“I wanted to write my life in life.”
Driven by fascination as well as by contempt, Stéphane Mandelbaum (1961–1986) produced hundreds of portraits within a short creative period of just ten years. The subjects include Arthur Rimbaud, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Francis Bacon, Pierre Goldman, his grandfather Szulim, and his father Arié Mandelbaum, but also National Socialist criminals such as Joseph Goebbels and Ernst Röhm. Portraying them small and singly or larger than life-size, Mandelbaum sought to capture the essence of their characters with a ballpoint pen, oil paint, or a graphite or colored pencil, often adding scribbles, texts in French, Yiddish, Italian, or German, or collaged newspaper clippings. His Jewish descent, Belgium’s colonial history, but also the nightlife and underworld of Brussels, permeated his work at ever deeper levels and ultimately shaped his life—always driven by the questions: Where do I come from and what can I be?
The retrospective Stéphane Mandelbaum is the third exhibition to take place posthumously.