Luc Tuymans Petrus & Paulus

Luc Tuymans
Petrus & Paulus 1998
Fundação de Serralves Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oporto, Portugal
© The artist, courtesy Zeno X Gallery and David Zwirner, New York. Photo credit: Felix Tirry

Luc Tuymans Morning Sun

Luc Tuymans
Morning Sun 2003
Ovitz Family Collection
© The artist, courtesy Zeno X Gallery and David Zwirner, New York. Photo credit: Felix Tirry.

The selection of large paintings in the final room draws together themes related to different ideologies, such as religion, capitalism and war, and evokes the broader ideas of utopia and dystopia.

A key work here is Petrus & Paulus 1998, the brothers who were disciples of Jesus, taken from a series of paintings depicting Christ’s Passion. They are painted after photographs in a brochure about the Passion plays at Oberammergau, a German town in Bavaria which performs the Passion cycle every ten years to honour a medieval vow to ward off the plague. Unfortunately, this ritual has become associated with anti-Semitism, particularly after Hitler visited the performances in 1934. Tuymans’ has created further layers of complexity by painting in the style of a notorious Dutch forger of 17th century paintings, so that the painting appears like an Old Master. Here, a complicated web of myth, propaganda, history and forgery blur together to obscure any clear meaning.

The vast painting depicting a cascade of golden discs, Gold 1999, is another work from the Passion series, hinting at the money given to Judas for betraying Jesus. The allure of gold is also the subject of Fortune 2003, a painting of glinting reflections in a shop window, celebrating consumerism and the desire for luxury and wealth. Like Morning Sun 2003, a painting showing the gleaming skyscrapers of Shanghai, one of the booming economic centres of China, these works imply that capitalism is the new utopia.