PhotoLexicon, Volume 3, nr. 4 (March 1986) (en)

Gérald van Der Kaap

Mariëtte Haveman


Gérald van Der Kaap (‘Kaap’) is an artist who realises staged projects, working alone or in collaboration with others, primarily by photographic means. An important aspect of Kaap’s work is a minimum of content, presented in a suggestive and chic packaging. He is influenced in what he does by the art scene in the East Village in New York City. His most recent work includes experiments produced with a computer—referred to as ‘computer graphics’—as well as montages of computer graphics with regular photos.




Gérald Van Der Kaap is born on 22 May in Enschede.


Kaap wants to become a filmmaker and sits for the entry exam at the Film Academy in Amsterdam. He is not accepted to the academy, on the grounds that he has not yet made a film.


In the same year, Kaap sits for the entry exam to the department of photography at the St. Joost Art Academy in Breda. He quits his study after two years, at the insistence of instructors, who see no quality in his activity.


Starting in this year, Kaap lives in Rotterdam and works as a photographer. He visits Paris on a regular basis, which ultimately leads to his first solo exhibition in Gallery 3001 in Rotterdam. The work he presents is classic street-corner photography à la Cartier-Bresson, with proportionally significant emphasis placed on aesthetic form.


Kaap is a co-founder of ZIEN Magazine (‘See/Vision’), published by Stichting Pretentieus (‘Pretentious Foundation’). The initiators of the project are all (ex-) students at St. Joost. The magazine is to function as a platform for ‘glamorous’ international photographic art.


Kaap collaborates with Martin Thomas on the project Fronto, de Lof van Rook en Stof: een reis langs tuinen in Europa (‘Fronto, The Praise of Smoke and Dust: a Journey along Gardens in Europe’), photographed with a Rolleiflex camera on 6×6 slide material and printed on Cibachrome. This project marks the start of the working method on which Kaap relies in the years to come: a minimum of content (hence the title), dusty corners and piles of clutter presented in a suggestive and chic manner.


Kaap collaborates on the exhibition Staged Photo Events, held in Rotterdam: the first international overview of staged photography in the Netherlands. He compiles the catalogue in the magazine ZIEN. Music is played during the exhibition, e.g. Johan Strauss’ ‘Tales from the Vienna Wood’. At the exhibition, three of Kaap’s staged photographic works are on display, a foretaste of his solo exhibition one year later at Gallery Jurka in Amsterdam.


Kaap organises a collective project, whereby he invites a group of artists and an art critic to construct something using the cardboard cross that has been sent to them. The results are exhibited—with citing the maker’s name– at Gallery Jurka, one floor above Kaap’s solo exhibition.

Kaap receives an ‘experiment subsidy’ from the Ministry of WVC (Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Cultuur, ‘Welfare, Public Health and Culture’), which he uses to produce computer graphics: a computer is used to transform letters forming a suggestive word void of meaning, e.g. CHAUX, into a graphic pattern.


A music band is organised (M.I.4’s, currently called ‘Save the Robots’), with Gérald Van Der Kaap and Peter van de Klashorst forming the core. Other artists are regularly invited to participate on an incidental basis.

Kaap and Klashorst are now renting a flat in New York City and are active in the East Village art scene as Dutch representatives of ‘the aesthetics of cute’, a slogan that appeals to both.


Kaap’s project Kaap’s Mona Lisa is exhibited at Gallery Perspektief in Rotterdam. Aesthetic Relativism is presented here at its utmost extreme: the Mona Lisa, executed entirely in pornographic texts.


Anyone who compares Gérald van Der Kaap’s biography with a list of his publications and exhibitions will come to the conclusion that something strange is going on. The brief biography is in no way proportional to the long list of exhibitions and publications. We therefore have a young artist with a relatively small oeuvre and a very high return. This typifies the role that Kaap has assumed: not so much that of an artist or a photographer, but rather a ‘Showman of the Arts’. Unlike New York and the West Coast of the United States, in the Netherlands such a mentality finds little reception. One American critic described it as ‘the aesthetics of cute’: a kind of artistic blowing bubbles, with ‘fun’ and ‘fast’ as key words. Those artists who have mastered such an approach usually present their work as a sceptical commentary on serious, expressionistic modern art. Socio-critical motives hardly play a role, despite the wishful thinking of numerous American critics. These artists in no way intend to remove themselves from the official art circuit of galleries and magazines; some of them, such as Robert Longo, have already managed to penetrate deeply into the art world and are among the best paid artists at this moment. In this context, people like to use the word ‘irony’, which essentially means ‘conscious participation without having a viewpoint’.

