The gallery visitors among us may remember him from his gallery in The Hague bearing the enigmatic name Liefhertje and the Grote Witte Reus (Sweet Deer and the Great White Giant, LhGWR), of which Robert Jan Verhagen (1972), also known as Grote Witte Reus, was artistic director from 2007 to 2013. Trained as an artist himself at the KABK in The Hague and the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, Robert Jan realized early on that his true creativity lies in scouting talent, curating shows and writing about art.
For example, he was recently curated the much-praised exhibition 'Generation Z' in Museum Belvédère in Heerenveen (which runs until September 20) and was part of the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival 2020. This festival has traditionally focused on lens-based media and this year it is all about generation Z. A generation that, according to art critic Tracy Metz, has a lot on its plate, as it has to cope with an overload of information and the pressure of (social) media, a climate crisis, nationalism, economic stagnation and a devastating virus. Verhagen chose twenty-nine participants from seventeen countries all belonging to Generation Z to answer the question: How to proceed? In his own words, Robert Jan explains what struck him during that search and how he compiled his collection for GalleryViewer.
The request to compile a selection of works on GalleryViewer coincided with my guest curatorship for the 2020 Noorderlicht Festival. What is Gen Z's answer to a changing world, an endangered planet? I was given the opportunity to research this question is for six months and discovered a generation of exciting young adults. The festival partly works with an open call and the vast majority of the entries, focuses on a multitude of identity issues that should lead to more equality in the world. It has struck me that the search for personal roots is used in various and totally idiosyncratic ways. I was very excited to see creators go back to family values and scale back to a "close to home" mentality. This ensures recognition and generates a sense of equality. It mainly gives me the impression that there is a need for efficiency in order to achieve equality and that a modesty is gradually emerging that suits the great dilemma facing the generation: the climate crisis.
Discarding the humanist worldview and the decentralization of mankind are subjects that come to us at a rapid pace. We will soon have to review our relationship to nature to anticipate the dystopian vision of the future. Fortunately, many artists have been working on this for a long time and are working towards the foundation and formulation of a new future.
I have tried to make a series from the range on GalleryViewer about the way in which we form our vision of the future and what we base it on.
Photo Robert Jan Verhagen: Billie Verhagen © 2020