Wendelien van Oldenborgh receives the prestigious Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art

4 September 2014

On Thursday, 2 October 2014, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken will present the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art to the visual artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh. She will receive €100,000, of which half is intended for a publication and/or exhibition.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander will be attending the official ceremony, which is being held at the Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange, in Amsterdam. The five Heineken Prizes for Science and the five Heineken Young Scientists Awards for talented scholars who have recently conducted doctoral research at a Dutch research institution will also be presented.

The Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art is the largest Dutch prize for the visual arts that is financed by a private fund, the Dr A.H. Heineken Foundation for Art. Alfred Heineken established this prize in recognition of and as encouragement for artistic talent in the Netherlands. The Foundation has been conferring this biennial prize on an outstanding artist who lives and works in the Netherlands since 1988. Previous laureates include Peter Struycken, Mark Manders, Barbara Visser, Job Koelewijn, Daan van Golden, Aernout Mik and Guido Geelen.

Subtle works of art

According to the jury, which was chaired by Kitty Zijlmans, Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, Van Oldenborgh’s body of work occupies an exceptional and unique place within the Dutch art landscape. The jury commends Van Oldenborgh for the way in which she translates topical societal themes into exceptional, persuasive and subtle works of art, primarily in the form of film and photo installations. Van Oldenborgh often uses cultural differences – the legacy of former colonial ties – as her starting point. During a live event she films groups and individuals at a special public location. They enter into a dialogue with each other and are alternately active participants and attentive observers in a specially devised scenario.

Supposing I love you. And you also love me - Wendelien van Oldenborgh 'Supposing I love you. And you also love me' - 2011. Architectural setting with bench and projection: Montage of still images with dialogue


Van Oldenborgh’s work unlocks aspects of our reality that remain in the background in other spheres of public life, revealing a world that often remains hidden on television and in newspapers. One example is Sound Track Stage, part of the 2006 series A Certain Brazilianness, for which Van Oldenborgh brought representatives of the hip-hop and gabber subcultures face to face by having them musically and verbally spar with each other. This confrontation took place at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Neither the public recording of the footage nor the film itself presents these two subcultures as chalk and cheese; they are complex systems in which similarities and differences are subtly intermingled.
A distinctive feature of Van Oldenborgh’s approach is her skill in establishing a dialogue between a carefully chosen social or historical theme, between a space, film or photography. This is clearly brought to the fore in a work like Après la reprise, la prise (2009), in which Van Oldenborgh zooms in on two former employees of an old jeans factory in Northern France who – after the factory’s closure – decide to embark upon a new life course and become actors. The two women tell their life stories to a group of college students from Mechelen who are about to complete their vocational training. The work consists of slides and audio fragments of the encounter that were refashioned into a structured ʻscriptʼ and are presented in a specially designed space. The two generations raise questions about shifts in industry and society. The ethnically diverse group of students is contrasted with and differs from the older Caucasian workers, who have unexpectedly ended up participating in the ‘creative industries’ because of their work as actors. This brings about an interaction in which image and sound do more than merely illustrate a story; they enter into a probing dialogue in a specially devised scenario.

About the artist

Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Photo: Jussi PuikonenWendelien van Oldenborgh (b. 1962) studied at Goldsmiths College in London. Before settling in Rotterdam, she lived and worked in Germany and Belgium. Her work has been presented on world-renowned platforms such as Tate Liverpool, the Venice Biennale (2011), the São Paulo Biennial (2010) and the Istanbul Biennial (2009).
Besides working as an artist, Van Oldenborgh is a tutor for the post-graduate Dutch Art Institute/ArtEZ in Arnhem, for the Master in Artistic Research programme of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague and elsewhere. She was previously awarded the Hendrik Chabot Prize for Fine Arts (2011) and the Marian McMahon Award (2010).

50 Years of Heineken Prizes for Science and Art

The Dr H.P.  Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics was first awarded 50 years ago, in 1964. Five more Heineken Prizes were added to this internationally regarded science prize in subsequent years: the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art (1988), Medicine (1989), Environmental Sciences (1990) and History (1990), and the C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science (established in 2006 as the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science). Alfred H. Heineken (1923–2002) initiated the Heineken Prizes in 1964 in honour of his father, Dr Henry P. Heineken (1886–1971). Alfred Heineken’s daughter, Charlene L. de Carvalho-Heineken (b. 1954) continues this tradition as Chair of the Dr H.P. Heineken Foundation, the A. H. Heineken Foundations and the C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken Foundation, which finance all the Heineken Prizes.
The Heineken Prizes are awarded once every two years. The winners are selected by juries composed of members of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW).

The Heineken Prizes for Science comprise a sum of $200,000 each. The Heineken Prize for Art is €100,000, of which half is intended for a publication or exhibition. The Heineken Young Scientists Awards are €10,000 each.

For the laureates of the science prizes, visit: www.knaw.nl/heinekenprizes.

Note to Editors

Credit line photo Wendelien van Oldenborgh: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAW
Caption art work Wendelien van Oldenborgh:
'Supposing I love you. And you also love me'
- 2011
Architectural setting with bench and projection: Montage of still images with dialogue