Painting a Global Warning | Exhibition

exhibitions Jan Beekman Foundation

Exhibitions Belgium


Painting a Global Warning

Global Warning Exhibition

Global Warning, the third exhibition of the Beekman Foundation, and the first one-man show of Connecticut-based artist Jan Beekman in Belgium after more than fifteen years, exhibits for the first time some works from a brand-new series on living in the Trump era.

Portrayal of Nelson Mandela Liberated hanging prominently in the New York headquarters of the United Nations occupies a unique and prominent position in Jan Beekman’s work. It is considered to be the most iconic portrait of the South African leader. Jan Beekman's work which mainly comprises paintings, drawings and occasional sculptures - almost invariably takes the natural world as a major source of inspiration.

Despite the fact that it is an exception, the Mandela portrait is also so highly valued by Beekman himself that he says that, if he were to be remembered for one single work, it should be this portrait. The painting shows Nelson Mandela, as he appeared live on television on Feb. 11, 1990, the day he was released from Victor Verster prison, and shortly before he was to become the first democratically elected president of South Africa. The Nobel Prize winner was 71 and had been imprisoned for 27 years by the white-controlled South African government for his work with the African National Congress liberation movement ANC and its fight against apartheid.

It is out of the question that the portrait would leave the UN, especially during the celebration of Mandela’s centenary. Beekman therefore accepted to make a limited edition of a print of the portrait, which -together with a few studies of the portrait- will stand central to the exhibition at the Foundation. They are accompanied by a number of works that offer a brief overview of Beekman’s evolution throughout more than six decades, and a first selection from his latest series, which has never been shown before, and focuses on life in the Trump-era. Throughout 2018, Beekman has been working intensely on this series, which strongly denounces the policy of the American president: with right-wing support, he totally denies Global Warming, threatens World Peace with his foreign policy and gives his full support to the industrial-military complex. The series, which mainly consists of smaller work on paper, covers themes such as ‘unforeseen natural disasters’, the problem of space invasion with military purposes, while some more optimistic works deal with Messengers for Peace and City for Love. One of the works confronts us with the eternal question Are we Alone?

Looking back on Beekman’s career, one feels prompted to conclude that he will answer this question affirmatively. But Global Warning also makes clear that his social engagement did not suffer from his retreating in a growing seclusion. On the contrary.

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