Carte Blanche (Fuck The Dictator)*

*Anne Wenzel at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam and in De Jong boxing school

9 July 2023 - 14 January 2024

The words ‘Fuck the Dictator‘ adorned the boxing robe that visual artist Anne Wenzel wore when she stepped into the ring at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam on 14 September 2019. Her opponent was the museum’s director at the time, Deirdre Carasso. Wenzel defeated Carasso and won carte blanche at the museum. The current museum director, Anne de Haij, is now honouring that promise and has granted Anne Wenzel complete freedom on a floor of one of the wings of the museum, as well as the support of the museum’s team, to do whatever she likes with it.

The boxing match
Anne Wenzel: ‘When the former director Deirdre Carasso invited me to fight her in a boxing ring in 2019, I hesitated at first. Not only because, unlike Carasso, I had never boxed before, but also because, as an artist, I generally feel that a museum should invite me to an exhibition rather than to events that have absolutely nothing to do with what I do. But that boxing match against the director gave me the chance to finally fight my battle on an equal footing. In the run-up to the fight, I spent eight months training at Hans de Jong’s boxing school in Schiedam. It was quite intense; boxing isn’t only physically but also mentally demanding. It reflects your own strengths and weaknesses. Or, as boxing trainer Hans de Jong always likes to say: “You don’t play boxing”. For me, the boxing match became a metaphor for the artist who has to find their place in the art world.’

I stepped into the ring to fight for the autonomy of art. Art that pushes boundaries, art that is experimental. Art that can sometimes be confusing or even hurtful – but also profoundly beautiful. If you focus on that, you will win. Carte Blanche is my chance to demonstrate that.

Anne Wenzel

Close-up of ‘House of Fools’, Anne Wenzel, 2023. Photographer: Lotte Stekelenburg

About the artist
Anne Wenzel (1972, Schüttorf, Germany) creates large ceramic sculptures and installations. Her work is inspired by current political developments, which she places in the context of art history. The result is muted, dark sculptures that are both dramatic and profoundly beautiful. Located at the intersection between abstraction and realism, the sculptures go beyond the generic and become metaphors for inner struggles, personal ideals and human inadequacy. Anne Wenzel is also an active campaigner for a better position for visual artists. For the very first time, Carte Blanche combines her role as a cultural and political advocate with her visual work. Wenzel sees Carte Blanche as an opportunity to expose structural problems in the cultural-political system. She believes that art is increasingly being used to illustrate political agendas of administrators, politicians and funders. She asks: how can the autonomy and power of art be preserved in this system? Through Carte Blanche, she goes in search of the answer; the project therefore transcends a conventional museum exhibition.

Carte Blanche
Anne Wenzel: ‘Carte Blanche (Fuck the Dictator) will permeate all levels of the museum, which requires a great deal of openness, honesty, patience and trust. I will have free rein on one floor of the museum and hopefully also occupy the museum’s courtyard with a large installation. The De Jong boxing school in Schiedam will also be involved in the exhibition as a venue. I will be showing a lot of new work that explores the artistic impact of the boxing event and its aftermath. Recent events have inspired me; all over the world there have been demonstrations and protests in recent years – just think of storming of the Capitol and statues being radically pulled from their pedestals or mutilated. All the works on display raise questions about the role of art and power, and how that role changes over time. I juxtapose the power of the people with the statues that represent political power.’

New work
Carte Blanche (Fuck the Dictator) features, among other things, the new spatial installation House of Fools, which was created especially for the project, with precarious sculptures of old ‘heroes’ such as Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Witte de With, as well as a series of ceramic reliefs. These new works are joined by existing ones, such as the huge sculpture Splendid Surrender (2010) from the museum’s own collection. The sculpture is a response to the draconian cuts in the arts and culture sector when Halbe Zijlstra was State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science. Also on show are the fierce, feminist female busts from the Under Construction series. Anne Wenzel: ‘I am working alongside curator Selen Ansen, who is also co-author of the publication that will accompany the exhibition.’

De Jong boxing school
Anne Wenzel: ‘Hans de Jong’s boxing school played a key role in all this – the team there helped me win this Carte Blanche. A sculpture of a woman’s bust will placed above the boxing ring; I made it especially for this spot and am donating it to the boxing school as a token of my gratitude. It’s a cross between a patroness and a female boxer, a kind of patron saint watching over the boxing school. Several public events will also be held in the boxing school’s ring during the exhibition.’

Photo at the top: Anne Wenzel before the boxing match, 2019. Photographer: Aad Hoogendoorn