create works that are simultaneously sensitive and provocative, embracing uncomfortable themes with a boldness that harks back to the innovatiions of his predecessors. Henri Rousseau (1844–1910) has long been a figure of fascination for Ghenie, who he regards as ‘the first abstract painter’ due to Rousseau’s detached treatment of surface composed of flat, overlapping planes and grids that foreshadowed many aspects of Modernism. Ghenie’s recent exhibition Jungles in Paris at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris is testament to his sustained engagement with the French artist and his second rendition of Antelope Attacked Near Gas Pipe further explores this violent yet seductive subject. A similar scene is depicted in Ghenie’s Untitled (after Rousseau) (2019), based on Kunstmuseum Basel’s Jungle with Setting Sun (1910), in which a dark figure wrestles with a wild jaguar against the tumultuous sky. In The Raft 2 (2019), Ghenie also reprises his contemporary analogue to The Raft of the Medusa (c. 1818–19) by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824), a previous version of which was recently exhibited at Palazzo Cini during the Venice Biennale. Ghenie depicts a mass of vulnerable limbs against the turbulent blue sea and sky, reminiscent of the harrowing images on the news, showing the perilous journeys that refugees are forced to make to flee conflicts.

    Continuing his six-year series of ‘hybrid self-portraits’, Ghenie’s small but intense canvas Lidless Eye (2019) is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s late Self-Portrait from 1889. When he visited Paris as a student in 1988, Ghenie’s first encounter with this famous painting in the Musée d’Orsay had a profound psychological impact on him. One of the most distinctive examples of portraiture, Ghenie painted Self-Portrait as Vincent van Gogh in 2012, before expanding and elaborating upon this theme in a number of works created between 2015 and 2017. As the artist has explained, ‘What intrigued me about van Gogh is this difference between the reality of his actual existence, which was a complete nightmare from top to bottom, and van Gogh the cliché, which is a beautiful fantasy.’ In this work, van Gogh’s distinctive features are combined with Ghenie’s own, visually representing the processes of inspiration and influence. The title reflects Ghenie’s belief that artists perceive the world differently – their eyes are lidless because the creative mind never sleeps, but is always watching and looking.

    Ghenie’s artistic method can be seen as a search for ideas in the real world that then undergo various transformations. By bringing these subjects, inspired by the world around him, into the new context of artistic space, he reveals them in an entirely different way: the original motif he encountered becomes subordinate to his own vision, to a new interpretation, to a mixture of other motifs; to a process of simplification or, on the contrary of complexifying through the addition of details. Ghenie’s childhood exemplars of  Old-Master paintings are now replaced by his own memories and spontaneous feelings, which he transforms within the pictorial space. – Anastasia Veyalko

    The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that includes an interview with Adrian Ghenie and essays by the curators.

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    April 19, 2019 - November 18, 2019

    An exhibition of new works at Palazzo Cini Gallery to coincide with the 58th Venice Biennale


    Palazzo Cini Gallery will present an exhibition of new works by Adrian Ghenie titled The Battle Between Carnival and Feast. Unveiled on the second floor of the historic museum on 19 April 2019, the exhibition will be on view during the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale until 18 November 2019. Palazzo Cini Gallery, part of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, is the exceptional museum house that was once Vittorio Cini’s home. It now contains the masterpieces from his personal collection, and since the reopening in 2014 Assicurazioni Generali has been the gallery's main partner. The Battle Between Carnival and Feast is presented in dialogue with the rooms of the museum and will run until 18 November.

    One of the most celebrated painters of his generation, Adrian Ghenie combines in his works personal memories and collective trauma, both past and present. His paintings engage not only with the history of painting, but with “painting the texture of history” and the personalities whose actions have defined its course. Investigating the possibilities of paint as a medium is always central to Ghenie’s practice and by fusing the grand themes and narratives of historical painting with figures from today and current affairs, the paintings become less about the subject and more about the act of painting itself.

    The Battle Between Carnival and Feast presents recent paintings, a number painted specifically for this exhibition. On one hand they reflect the rich maritime history of the city with its many waterways, and on the other the conflict and turmoil caused by today’s geo-political issues. The theme of water unites these works, which are painted in an aqueous palette of deep-sea greens, vivid blues and shimmering greys.

    Painting is still an extremely vital force, able to express the great complexity of our time, and in Ghenie’s work it is the medium for a powerful synthesis of contemporaneity, history, beauty and the grotesque,” comments Luca Massimo Barbero, Director of the Fondazione Cini Institute of Art History.

    The largest painting in the group is a vast ‘Neo-Baroque’ composition that reveals a floating life raft surmounted by a mass of vulnerable, naked legs and feet, set against a tumultuous sea and sky. The painting is reminiscent of the harrowing images we see in today’s news, showing the perilous journeys that refugees are forced to make to flee conflict. It can also be viewed as a contemporary analogue to The Raft of the Medusa (1818–19) by the French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault, which depicts the survivors of the wrecked naval frigate Méduse clinging to a raft after their ship ran aground in 1816. 

    Another large horizontal painting, the most cinematic in the group, initially resembles a huge aquarium but upon closer inspection reveals a partially decomposed body floating above tropical fish and vivid seaweed. Figure with Dog is dominated by an enormous partially clothed figure, standing near a petrified squatting dog and set against a Rousseau-esque landscape. Half woman, half monster, the figure’s enormous twisted mass of flesh and hair simultaneously seduces and repulses the viewer. 

