Beyond fashion: Paul Kooiker presents his largest show to date in Amsterdam

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Opening at Foam today, the exhibition displays 85 images representing the Dutch artist’s unconventional approach to fashion photography

Paul Kooiker’s fashion photographs are imbued with tension – between reality and fiction; beauty and malevolence; desire and disgust. His images belong just as much in glossy magazines and high-end campaigns as they do on gallery walls, toeing the boundary between art and commerce. 

Today, the largest exhibition of Kooiker’s work to date opens at Foam, Amsterdam. It presents 85 images, as well as vitrines displaying magazines from throughout his career. Born in 1964, the Dutch artist has become known for creating unconventional fashion images that take cues from surrealism and fetishism. 

Untitled, 2021 © Paul Kooiker.
Untitled, 2019 © Paul Kooiker.

Titled FASHION, the show’s images are all pulled from different shoots – some are outtakes that were never published – and brought together without order or chronology. “A lot of his photographs will raise the question of whether this could be considered fashion photography at all,” says Foam curator Mirjam Kooiman. “While fashion is very much about what is trending, his images carry an air of timelessness – they sometimes even appear to be pictures from a different era.” It may be surprising then to learn that Kooiker made all 85 images on an iPhone – another quirk in his unconventional approach to fashion photography. 

Charged with a mystic energy, many of Kooiker’s images are reminiscent of a subconscious dream state. But the sentiments behind them remain firmly rooted in reality. As Kooiman articulates: “What this exhibition mostly brings across is an unnerving feeling about society’s expressions of vanity and desire, driven by the breakneck speed of the fashion industry that influences our appearances and behaviour from season to season. However, his work isn’t criticising anything or anyone, it rather radiates a fascination for the absurd.”

FASHION by Paul Kooiker is on show at Foam, Amsterdam, until 12 February 2023. 

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Deputy Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.