This mentality can also be seen with Kaap. Whether it be the publication of the magazine ZIEN, organising exhibitions, producing an album or making photographic work, either alone or in collaboration with others: for him it all has the same value. The magazine ZIEN most clearly illustrates his anti-individualistic attitude towards making art. This becomes particularly noticeable starting with the fourth issue, in which a maximum unity is sought between the design (Gerard Hadders) and the content, unified under ‘thematic’ headings such as Entertainment Issue! or Peter Pan 1985 issue!. The aim is that, in this manner, the magazine itself is seen as a work of art.

Kaap organises his other activities in collaboration with others: a photographic artwork, with the image put together by two of Kaap’s artist friends; or an album with musical contributions made by Peter van de Klashorst, Robert Longo, and others. Kaap is not just the public relations manager backing his own work—part of his work is actually maintaining public relations. This is what determines the artistic path he has mapped out for himself.

Kaap’s career as ‘Dutch Master of Camp’ began with the project Fronto, de Lof van Rook en Stof: een reis langs tuinen in Europa (‘Fronto, The Praise of Smoke and Dust: a Journey along Gardens in Europe’), which he produced in 1980-’81 together with Martin Thomas. It consists of about twenty photos taken during a tour of various European gardens: Berlin, Prague, Hamburg, Vienna, etc. With this project, Kaap already sets the tone for his more recent work. Fronto directly is the name of a Roman orator, whose writings were accompanied by the subtitle Laude Fumi et Pulveris (‘In Praise of Smoke and Dust’). This title characterises Kaap’s by now firmly established preference for the least assuming raw matter, presented in an entourage of mystery, splendour, and profoundness. Smoke and dust: nothing could be more minimalistic. The series consists of Cibachrome colour prints made from shots of the most unattractive corners and piles of clutter, mounted in decorative passe-partouts bearing text fragments to be read by the observer. From this point forward, presentation is everything: meaning is reduced to total randomness—something always emphasised in statements made by those producing this kind of work: ‘Pebbles are more beautiful than princesses’ (Rommert Boonstra); a toy fish becomes special ‘because it looked at me so surprised’ (Henk Tas); a little doll appears for a second time, because it was expensive and ‘worth being used twice’ (Gérald Van Der Kaap). This kind of toy store iconography is strongly represented in the six staged photos that Kaap made two years later. Kaap speaks very explicitly about the realisation of these ‘photographies’ in an interview published about the same time in Elseviers Magazine. Regarding the title of the photo Debilitar, he says the following: ‘I came across the word Debilitar by coincidence in the typesetting of an Italian letter designer. (…) Debilitar means: the Weakened One. The doll has a disfigured head. I’ve painted a beautiful background with the doll. And because I had just torn down the fireplace in my apartment, I also used it, covering it with metallic copper and grey spray-paint, creating an exquisite ruin. To turn it into a masterpiece, I tore two of Rafael’s angels out of the book The Story of Art, who shoot at Debilitar. Everything in my surroundings is put to use. I initially had a phallus lying in this photo as well, because, of course, all of my work is about longing after women, but I took this out.’ This quote portrays Kaap’s artistic mentality quite effectively: the ostentatious emphasis on coincidence and randomness, with an ironic wink at ‘Important Art’, including the obligatory reference to pornography. All of these ingredients are to be found in New York’s East Village, where posing and irony are substitutions for official Art. Kaap has been frequenting these circles since 1983, together with his partner, Peter van de Klashorst. They currently rent an apartment together in New York.

