David Bade

Year and place of birth: 1970, Willemstad, Curaçao

David Bade is one of the most idiosyncratic artists of his generation working in the Netherlands. From 1987 to 1991 he followed a teacher training course in handicrafts and drawing at the Hogeschool Holland in Diemen. He subsequently studied at the Ateliers in Amsterdam for two years. When just twenty-three years old, he won the Netherlands’ most prestigious arts prize, the Prix De Rome, and his national career was launched. Alongside contemporaries and kindred spirits, such as Avery Preesman and Erik Van Lieshout, Bade counters the ‘strictness’ of Dutch art, which stems from the modernist tradition of Mondrian and De Stijl, in a post-modern way. Bade’s artistic approach is highly intuitive and linked to the principle of the ‘cadavre exquis’, whereby artists develop an artwork collectively through free association. For example, one artist might start on a poem or drawing, upon which the next one builds without having seen the previous creation, and so on. The roots of this principle lie in Dadaism and Surrealism, two early twentieth-century art movements. The technique was primarily deployed as a stimulus for pure, unbridled imaginative power and raw, unchecked creation, in which thinking was reduced to a minimum.

But Bade’s primary aim is not to eliminate reason. For him, it is chiefly about stimulating our imagination. He wants to make us ‘co-users’ of his work and to literally incite us to ‘artistic activism’. In terms of material, technique, form, and content, the artist makes entirely unexpected connections between the most diverse areas of daily life, art and the art world. Bade’s monumental drawings, paintings, giant sculptures and installations attest to visual, expressive radicality. They are enriched with visual shorthand, personal anecdotes, ironic commentary on current affairs, childishly humorous wordplays and ironically deployed folk wisdom. Formally, the artist makes liberal allusions to popular culture, art history and the visual language of his homeland, Curaçao. It is an island on which Western and African culture merge with Caribbean popular beliefs and carnival traditions.

In addition to his individual artistry, Bade attaches great importance to the democratisation of art. In 2006, together with the artist Tirzo Martha and art historian Nancy Hoffmann, he established the Instituto Buena Bista (IBB) on Curaçao, offering a pre-academic programme for talented young Curaçaoans aged between 14 and 22, and at the same time serving as an international artist-in-residence space. The young people are taught by Bade, Martha and the international artists-in-residence. In addition, Bade is also co-presenter of the popular TV art programme ‘ArtMen’ on NPO, in which – together with fellow artist Jasper Krabbé – he visits workshops and art institutions in Europe, which they view with a faux naïve and critical gaze. These ‘art educational’ activities are an integral part of Bade’s artistic practice, which is reminiscent of the socially driven work of Joseph Beuys, who believed that everyone could be an artist and thus had creative potential. With the one difference that unlike Beuys, Bade does not identify as a teacher, but above all wants to stimulate collaboration and interaction.

Bade’s liberated formal language and democratising view of art make him a typical artist of the 90s. In that period, many practitioners developed their visual vocabulary from the complexity and abundance of information and novel experiences afforded by the newly digitalised consumer society.

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