Madeleine Berkhemer
Body of Work

Jan. 28, 2023 – May 21, 2023 This exhibition has ended
Madeleine Berkhemer, Legshow II, 2019. Collection Stichting Droom en Daad, Rotterdam. Photo Marco De Swart
The themes of seduction and the (artist’s own) female body are central to the work of Madeleine Berkhemer (1973-2019). Kunsthal Rotterdam is presenting a retrospective of the work of this Rotterdam artist to mark what would have been her fiftieth birthday. Berkhemer’s versatile oeuvre will unfold itself in Body of Work. Berkhemer’s fetish magazine photographs and sensuous drawings fill the walls of HALL 3. And as the exhibition’s highlight, the panty hose sculpture Garden of Delight - Molly's Chandelier will be taking over the exhibition space. A number of the artist’s sculptures have been adorning the public space of Rotterdam for years: the Lost Pearl in Het Park, and Parabola Blues in Tuin van Noord. The outside artwork Legshow II, featuring Berkhemer’s characteristic leg shapes, will be temporarily presented on the grid floor in front of the Kunsthal. Whatever genre or materials Berkhemer used, her art is always meant to provoke, tease, and seduce.

To Berkhemer, sensuality and eroticism were basic components of life. For her research into the power of the (female) body, and its ability to evoke both lust and discomfort, she used a variety of different artforms and techniques. Berkhemer worked across many artistic genres: she made drawings, collages, (wall) sculptures, installations, and performances for which she often used her own body, aided by a generous helping of courage. 

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Garden of Delight

Berkhemer started her career at the fashion department of the Willem de Kooning Academy where she graduated with a collection that reduced clothing to a simple elastic band that was meant to be worn around the diaphragm. After working as an assistant to Martin Margiela for a number of years, and collaborating with Christian Louboutin, she finally decided to follow the path of autonomous art. The physical and glamorous elements of fashion always remained part of her work. Her elastic bands made a comeback in the photographs and personal ads for fetish magazines she appeared in. She also created large sculptures made from panty hose material, like the room-filling installation Garden of Delight shown at the Kunsthal, referencing Jeroen Bosch’s work of the same name. In Berkhemer’s sizable, layered, and provocative version, the panty hose material stretches out across the length and width of the HALL, with Perspex spheres – reminiscent of fruit, testicles, and buttocks – suspended in the red, see-through material.

Milly – Molly – Mandy

Milly – Molly – Mandy (the nickname of a little girl from an English children’s book from the first half of the twentieth century) are Berkhemer’s alter egos. These characters allowed her to incorporate different aspects of herself in her work. In her performances, as well as in the collages, photography, drawings and installations shown at the Kunsthal, Berkhemer enhanced, used and reused these roles. The three characters are exceedingly seductive and provocative. By photographing herself as Milly, Molly, and Mandy and engaging in a kind of roleplay, she addressed the impact of the female body – not only as a result of looking at it, but also of being looked at. 

Madeleine Berkhemer_Body of Work_KunsthalRotterdam_foto Marco De Swart (9).JPG
Installation view Madeleine Berkhemer. Body of Work. Photo by Marco De Swart


1. Madeleine Berkhemer, Molly in Blue, 2002, Madeleine Berkhemer Collectie, foto Mike James_LR.jpg
Madeleine Berkhemer, Molly in Blue, 2002, Madeleine Berkhemer Collection, photo: Mike James
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