In the Netherlands, Kaap’s mentality finds a degree of resonance with some artists, primarily in Rotterdam, including Lydia Schouten and the designers’ collective Hard Werken (‘Working Hard’). At this time, the project Kaap’s Mona Lisa best demonstrates Kaap’s ‘aesthetics of cute’. The extremely heavy frame of this work is painted pink and covered with worm-like strands. It holds a Plexiglas plate, behind which pornographic texts can be read, arranged to form the face of Mona Lisa. The form and title of this work piece are derived from Marcel Duchamp’s Mona Lisa. Besides Gilbert & George, Duchamp is one of Kaap’s key role models. With Kaap, the Aesthetic Relativism of these artists becomes a conscious opportunism—a continual shifting of style and approach, depending on which way the wind blows. Maintaining a working method of this kind is not as easy as it might seem. This is particularly evident when it comes to the work of many of Kaap’s counterparts in the United States, who frequently tend to attach added importance to their work once it garners official recognition.


Primary bibliography

Een beeld van de werkelijkheid, in ZIEN 2 (april 1981).

De betekenis der dingen, in ZIEN 3 (sept. 1981).

Holland: photography scene needs changing, in Printletter 1982 (april).

Wuyvy, Rotterdam (Uitgeverij Bébert) 1983, portfolio met 6 geënsceneerde foto’s.

Resurrezione, 1983, in Museumjournaal 28 (1983) 1 (maart), p. 31-34.

Paris: Boyd Webb, Musée National d’Art Moderne and Galerie Chantal Crousel, in Artforum (New York) 1983 (november).

Vita Brevis, Ars Longa, Rotterdam (Uitgeverij Bébert) 1984, met werk van Kaap, Klashorst, Longo, Mapplethorpe.

Chaux, 1984, in ZIEN 6/7 (jan. 1984, Entertainment Issue), p. 14-17.

Gérald Van Der Kaap & Peter Klashorst, Café des Arts: Hobbyism, in ZIEN 8 (1985), p. 9-32.


lp’s and tapes:

M.I.4’s, „Terribilis Est/Hot Line/Tudor”, WT Records London 1984.

Save the Robots, „Eurovision/Day Tripper”, Robot Records, N.Y.C. 1985.

Save the Robots, „Greatest Hits, Vol.1″, Robot Records, N.Y.C. 1985.

Secondary bibliography

Herman Hoeneveld, De lof van rook en stof, in Kunstbeeld 6 (1981) 3 (dec), p. 49.

Walter Barten, Jonge Duitsers en Jonge Nederlanders, in Financieel Dagblad 21 dec. 1981.

Eric van der Schalie, Amsterdam: Fronto, Galerie Jurka, in European Photography 10 (april 1982), p. 38.

Cat.tent. Salon van de Maassteden, Schiedam (Stedelijk Museum), 24 april-30 juni 1982.

Paul Groot, Galerie: Staged Photo Events, in NRC-Handelsblad, 17 sept. 1982.

Mariëtte Haveman, Geënsceneerde Fotografie – De grenzen van betekenis, in ZIEN 4 (najaar 1982), p. 4-7, 13 (foto), 31.

Eric van der Schalie, Staged Photo Events, in European Photography 14 (april 1983), p. 32.

Peter Marijnissen, Fotografen met hoop pretentie in Pictura, in Het Vrije Volk 2 april 1983.

Rommert Boonstra, Banaal + Verheven Kaap, in Elseviers Magazine, 21 mei 1983, p. 1 18-119.

Els Barents, Van Afbeelden naar Verbeelden, in Foto in Vorm, jaarboek Grafisch Nederland 1984, p. 47. Annelie Pohlen, Das.

Hollandisches Kontigent, in Kunstforum, 71 (1984) 3/4.

Pauline Terreehorst, Kunstzaken: Groot Gebaar, in De Volkskrant, 18 mei 1984.

Carlo McCormick, Dutch Currency, in New York Beat 23 mei 1984, p. 28.

Carlo McCormick, International Ennui, in New York Beat 30 mei 1984, p. 28.

Pauline Terreehorst, Kunstmuziek, etc…, in De Volkskrant, 7 sept. 1984.

Pauline Terreehorst, Computerkunstenaar Gérald Van Der Kaap: ‘Je moet niet zomaar wat aanklooien’, in De Volkskrant dec. 1984, p. 47.

Els Barents, Dove 1’oro paria la lingua tace, in Grafisch Nederland, december 1984, p. 47.

