A special retrospective by the artist Margaret Kilgallen (Washington, D.C., 1967 – San Francisco, 2001) is now on view in the Bonnefanten. The exhibition is organized by the Aspen Art Museum. Curated by Courtenay Finn.

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That’s where the beauty is. is the artist’s first big retrospective. The exhibition was compiled by Courtenay Finn for and by the Aspen Art Museum in 2019, since when it has been touring the United States. The Bonnefanten is proud to bring this major exhibition to the Netherlands and to give Kilgallen the place in the canon she deserves.

In the 1990’s, Kilgallen created a furore in San Francisco with her line drawings, which are closely linked to various subcultures and feminist themes. She was well on track to becoming an artist of national and international renown when her life ended prematurely in 2001, at the age of 33. Although this meant she never had a breakthrough in Europe, she was nevertheless pivotal in the art world of the West Coast.

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Kilgallen’s work is laced with historical developments. For example, in several works she depicts signs and shop fronts from the Mission District, which hint at a history of migration, civil rights and The American Dream. Sometimes hopefully and sometimes harrowingly, this is contrasted with the contemporary reality of San Francisco: a city that suffered badly in the nineties from drugs problems, the AIDS epidemic, homelessness and decay.

Kilgallen's oeuvre has two sides. On the one hand, she made many drawings on paper (often endpapers of books), wood and other cheap, found materials. These works are often slightly smaller in size. On the other hand her oeuvre consists of works such as street art works in public places such as parking garages, storefronts and trains. This makes her oeuvre vulnerable: either it consists of perishable materials or it is intended, due to its public nature, to eventually fade or be broken down.

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Kilgallen attaches great importance to letters and signs, and she was fascinated by how you could communicate with people you had never seen through art and text. Her work often refers to hobos: homeless workers who travelled the country illegally on goods trains. They left messages on the trains in a secret language, to keep one another informed of news, job opportunities and each other’s ups and downs. According to Kilgallen, it was mankind’s primal, intrinsic desire to leave behind something tangible for others. She therefore gave hundreds of trains a tag – a signature of her pseudonym: Matokie Slaughter.

An exceptional part of the exhibition is formed by the reconstructions of several wall paintings by Kilgallen such as the installation Main Drag. The original paintings were temporary in nature, but have been restored to their former glory by a team of experts.

Introduction movie

Margaret Kilgallen: that's where the beauty is.
on view until 07.11.2021

The Making of Main Drag

Discover collection

Margaret Kilgallen: that’s where the beauty is.

A special retrospective by the artist Margaret Kilgallen (Washington, D.C., 1967 – San Francisco, 2001) is now on view in the Bonnefanten. The exhibition is organized by the Aspen Art ...

Exhibition booklet

Want to know more about the exhibition? Read about it in the booklet!


Installation views: Margaret Kilgallen, that’s where the beauty is., Aspen Art Museum, 2018. Photo: Tony Prikryl
 Courtesy the Estate of Margaret Kilgallen and Ratio 3, San Francisco



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