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Art Index: Marlene Dumas

No painting can exist without the tension of what it figures and what it concretely consists of—the pleasure of what it could mean and the pain of what it's not.”

- Marlene Dumas

© Marlene Dumas


Marlene Dumas (born 1953) is a contemporary South African artist and painter currently based in the Netherlands.

From 1972 to 1975, she attended the University of Cape Town and, in 1976, aged 23, moved to the Netherlands on a scholarship.

Often sourcing polaroids of friends and lovers for her work as well as magazines and pornography, Marlene Dumas’s mainly focuses on painting portraits of children or explicit erotic scenes with the intent of disturbing the contemporary art world.

Notable figures Dumas has depicted in her work include Alan Turing, Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, Amy Winehouse, and Princess Diana. Her work is characterized by a wide color palette, made of dark colors altering to pastels and fluorescent colors.

© Marlene Dumas

As stated by her biography on Tate’s official site:

In the past, Dumas produced paintings, collages, drawings, prints, and installations. She now works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper. The sources she uses for her imagery are diverse and include newspaper and magazine cuttings, personal memorabilia, Flemish paintings, and Polaroid photographs. The majority of her works may be categorized as 'portraits', but they are not portraits in the traditional sense. Rather than representing an actual person, they represent an emotion or a state of mind. Themes central to Dumas' work include race and sexuality, guilt and innocence, violence and tenderness.

Working on a regular basis with students, Dumas has always emphasized the importance of teaching not only as a way to cultivate knowledge into the younger generations but above all as means to establish a Socratic style of dialogue and to underline how Art is a subject one learns by being around people.

In 2007 she participated in the 52nd edition of the Venice International Art Exhibition, exposing her work in the African Pavilion. The Check List Luanda Pop exhibition exposed her pieces from the Sindika Dokolo Collection, the first African private collection of contemporary art created five years earlier in Luanda (Angola).

Dumas taught at the Academie voor Beeldende Vorming (ABV) in Tilburg, Academie voor Kunst en Industrie (AKI) in Enschede, Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, and De Ateliers in Amsterdam (Tutorials and Coaching).

She has been the subject of several major solo exhibitions, notably including representing the Netherlands in the 1995 Venice Biennale and a 2015 retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

She lives and works in Amsterdam.


© Marlene Dumas (By Bakhuysfoto - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

According to Dumas’ turnover in 2020 is $7,056,196.

The oldest auction result ever registered on the website for artwork by this artist is a drawing-watercolor sold in 1988 at Sotheby's, and the most recent auction result is a painting sold in 2021.'s price levels for this artist are based on 1,038 auction results. Especially: print-multiple, drawing-watercolor, painting, photography.

The sale of Dumas's Jule-die Vrou (1985) positioned Dumas as one of three living female artists to trade for over $1 million.

Distribution by price (by Artprice)

Some of the artworks by Dumas currently listed in upcoming public auctions include:

A long silence (1989), Lot # 24, Print-Multiple, Lithograph in colors/Zerkall, 25.5 x 25 cm

Estimate: $ 488 - $ 733 (€ 400 - € 600 ), ONLINE ONLY | From Beuys to Warhol

From 24 feb 2021 to 04 mar 2021, Van Ham Kunstauktionen, Germany.

"Portrait of a young Nelson Mandela" (2008), Lot # 57, Print-Multiple, Lithograph/wove paper, Ed. 160 / 250, 45.5 x 35 cm

Estimate: $ 4,009 - $ 5,346 (ZAR 60,000 - ZAR 80,000 ), Modern & contemporary art,

On the 4th of march 2021, Aspire Art Auctions, Illovo Edge, Building 3, Ground Floor, Harries Road, 4126 Johannesburg, South Africa


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