Didier Arnaudet, Bordeaux: Gérald Van Der Kaap, Peter Van De Klashorst, Images Nouvelles, in Artpress (Paris) nr. 88 (jan. 1985).

Pauline Terreehorst, Fotografen Rotterdam neigen naar Grootsheid, in De Volkskrant 7 maart 1985.

Amy Slaton, Art: Computer Art, in East Village Eye (New York) april 1985, p. 39.

Mariëtte Haveman, Le Grand Cadavre, in ZIEN 8 (1985), p. 6-7.

Tricia Collins & Richard Milazzo, Neutral Trends, in Tomorrow’s T. V. Tonight, Manhattan Cable T.V., Channel D, 29 juli 1985.

Rommert Boonstra, Staged Photography, in Dutch Art + Architecture Today 18 (december 1985), p. 22-26.

Paul Groot, Save The Robots, in Wolkenkratzer Art Journal 11 (januari 1986), p. 78.


1979 (e) Rotterdam, Galerie 3001.

1981 (g) Rotterdam, Expositiezaal De Doelen.

1981 (g) Rotterdam, Galerie Perspektief.

1981 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Jurka, Laudes Fumi et Pulvens.

1982 (g) Schiedam, Stedelijk Museum, Salon van de Maassteden.

1982 (e) Parijs, Galerie Texbraun, Laudes Fumi et Pulveris.

1982 (g) Coimbra, Portugal, Chiado, 7 x 7.

1982 (g) Rotterdam, Lijnbaancentrum, Staged Photo Events.

1982 (g) Rotterdam, Galerie Perspektief, Kaap en Schalie.

1982 (g) Keulen, Kunsthalle/Galerie Jurka, Photo Art 1.

1982 (e) Eindhoven, Galerie Pennings, Laudes Fumi et Pulveris.

1982 (g) Aken, Neue Galerie/Sammlung Ludwig, Staged Photo Events.

1983 (g) Parijs, Centre Georges Pompidou, Images Fabriquées.

1983 (g) Dordrecht, Pictura, Overwhetming Techniques.

1983 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Jurka, WUYVY.

1983 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Jurka, Zufyr.

1983 (g) Apeldoorn, Van Reekummuseum, Staged Photo Events.

1982 (g) Antwerpen, I.C.C., Staged Photo Events.

1982 (g) Berlijn, Raab, Galerie, Zu Gast.

1983 (g) Rotterdam, Galerie ‘t Venster, La Divina Commedia.

1984 (g) Nantes, Musée des Beaux Arts, Images Fabriquées.

1984 (g) Hasselt, Musée d’Art Actuel, Images Fabriquées.

1984 (g) Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Kunst uit Rotterdam.

1984 (e) Amsterdam, Galerie Jurka, KAAP recente werken.

1984 (g) Keulen, Galerie Heinz Holtmann, 4 Junge Künstler aus Holland.

1984 (g) New York (East Village), Gallery International With Monument, New Art from Holland: Kaap, Klashorst, Blanca.

1984 (g) Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, Foto ’84.

1984 (g) Bordaux, Images Nouvelles, (Kaap en Klashorst).

1985 (g) New York, New Math Gallery, Computer Age

1985 (g) Den Haag, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, Rijksaankopen.

1985 (g) Zaragoza, Museo Provincal, Image Nueva ’85.

1985 (g) Rotterdam, Galerie Perspektief, Rotterdamse fotografen 1.

1985 (g) Amsterdam, Aorta, Doppelgänger/ Cover.

1986 (g) Parijs, Studio 666, 6 Photographes Nèerlandais.

1986 (g) Amsterdam, Galerie Torch, Contemporary Pictures.

1986 (g) Amsterdam, Aorta, New Cunts: Rejects, Shit, Waste.


Gérald Van Der Kaap, mondelinge informatie en documentatie.

Leiden, Prentenkabinet, bibliotheek en documentatiebestand.


Apeldoorn, Gemeentelijk Van Reekummuseum.

Bordeaux, F.R.A.C.

Den Haag, Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst.

Den Haag, PTT (esthetische Dienst).

Eindhoven, Van Abbemuseum.

Groningen, Groninger Museum.

Rotterdam, Rotterdamse Kunststichting.

Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen.

Parijs, Centre Georges Pompidou.