Wednesday 3 August 2016

A selection of paintings made and chosen by the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn, it was announced today, Wednesday 3 August. This is the first time that the artist has made a thematic selection from his body of work and all are portraits of people wearing glasses.

The portraits have been selected for the National Portrait Gallery from a larger exhibition of his works currently on view at the Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp. Luc Tuymans: Glasses (4 October 2016- 2 April 2017) is a result of a collaboration between the two institutions and Luc Tuymans’s studio. The display opens ahead of Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans at the Royal Academy of Arts (29 October 2016 - 29 January 2017) in which the artist curates an exhibition of the work of the great Belgian expressionist painter.  

Tuymans paints a range of subject matter from major historical events to the everyday, in this case the quite ordinary phenomenon of spectacles. As he says:  ‘I have always enjoyed painting glasses. Glasses bring a kind of distortion to the face... it is a strange instrument and practically a universal theme. The banality of glasses receives a different meaning when you paint them. When at a certain point I was looking through all the portraits I’ve painted up to now, I was amazed to discover that there were glasses in three quarters of them. This is certainly not a conscious choice… Glasses radically change the physiognomy of a face, but are not perceived as a radical change.’

Tuymans is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential contemporary painters working today. Drawing on found images and photographs, his work deals with how history and memory is translated into paint and how we perceive people and things.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘It has been a privilege to collaborate with Luc on this unique display of his work, which has a special resonance in a gallery devoted to portraits. Tuymans is, to my mind, one of the greatest painters working today, and also has a formidable curatorial eye  - this witty project makes the most of both qualities, and reaffirms the National Portrait Gallery's commitment to showing the best contemporary forms of portraiture within a unique historical context.’

The display is curated by National Portrait Gallery Director Dr Nicholas Cullinan who included Tuymans in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. While Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern (2007-2013), worked on exhibitions such as Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (2014), Malevich (2014), Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye (2012), Tacita Dean: FILM (2011), Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (2008) and Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons (2008).  

Luc Tuymans: Glasses is made possible with the support of the Luc Tuymans: Glasses Supporters  Group.


Luc Tuymans: Glasses
4 October 2016- 2 April 2017
Room 16, Second Floor, National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission free  


In Conversation: Luc Tuymans

10 November 19:00 Ondaatje Wing Theatre, National Portrait Gallery
Luc Tuymans, one of the most respected and critically-acclaimed painters working today, talks about the display of his portraits of sitters wearing glasses with Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery.
Tickets £8 (£7 concs) 


The display is accompanied by a publication Luc Tuymans: Glasses with forewords by Marieke van Bommel and Nicholas Cullinan and texts by Pavel Büchler, Ken Pratt, and Eric Rinckhout. Published by BAI Publishers.

A catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings that will illustrate and document approximately five hundred paintings from 1975 to the present day is currently being edited by Eva Meyer Hermann in collaboration with Studio Luc Tuymans, David Zwirner gallery and Yale. The first volume is set to be published in autumn 2017.     

For further Press information, please contact: Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery

Tel. 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) / Email [email protected]

To download press releases and images, please go to:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055  Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website 



Luc Tuymans: Glasses (National Portrait Gallery)


Oil on canvas, 2007
50 x 40 cm
Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert Collection

The Heritage VI
Oil on canvas, 1996
53 x 43.5 cm
Private collection, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London

Oil on canvas, 2000
67 x 39 cm
Private Collection. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Portrait Old Man
Oil on canvas, 2000
69 x 38.1 cm
Private collection, Antwerp   

Issei Sagawa
Oil on canvas, 2012
116.2 x 81.4 cm
Private collection

Der Diagnostische Blick II
Oil on canvas, 1992
58.2 x 39.7 cm
Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, Germany

Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans (The Royal Academy of Arts)

29 October 2016 - 29 January 2017

The Royal Academy of Arts will present the first major exhibition of James Ensor’s (1860-1949) work to be held in the UK in twenty years. One of Belgium’s most prominent modernist artists, Ensor was widely considered to be an important precursor of Expressionism. Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans will bring together some 70 paintings, drawings and prints by the artist, the vast majority of which have been drawn from major Belgian collections. The exhibition will be curated by the renowned contemporary painter and one of Belgium’s foremost artists, Luc Tuymans, who will bring a fresh perspective to the selection and presentation of Ensor’s work.


