Mark Manders was born in Volkel, Holland in 1968. He studied graphic design until age eighteen, then changed his mind and decided to become a writer. He had the idea of “a self portrait as a house,” which would have seven rooms and seven characters who would evolve throughout his lifetime. As he developed this idea he realized he was more interested in creating this self portrait with objects instead of words, and began his sculpture career in 1986.
He became very interested in the paralleled evolution of humans and objects, as well as how actions upon objects can create situations that neither the human or the object had been in before, or would achieve on their own.
Manders's body of work consists mainly of installations, drawings, sculptures, and texts. Typical of his work is the manipulation and arrangement of specifically chosen domestic objects, such as tables, chairs, light bulbs, towels, cups, mixed with sculptures of animate things, like human figures and bones, and dead animals. He is best known for his rough-hewn clay, figurative sculptures. Manders is represented by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York.
Self portrait as a building
Since 1986 Manders has been making Self-portrait as a Building. Originally developed as a story “with no beginning or end”, this self-portrait would be a home containing 7 rooms, with a different character inhabiting each room. The rooms and characters would evolve over time. After drawing the floor plan of the home, Manders realized the way he truly wanted the story to exist was in a series of never-ending installations. Each time the self-portrait was installed in a space, the layout of the house and the objects in it would change.
The first of this series of fictional architectural plans was Inhabited for a Survey, (First Floor Plan from Self Portrait of a Building) (1986), where the plan was drawn by the artist on the floor of the gallery using pencils, crayons and other markers. The fictional house represents a fictional artist, "Mark Manders", an alter-ego distinct from the artist Mark Manders. This fictitious character is described by the artist as a, "Neurotic, sensitive individual who can only exist in an artificial world."
Each of his exhibitions includes an evolving floor plan of the self-portrait building along with various art works. d He uses this structure to drive his work and allow it to make the decisions, calling it a "machine", but at the same time bringing objects to a standstill as he develops these spaces wherein time and movement have stopped. The setting in time of the fictional house is 1986, when Manders first began the project, so all objects within the house have been manipulated to look the way they would have in 1986.
The logic surrounding each object created and placed in the house was invented by Mark Manders, and is made to be exactly what Mark Manders intended. The fictional “Mark Manders” is an alter-ego, but at the same time could not exist anywhere outside of Mark Manders, and thus is given the same name. The fictional “Mark Manders” refers more to the moment, feeling, and action of creating an artwork than it does to an actual individual.
Despite creating this fictional space for a fictional character, Manders insists on using "real objects" in the "real world" to make his sculptures. One of the criteria he places on himself is that his work must be able to stand on its own in a supermarket. He has said,
“I don’t often show my work in the public domain, rather in museums where people choose to go to see art. But since 1991 I always test a work that I’ve just finished in a supermarket. I just imagine a new work there and I check if it can survive where it doesn’t have the label of an artwork. It is just a thing that someone placed in a supermarket. Now I am sure that all of my works can stand in that environment.”
Much of Manders work is based heavily on his individual thoughts and concepts about the world, which he studies and analyzes constantly. Being so hyper-aware of his own existence leaves him often feeling alien to both the “real world” and its institutional art settings. He insists that his work stays the same throughout its exhibitions; it is always viewed as an artwork and as part of his self-portrait, but believes his work gets re-contextualized each time it enters the "real world" because it has the opportunity for so many different opinions and outcomes, i.e. will it even be seen as art or will it be seen as simply an object that should not be in a supermarket.
In 2005, the solo-project "Matrix 214: The Absence of Mark Manders" was held at the Berkeley Art Museum in California (US) and another solo show "Parallel Occurrence" has run at IMMA Dublin. In 2006, the artist was represented at the 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporaray Art.
In 2007/2008, Manders was invited by several venues around the world to have solo shows, including the New Museum in New York City (US), Kunstverein Hannover (DE), Bergen Kunsthall (N), Kunsthaus Zürich (CH) and S.M.A.K. in Ghent (BE).
In 2013 he was selected for the Dutch pavilion in the Venice Biennale.
Many of his works are held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
In 2016 Manders was commissioned to make a group of monumental bronzes for the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.
- 1990 De Oceaan, Arnhem ; Zeppelin, Amsterdam
- 1992 Lokaal 01, Breda
- 1994 MuHKA, Antwerp (cat.); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (cat.); Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
- 1995 Galerie Erika + Otto Friedrich, Berne
- 1997 The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (cat.); Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp; De Appel, Amsterdam (cat.)
- 1998 XXIV Bienal de São Paulo / Self-portrait in a Surrounding Area (cat.); Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden / 14 Fragments from Self-portrait as a Building (cat.)
- 1999 Galerie Friedrich, Berne / Coloured Room with Black and White Scene (cat.)
- 2000 Greene Naftali Gallery, New York / Reduced November Room (Reduced to 88%); The Drawing Center, New York / Room with Several Night Drawings and One Reduced Night Scene (cat.); Kabinet Overholland - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam / Night Drawings
- 2002 Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo / Kaleidoscope Night (cat.); Cobra Museum, Amstelveen / Yellow Bathtub (cat.); Greene Naftali Gallery, New York; The Galleries at Moore, Philadelphia; Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (cat.)
- 2003 The Art Institute of Chicago / Isolated Rooms (cat.); 2003 The Renaissance Society / Isolated Rooms (cat.); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munchen / Silent Factory
- 2004 Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp / Silent Studio
- 2005 The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin / Parallel Occurrence (cat.); Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley / Matrix / The Absence of Mark Manders
- 2006 Baltic, Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle,Gateshead, UK / Short Sad Thoughts (cat.)
- 2007 Kunstverrein Hannover / The Absence of Mark Manders (cat.); Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
- 2008 SMAK, Gent (cat.); Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen (cat.)
- 2009 Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Kunsthaus Zürich (cat.)
- 2010 UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA (cat.); Jarla Partilager, Stockholm / Mark Manders (cat.); Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
- 2011 The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (cat.); The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Aspen Art Museum, USA (cat.); The Art Show, New York (Tanya Bonakdar); La Casa Luis Barragán, Mexico City; Carrillo Gil Museum of Art, Mexico City (cat.)
- 2012 Carré d'Art - Musée d'art contemporain de Nîmes; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas,USA (cat.)
- 2013 55th Venice Biennale, Venice
- 2014 “Mark Manders” Zeno X Gallery Antwerp, Belgium; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
- 2015 Solo show at Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo
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