Willem de Rooij

King Vulture (2022)

Willem de Rooij’s installation King Vulture comprises a set of four painted copies of photographs, commissioned by the artist to Yaohui Zhu and his team at the Yunxi Art Studio in Dafen, China. The original photographs depict works by 17th-century Dutch painter Jan Weenix (ca. 1640–1719) that feature the motif of a king vulture. This scavenger was first seen in Europe when it was imported from occupied territories in Dutch colonies in northern Brazil and Suriname. In Weenix’s works the king vulture is rendered an exoticized other floating in fictional cultural landscapes surrounded by imported animals as well as those local to the Netherlands.

The contrasts between reality and fiction, the local and the exotic in these paintings illustrate the moral, political, and artistic maneuvers of a young republic that was also a colonial power. For more than a decade, De Rooij has been researching Weenix, his cousin Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1635–1695), and their student Dirk Valkenburg (1675–1721).

His analysis of their interconnected bodies of work tells a story not only of the iconographic promotion of power in the Dutch empire, but also one of intergenerational exchange and shared authorship. It could be assumed that there are programmatic and economic overlaps between the 17th-century Dutch painting workshop, with its typically prolific and multi-authored output, and present-day practices in Dafen. By layering and exhibiting different types of reproduction techniques, De Rooij questions contemporary ethics around ownership and loan politics in the realm of public collections.

Willem de Rooij (1969, Beverwijk, Netherlands) investigates the production, contextualization, and interpretation of images through a variety of media. Appropriations and collaborations are fundamental to De Rooij’s artistic method, and his projects have stimulated new research in art history and ethnography. De Rooij is professor of fine art at the Städelschule, Frankfurt, since 2006, and advisor at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, since 2015. In 2016, he co-founded the BPA// Berlin Program for Artists and became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a Robert E. Fulton III fellow at Harvard University in 2004 and a DAAD fellow in Berlin in 2006. Together with Jeroen de Rijke, his collaborative partner from 1994 to 2006, he represented the Netherlands at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Recent solo exhibitions include Portikus Frankfurt (2021), Delgosha Gallery, Tehran (2021), Kunstwerke Berlin (2017) and Consortium, Dijon (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn (2022); MAIIAM, Chiang Mai (2021); Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan (2021); John Hansard Gallery, Nottingham (2020); BDL Museum, Mumbai (2019); and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018). De Rooij’s works can be found in the collections of Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; MUMOK, Vienna; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Centre Pompidou, Paris; MOCA, Los Angeles; and MOMA, New York.

Four paintings by Yaohui Zhu and team for Yunxi Art Studio, Dafen, oil on canvas

Commissioned and produced by steirischer herbst ’22

With the generous support of Mondriaan Fund and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen