Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me

Curators: Isabella Maidment, former curator Contemporary British Art, Nathan Ladd, curator Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain, Stijn Huijts, director Bonnefanten, Roxy Jongewaard, junior curator Bonnefanten, in close collaboration with the artist.

Opening: Friday 8 March, 6 pm - 8 pm
On view 09.03 - 18.08.2024

Following and in celebration of the opening, there will be a Bonnefanten Free Friday: 8 pm - 11 pm

Bonnefanten is proud to present the first large-scale retrospective in the Netherlands of the work of internationally celebrated video and film art pioneer Isaac Julien (b. 1960, London). Isaac Julien is one of today’s leading artists, internationally renowned for his compelling lyrical films and video art installations. He currently holds fifth place on the ArtReview Power 100 list of most influential artists in the contemporary art world. This ambitious solo show spanning 40 years will trace the development of Julien’s groundbreaking film and video work from the 1980s to the present day. From his earliest work, Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983), to his latest film installation, the stunning Once Again...(Statues Never Die) (2022), Julien constantly pushes the boundaries of filmmaking as an art form. His work is the product of a career that is as experimental and politically charged today as it was forty years ago.

What Freedom Is To Me will feature a selection of Julien’s most important work, from his trailblazing early films and captivating videos to the kaleidoscopic sculptural installations comprising several screens for which he is known today. Together, they show how Julien breaks down the barriers between artistic disciplines using film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture.

Isaac Julien, In the Life /Iolaus (Once Again...Statues Never Die) 2022, inkjet print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultrasmooth, framed: 153 x 203 x 5.6 cm © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Ron Mandos and Victoria Miro
Isaac Julien, In the Life /Iolaus (Once Again...Statues Never Die) 2022, inkjetafdruk op Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultrasmooth, ingelijst: 153 x 203 x 5.6 cm © Isaac Julien. Courtesy de kunstenaar, Galerie Ron Mandos en Victoria Miro

Filmmaker, artist and pioneer

Having graduated from St. Martin’s School of Art in London with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art Film in 1984, Julien completed his studies in 1989 at Les Entrepreneurs de l’ Audiovisuel Européen in Brussels. He made his first film installation, Who Killed Colin Roach?, in 1983. It instantly made him an artist of national importance. The film will also feature in the retrospective. Julien’s artistic practice now spans four decades, and encompasses dozens of world-famous installations. He is also a distinguished professor at the prestigious University of California, Santa Cruz, where he and his life partner and curator Mark Nash founded the Moving Image Lab for exceptionally talented young artists, curators and researchers.

Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me
Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series) 1989/2016 Ilford classic silver gelatin fine art paper, mounted on aluminium, framed: 58.1 x 74.5 cm © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Ron Mandos and Victoria Miro
Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series) 1989/2016 Ilford classic silver gelatin fine art paper, gemonteerd op aluminium, ingelijst: 58.1 x 74.5 cm  © Isaac Julien. Courtesy de kunstenaar, Galerie Ron Mandos en Victoria Mir

Social injustice

Isaac Julien is a pioneer of video and installation art. He explores the potential of the medium in order to challenge and expand traditional views of history, space and time. Julien moves between various types of social engagement in the subjects he addresses. Social justice is a constant focus of attention in his films, and for over 40 years, he has been committed to cultural activism, the politics and poetics of image, and the moral and social influence of picture-making. His large-scale installations, projected across several screens, explore how people have moved between different continents, times and spaces.

Julien’s first film, Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983), was made in response to the death of a young man at the entrance to a police station. His key work Looking for Langston (1989) is a lyrical exploration of the private world of American poet, social activist, columnist, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and his fellow Black artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Western Union: Small Boats (2007) is an example of Julien’s groundbreaking installations on three screens. Here, dance and body movement are used to portray people’s journeys across borders. In his most recent work, Once Again...(Statues Never Die) (2022), he explores the relationship between Dr. Albert C. Barnes and famous philosopher and cultural critic Alain Locke. Barnes was an early American collector of African material culture, and Locke is known as the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance".

Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me
Installatieoverzicht, Once Again…(Statues Never Die), 5-screen, Barnes Foundation, 2022, Photo: Henrik Kam © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Commended and knighted

Julien is now regarded as one of the leading film artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001. In 2003, he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Art Film Biennale in Cologne. In 2022, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain for his contribution to art


The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication of the same name, Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me, edited by Isabella Maidment. The book contains a fascinating selection of installation and archive photographs, plus writing by Homi Bhabha, Maria Balshaw, Jack Halberstam, Nina Kellgren and Bradford Young, Isabella Maidment, Mark Nash and Adam Finch, Caleb Azumah Nelson, Irit Rogof and Wole Soyinka. An additional feature is the Isaac Julien App, an Augmented Reality app that brings to life a selection of images in the publication. The publication is available in English at the Bonnefanten museum shop, priced at € 50.

The exhibition is organised by Tate Britain, London, in collaboration with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and Bonnefanten.

Note for the press:
For more information, interviews and images, please contact Nina Keuschnigg at or +31 (0)6 55 23 27 21.

From 9 March to 14 April, Galerie Ron Mandos in Amsterdam presents Isaac Julien: Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die).


Header: Isaac Julien, Freedom / Diasporic Dream-Space No. 1 (Once Again...Statues Never Die) (edited), 2022, Inkjet print on Canson Platine Fibre Rag, framed: 273 x 183 x 5,6 cm © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro


No results found.