One of the more controversial contemporary artists that emerged from the Netherlands in recent decades is without the slightest doubt Rob Scholte, a man whose career was based on manipulated reproductions of images he found in the media and art history. He is also held in high regard for his extensive knowledge of the meanings and values of images he started developing as an art history student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Before we dive into his story, we should quickly get the darkest part of his biography out of the way - it should be noted that in 1994 Scholte lost both his legs after a bomb exploded underneath his car. Luckily, as you will soon come to find out for yourself, this assassination attempt did not manage to slow down Scholte's work in the slightest.
Rob Scholte was born on June 1 during the year of 1958, in the city of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Between the years of 1977 and 1982, he studied art history at the aforementioned Gerrit Rietveld Academie. This period was crucial for his future career as it was during this time that Scholte started assembling his optical archive in which he constantly placed all the paintings, logos, quotes, images and photos he was able to get his hands on. He would later combine them in different ways that would turn them into ironic depictions, such as Disney is art, so why shouldn’t art also be Disney? or Art is to change what you expect from it. But before he started making such pieces, Rob was trained to be a traditional painter - you can see one of his oil pieces above this paragraph. Even then he started showing signs of how clever and manipulative (in the best sense of the word) his career would be - Utopia is a clear nod to the famous Olympia - Manet's painting first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. Scholte's work has started enjoying international success ever since he decided to take part in documenta 8 - at that event, he presented his first picture-in-picture satire that hit the public. It was an adaptation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and it caused a massive uproar. Scholte painted a tin clown that in the middle of Munch’s composition and by doing so he made an ironic commentary on the role of the artist. By such pieces, Scholte started to be regarded as a controversial figure.
Rob Scholte was often referred to as a visual fetishist because he is not able to resist from collecting every image that interests him even slightly. Although almost all of them prove to be useful for Rob, he has luckily been very successful at using all the material he gathers - over the years, he has proved that his font of ideas is essentially inexhaustible. Since much of Scholte's work is based on theories and concepts, he is naturally very active in giving speeches and lectures - some of his speeches you can see on our Videos subpage. You will see how he understands the roles of art and artists, how expression has developed over the centuries and just how wrong the popular belief is that art can be considered a straight line leading from A to Z. His works vary in size, from extremely small to enormous - like his largest painting as of yet, in which he depicted a war image from Nagasaki. That piece is now located in the reconstructed Palace Residence of the Netherlands. Scholte's first solo exhibition was in 1984 at The Living Room gallery in Amsterdam and - although nobody denied his talent and deep understanding of art - many critics were outraged by the ideas behind the displayed pieces. The exhibition's focal point was the play of the meanings of images and their way of dismantling typical modes of seeing. Scholte’s 1988 Self-portrait is a typical example of the tricks and deceptions he employed - the purposefully absent portrait has been replaced by a large yellow copyright symbol. The ownership of rights seems to be a long-term theme inside his work as the subject never lost interest to him. Rob's work has been shown in many different galleries and museums, as the likes of Galerie Witteveen Amsterdam, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Groninger Museum, Fries Museum, Paleis Huis ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Sprengel Museum, Grey Art Gallery, Museum Van Bommel-Van Dam, Kunsthaus Hamburg, Stedelijk Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, etc. It should also be noted that Scholte represented Netherlands at their pavilion at the Venice Biennale in the year of 1990.
It's hard to determine which part of Rob's personality we should admire the most. Although it's incredible that the 1994 attempt on his life did not slow him down, the most impressive segment of his life is the fantastic understanding of art he possesses. The way he plays with the meanings of images - be they images he paints or digitally remasters - Scholte always leaves us speechless. We can learn a lot from this artist and his commentary on the interchangeability of objects and values in which we put so much trust. Simply put, his work is thorough, precise, eye-opening and entertaining. How often do we get to say that about an artist?
The artist is represented by kunzt.gallery in Miami, United States.
Featured Image: Rob Scholte - Photo of the artist giving a speach - Photo Credits Wikiwand
All Images Photo Credits Rob Scholte