When Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography opened in Amsterdam in 1999, it was the first photography museum in the Netherlands. The program is enough to make the hearts of all photography fans leap – and on display now is a monumental exhibition by Viviane Sassen, inspired by palace life surrounding Marie-Antoinette in the court of Versailles.
“Eight years after her highly successful and acclaimed exhibition ‘In and Out of Fashion’, Viviane Sassen is returning to Huis Marseille with a monumental exhibition ‘Venus & Mercury’, which will occupy all fourteen galleries as well as the museum garden. The exhibition was born in Versailles, where Sassen created new work inspired by various accounts of the French royal court in the 17th and 18th centuries. She wove these stories into a melancholic narrative drenched in eroticism, power, intrigue, illness, decay, and death. Sassen also created a number of new installations specially for Huis Marseille, including one based on the residential history of this Amsterdam canal-side house. Venus refers to lust and love; Mercury to quicksilver.
Numerous fascinating stories lie behind the exhibition ‘Venus & Mercury’ in Huis Marseille. Many were inspired by the lives of Marie-Antoinette, royal mistresses, poisoners and soothsayers, as well as by the erotic and medical histories that surrounded the French royal court in the 17th and 18th centuries. Venus refers to the Roman goddess of love and lust, and Mercury to quicksilver, the heavy liquid metal that was long used to treat venereal diseases. Each gallery tells a separate story; together they form a linked sequence of remarkable histories, with accompanying poetic texts by Marjolijn van Heemstra. Some of these stories are related by actress Tilda Swinton in a hypnotic video installation. Besides multimedia installations, the exhibition includes unique works created with paint and collage techniques, posters, and free-standing monumental pieces.
A white cotton chemise, and other stories from the French royal court include a dark-skinned baby, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the Queen of France – Louise Marie-Thérèse, born in 1664 – who is one of the illustrious figures from the history of the French court that inspired Viviane Sassen to make a number of unique works treated with ink and paint and hung in the Garden Room at Huis Marseille...
Viviane Sassen (1972, Amsterdam) is an internationally renowned artist known not only for her autonomous photography but also for her commissioned work in the fashion world. Sassen was awarded the Prix de Rome in 2007 and the Infinity Award of the International Center of Photography in New York in 2011. In recent years, her work has been exhibited at numerous prestigious venues, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); The Hepworth Wakefield museum in Yorkshire, England; the Haus der Photographie in the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg; the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; and the Fotomuseum Winterthur. Sassen’s work was included in the group exhibition Visible / Invisible which ran from 4 May to 20 October, 2019, in the Grand Trianon in Versailles, and which formed the first impulse for ‘Venus & Mercury’.”