PINK de Thierry - living in art
Currently on view at Frans Hals Museum, location HAL, the exhibition PINK de Thierry – living in art is a first-ever retrospective of Helena Scheerder’s (a.k.a PINK de Thierry) artistic oeuvre. PINK became most known in the 1980s for her eye-catching performances, which she often did with her family. Long before reality TV shows, such as Keeping Up with Kardashians or Big Brother and social media, PINK began to explore the boundaries between private and public life. Simultaneously, PINK questioned notions of the nuclear family, home, and mass consumerism by creating site-specific interventions, performances, installations, and photographs. The medium of video was also crucial in Pink’s practice as a tool of artistic expression that offered an essential dimension to her artworks.
The ideal family: authenticity meets theatricality
As the theme of the nuclear family and its role in society was central to PINK’s practice, it is no surprise her family became the main character of most performances. The family, including the artist herself, her husband Donald, and daughter Sara, repeatedly appears under the alias MVK (MAN VROUW KIND) or ‘familie De Koning.’
For the first time, the De Koning family debuts in the performance Oost West Thuis Best (1981), in which they moved into the apartment in De Meervaart theater in Amsterdam for a month. The cozy apartment represented a casual home of the 1980s. However, the interior, sponsored by De Bijenkorf, with price tags attached, and the huge window into the apartment gave away the theatricality of the space. The performance happened during the Holland Festival of 1981, allowing visitors to follow the performance. Every day, people could look through the window and enter the apartment for an hour at 17:00. The performance became a manifestation of daily family rituals: PINK was doing household chores and taking care of Sara while Donald went to work every morning. By placing something so ordinary into an extraordinary context, PINK created a relatable setting for the spectator, giving a chance to look at their life from a distance.
The exhibition PINK de Thierry – living in art is on show till 29th of October 2023 at Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. Ticket link at the bottom of the page.
Similarly, the work VideoSchetsBoek (1983) further explores the topic of domesticity, featuring Man Vrouw Kind. For twelve days, the family lived in twelve different private houses in a middle- class neighborhood of Haarlem. The actual owners of the house would leave home in the morning, and MVK would move in for a day. Throughout the day, PINK, Donald, and Sara did their daily activities while being filmed through the main window of the house. The video puts viewers in the shoes of a voyeur as they peep through the window, almost spying on the family’s peaceful life. Alongside the video, PINK made an official family portrait in each interior. Contrary to the recording, the photographs create a sense of belonging as viewers can relate to the familiar Dutch interiors of the time.
In Oost West Thuis Best (1981) and VideoSchetsBoek (1983), PINK stages conventional life and creates both belonging and alienation environments. By simply performing living, PINK makes spectators relate to the situation through familiar home settings and recognize the traditional roles of wife, mother, father, husband, child, and so on that people often fulfill in society. This critically reflects societal expectations and standards around ideal family life. At the same time, PINK makes viewers distant observers. The gap between the De Koning family and spectators questions the boundaries between public and private life. In both video works, PINK investigates the theatricality of everyday life, exploring whether there is a difference between living and performing and vice versa.
Critique of the fast-paced content & commercialization of art
Besides family matters, PINK responded to the swift changes of contemporary times. In the video piece Tea Time (1984), the De Koning family visited a Belgian ambassador in the Hague for the tea ceremony. Throughout the meeting, the family politely conversed with the ambassador and his wife on ordinary matters instead of expected diplomatic topics. The video of the gettogether is slightly edited; however, the conversation remains unfiltered. Slow and sometimes monotonous, the video work contemplates the fast-paced, exciting, and highly edited content on television and online platforms. The Tea Time (1984) questions the authenticity of presenting reality and oneself in the digital age
In the performance of Ter Zake. Business as Usual (1988) PINK moves away from the domestic sphere to explore her position as an artist. In 1988, she went on a 30-day-long promotion trip around the USA with her husband as a ‘financial assistant.’ PINK printed a 25-meter-long photo scroll featuring her most important work, which she carried in a golf bag. She arranged meetings with museum directors and curators in New York, Texas, and Los Angeles, to which she brought the golf bag. However, she would only show the scroll once she secured a space in the museum for a performance. It happened only once at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles during the exhibition Family Matters. The trip was documented in a couple of iconic shots of PINK at the Schipol Airport, at the pool in Los Angeles, and on the rooftop in New York.
After returning from the USA, PINK recorded a video of unrolling the photo scroll at RAI in Amsterdam. In Ter Zake. Business as Usual (1988), PINK responded to the increasing commodification of art and commercialization of artistic practice in the 1980s. Such a shift forced artists to become marketers of their work, learning how to negotiate with museums and cultural institutions. PINK’s witty and ironic self-promotion trip also becomes a form of institutional critique.
In the installation and performance of Et Arcadia Ego Sum (1990), PINK envisioned a utopian paradise, a dream of earthly Eden. She created a garden made of enlarged plastic Lego parts. The artificial environment was completed with PINK's performance with her family at the Kunsthaus in Hamburg and the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn. For two months, they entered the installation neatly dressed with a white rabbit in a cage and a basket of fresh apples. In the Biblical story, the apple symbolizes the human downfall from the Garden of Eden. The concept of Arcadia – longing for an ideal state of being – became essential to PINK as she constantly returned to it in her practice. Through Arcadia, PINK explores the boundary between ideality and reality and what shape it takes on today.
The subjects that inspired PINK and her work in the 1980s remain more relevant than ever today. In the constantly changing and developing world, PINK covered universal yet simultaneously unique and personal themes that continue to affect and inspire viewers and artists of today. With her art, PINK allows people to reflect on urgent contemporary questions by almost providing a mirror to spectators. The visitors have a chance to reflect on their own lives by seeing and relating to PINK’s personal settings.
About the artist
PINK de Thierry (born as Helena Scheerder. Haarlem 1943 – Amsterdam 2023) is a prominent Dutch visual artist, well-known for her iconic performances in the 1980s-90s in the Netherlands and abroad. Her artistic oeuvre includes a variety of mediums, such as performance, photography, video, installation, and painting. In her practice, PINK discussed topics related to family, women’s role in society, spectacle, and many more. The artist passed away on February 25, 2023, in Amsterdam.
About the exhibition & Tickets
The exhibition PINK de Thierry – leven in kunst is the Frans Hals Museum ode to PINK and features some of the artist's most spectacular performances and works. Discover the world of PINK for yourself and take a fresh look at your own life. The exhibition runs from 7 July until 29 October 2023 at the Frans Hals Museum, location HAL (Grote Markt 16, Haarlem).
You can purchase your tickets via this LINK.