Artwork of the month November

Matts Leiderstam, Before and After, 1999

Matts Leiderstam

* 1956 in Gothenburg, Sweden

Before and After, 1999

Colour photograph, 2 parts

each 50.8 x 41 cm


The work consisting of two photographs depicts the portraits of two young men. The surprising thing is that the painting is the same in both instances. It was painted by Bernardino Licinio da Pordenone in northern Italy in the first half of the 16th century. In 1998, Matts Leiderstam integrated this painting into his installation The Shepherds, that was done for an exhibition in Vaduz the same year. Intending to lend the installation to an exhibition in Stockholm a few years later, it evolved that this painting looked different. The reason was that it had been restored in the intervening period. It was discovered that, except for the eyes, it had been overpainted in the course of the 18th century. Apparently, the owner at the time had wanted to have the young man look a bit more genteel and had the picture "fixed" to suit his taste. The original painting, to the right in Leiderstam's photographic work, shows a rather adolescent man with a downy moustache, bushy eyebrows, lower hairline, more angular features, and a sensual mouth. This type of face is familiar from Pier Paolo Pasolini's films from the 1960s and 1970s as the ragazzo di vita. This term described young men who worked as male prostitutes, particularly in the gay scene, and usually came from a poor background. The overpainting transformed the sensual, impetuous aspect of this face into the self-control and regularity of features of a young man of "good birth".

Already fascinated by the gaze of the young man in the overpainted version, Leiderstam now combined the two versions of the painting. The gaze is more in keeping with the sensual "fire" of the young man in the original version. Before and After causes us to reflect on what can happen to a painting in the course of its "lifetime", on the role it plays for its owner, and on the motives for having it overpainted. As such, it affords an insight into contemporary history and questions of style.

Friedemann Malsch

<b>Matts Leiderstam, Before and After, 1999</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.