    Three portraits, smaller in scale, illustrate the artist’s interest in deconstructing the genre of portraiture. In these works, he approaches the face as a landscape, its features obliterated by a textural smudge that hints at the underlying anatomy without depicting it. At the heart of Ghenie’s portraiture is his fascination with the uniquely human ability to anthropomorphise abstract signs and symbols, mentally filling in the blanks so that not only do we read a faceless figure as a portrait, but the subject is recognisable.

    Above all, these works are united by Ghenie’s emotive handling of paint, which he scrapes and manipulates on the canvas to create a pictorial palimpsest superimposing the controversial themes of history, politics, ideology and mass media, where meaning always remains unfixed.

    In 2015, Ghenie’s presentation for the Romanian Pavilion at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale Darwin’s Room cast light on his complex and multi-layered painterly universe. His exploration of the notion of survival drew upon theories of biological evolutionism and the ways in which they have been consciously misinterpreted to transform societies. Lóránd Hegyi wrote in the catalogue: “The paintings of Adrian Ghenie present themselves as a gigantic theatre, an unusually deep, semi dark, quite inscrutable, and extremely densely arranged stage, enlivened with impressive light effects … His painting is sensuous, immediate, lively, suggestive, and dynamic, despite being simultaneously very structured and balanced.”

    The bilingual (Italian and English) catalogue for The Battle between Carnival and Feast includes an introductory conversation between the director of the Institute of Art History, Luca Massimo Barbero, and the artist.

    The exhibition is presented with the support of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. London • Paris • Salzburg

    Adrian Ghenie was born in 1977 in Baia Mare, Romania. He currently lives and works in Berlin, after having graduated from the University of Art and Design in Cluj, Romania. In 2015, Ghenie represented the Romanian Pavilion at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale and he has had major exhibitions worldwide. His installation The Darwin Room of 2013–14 is currently on view at Centre Pompidou, Paris until December 2020, the second of his installations presented as a ‘room within a room’. The first, The Dada Room, 2010, is now in the permanent collection of S.M.A.K. Ghent. His previous solo exhibitions include the Villa de Medici, Rome; CAC Málaga; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, and National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest. He has also participated in exhibitions at the Palazzo Grassi and François Pinault Foundation, Venice; Fondation Van Gogh, Arles; Tate Liverpool; Prague Biennial; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others.

    For more information please contact

    Palazzo Cini

    Campo San Vio, Dorsoduro 864, Venice

    11 am-7 pm (ticket office closes at 6:15 pm)

    closed on Tuesdays



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  • Adrian Ghenie | The Darwin Room | Centre Pompidou
    November 27, 2018 - November 27, 2020
    Centre Pompidou, Paris

    Adrian Ghenie’s The Darwin Room, 2013-2014, is the second of his installations presented as a “room within a room”. The first, The Dada Room, 2010, is now in the permanent collection of S.M.A.K. Ghent. Consisting of an assemblage of meticulously sourced 19th century furniture, wooden floor boards and wall panels, The Darwin Room takes its composition from Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation, 1632 (collection Musée du Louvre). Concentrating on the juxtaposition of shape, colour and tone, as if composing a two dimensional painting, Ghenie has created a three-dimensional environment which, at first glance, resembles one of his paintings but later reveals itself to be a life-sized study room from a past era. Dark and gloomy, the room evokes an intriguing physiological atmosphere of anxiety and comfort; a prototypical birth site for visionary thought within European intellectual history.

    Ghenie talks often of his interest in painting the “texture of history”. Much of the visual information we see of historical figures, events and places are rendered flat and two-dimensional and it is their forgotten surface and texture that fascinates Ghenie. Darwin’s personal story and iconography holds a special fascination for the artist; the appalling skin condition and vomiting syndrome that afflicted him, his luxuriant beard and Victorian attire all afford a rich source of textural possibilities that reveal themselves in the series of Darwin portraits that make up this exhibition. During his lifetime, Darwin’s distinctive physical features became widely known. He was frequently portrayed in the satirical press of the era with the face of an ape superimposed on his. This grotesque caricature of the great man of science is a starting point for Ghenie’s painting.

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  • Très Traits
    February 13, 2016 - April 24, 2016
    Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles
    Arles, France

    The exhibition presents an ensemble of works by well-known contemporary artists: Christopher Wool, Eugène Leroy, Silvia Bächli, Adrian Ghenie, Isabelle Cornaro, Andreas Gursky and Roy Lichtenstein. By taking line as the basic component of their works, these artists free themselves from certain rhetorical shortcuts and clichés associated with the painting of the 20th and 21st century.

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  • Mapping Bucharest: Art, Memory, and Revolution 1916–2016
    June 11, 2015 - October 4, 2015
    Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna, Austria.

    Adrian Ghenie will participate in the upcoming group show Mapping Bucharest: Art, Memory, and Revolution 1916–2016 opening on 11 June 2015 at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna, Austria. As part of the Vienna Biennale 2015, the exhibition highlights the contemporary scene in Bucharest and Romania against the background of past avant-garde movements as Dada, founded in 1916. For further details please click here.

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    May 9, 2015 - November 22, 2015
    LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA, Giardini, Venice, Italy

    The Romanian Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia will showcase paintings by Adrian Ghenie (b.1977, Baia Mare). Darwin's Room curated by Mihai Pop is organized across three rooms—according to the original interior architecture of the Pavilion (from 1938)—and will comprise a specific theme for each of these rooms: The Tempest, The Portrait Gallery (Self-portrait as Charles Darwin), and The Dissonances of History. Expanding upon Darwin's laboratory, Ghenie proposes an interpretive path into the notion of survival. He reads into the theory of biological evolutionism and the ways it has been skewed to transform societies.

    For further information please visit the official website of La Biennale di Venezia here.

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