Erwin Olaf - Traveling Souls: Shanghai

27 April - 8 June 2021 Shanghai
“He’s one of the protagonists of this painterly style of photography, and also the narrative style. His are single-image narratives. I always call it one-still cinema.” Wim van Sinderen, senior curator at The Hague Museum of Photographhy


The unveiling of a new photography series by world-acclaimed photographer Erwin Olaf is always an event to look forward to, and this time it is taking place in Shanghai with a solo exhibition at Danysz Gallery. "I wanted to create a mystery around traveling," shares the Dutch photographer about Im Wald—"In the Forest"—his new body of work shot in Bavaria, Germany.

Erwin Olaf delivers a fantastic contemporary tale, prompting questions about what it is to be on the move. Why do we fantasize about other places? What are we looking for when we wander away from home? Questions of particular resonance today, in a time when moving has perhaps never been so restricted in recent history.

April Fool, another series produced in early 2020, also featured in this new exhibition, confronts more directly the current state of the world. Erwin Olaf turns himself into a sad-faced clown, a lost soul lingering about in his studio in Amsterdam, or in the aisles of a bleak and empty supermarket. "I feel like an insignificant extra in some morbid film, the conclusion of which is entirely unknown," wrote the artist at a time when The Netherlands, like many countries, were in lockdown. In this new series Erwin Olaf once again proves himself to be a master at capturing our most complex and subdued feelings.

But that is not all. More surprises await the visitor of this exhibition, with a selection of works from some of his most emblematic series.

Erwin Olaf was born in 1959 in the Netherlands. He emerged on the international art scene in 1988 with his series 'Chessmen', which earned him the Young European Photographer Award. After numerous museum exhibitions around the world, Olaf celebrated his 40-year career in 2019 with several major retrospectives of his work: at the Gemeentemuseum and Fotomuseum in The Hague, at the Shanghai Center of Photography, and at the Rijksmuseum, which is now in possession of 500 pieces from the artist's studio collection - photographic prints, videos, portfolios, books - covering his entire career. He lives in Amsterdam.