Photographer Erwin Olaf has donated 500 of his works to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the museum announced on Friday.
The works, 412 photographs, seven videos plus magazines and books, are what the museum and Olaf describe as a ‘core collection’, containing the highlights of a forty year career.
The Rijksmuseum also bought €200,000 worth of photographs and videos and has pledged to buy new work to add to the collection every two years.
Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbets described Olaf as ‘one of the most important photographers’ of the final quarter of the 20th century, not only because he promoted gay emancipation but because his work is deeply rooted in the visual traditions of Dutch art and history.
Olaf himself said he was ‘captivated’ by the museum and its collection from a young age.
The artist, who is ill with emphysema, is happy his work has found a good home. ‘It’s in good hands and I’m not going to be a nuisance about how many times my work should be put on show. I would be sorry if after I die no one will bother to see if I could be one of the greats,’ he told the Volkskrant.
Dibbets compared aspects of the later Olaf, who shot to fame in the 1980s with controversial portraits of naked women in SM gear and self-portraits with a sperm smeared face, to works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
‘His work has the loneliness of the mourning Jeremiah by Rembrandt and the clear lines and total control of the paintings of Vermeer. If you look at the care he lavishes on his prints you could say that as a neurotic perfectionist he fits perfectly in that other Dutch tradition: that of workmanship,’ he told the paper.
Recent work by Olaf includes a series of portraits of the Dutch royal family who he has photographed three times in the last decade.
In the summer of 2019 the Rijksmuseum will present a selection of iconic works by Olaf for which he drew inspiration from paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Breitner.