Widely credited with having contributed to the revival of painting in the 1990s, Belgian artist Luc Tuymans continues to assert its relevance by addressing a diverse range of topics. Quiet, restrained, and at times unsettling, his works engage equally with questions of history and its representation as with quotidian subject matter cast in unfamiliar and eerie light. Painted from pre-existing imagery, they often appear slightly out-of-focus and sparsely coloured, like third-degree abstractions from reality. Whereas earlier works were based on magazine pictures, drawings, television footage, and Polaroids, recent source images include material accessed online and the artist’s own iPhone photos, printed out and sometimes re-photographed several times.

Born in 1958 in Mortsel, near Antwerp, Tuymans was one of the first artists to be represented by David Zwirner. Since joining the gallery in 1994, he has had twelve solo exhibitions with David Zwirner. Previous shows at the gallery in New York include The Summer is Over (2013), Corporate (2010), Forever, The Management of Magic (2008), Proper (2005), Fortune (2003), Mwana Kitoko: Beautiful White Man (2000), Security (1998), The Heritage (1996), Francis Picabia and Luc Tuymans: Paintings (1995); and Superstition (1994), which marked his United States debut. In 2012, Allo! inaugurated the gallery’s first European location on 24 Grafton Street in London and The Shore marked his second solo show in the space in 2015. On view May 5 through June 25, 2016, David Zwirner in New York presented Le Mépris, a solo exhibition of recent paintings by the artist.

Glasses, a solo museum exhibition featuring a selection of portraits by Tuymans is currently on view at Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp (through September 18, 2016). A portion of the presentation will travel to the National Portrait Gallery in London. In the autumn of this year, the artist’s work will be presented in a solo exhibition at Lille Métropole, musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, as well as the 9th Biennale de Montréal.

In 2015, a major survey of Tuymans’s work, Intolerance, was presented at the Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq in Doha. Comprising over one hundred works, this was the artist’s largest presentation to date. A comprehensive publication by Ludion accompanied the exhibition with texts by renowned art historians, curators, and writers including, Jan Avgikos, Nicholas Cullinan, Jenevive Nykolak, and Nicholas Serota, as well as interviews with the artist by Lynne Cooke and His Excellency Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al Thani. Also in 2015, the Talbot Rice Gallery at the University of Edinburgh hosted a solo show, titled Birds of a Feather.

In 2014, Tuymans was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts in Poznań. In 2013, a solo presentation of the artist’s portraits, Nice. Luc Tuymans, was held at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. In 2009, his work was the subject of a retrospective co-organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It travelled from 2010 to 2011 to the Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Previous major survey shows of the artist’s work include those organized by Wiels Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels in 2009 (travelled to Baibakov art projects, Moscow, followed by Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden) and Tate Modern, London in 2004 (travelled to K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf). In 2007, the artist was granted the title of Commander, Order of Leopold in Belgium.

Tuymans is the curator of the current group exhibition The Gap: Selected Abstract Art from Belgium at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen Antwerp, which was first on view at the Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London. Later this year the Royal Academy of Arts, London will present Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans. The artist previously organized Constable, Delacroix, Friedrich, Goya. A Shock to the Senses in 2013 at Albertinum, Dresden; A Vision of Central Europe in 2010 at Brugge Centraal, Bruges, Belgium; and The State of Things: Brussels/Beijing in 2009 at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, which travelled to the National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

A catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings that will illustrate and document approximately five hundred paintings from 1975 to the present day is currently being edited by Eva Meyer Hermann in collaboration with Studio Luc Tuymans ,David Zwirner gallery and Yale. The first volume is set to be published in fall of 2017.     

In 2001, the artist represented Belgium at the 49th Venice Biennale. His works are featured in museum collections worldwide, including Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tate Gallery, London. In 2012, Tuymans donated his portrait of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands to Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. He lives and works in Antwerp.