Erwin Olaf – in memoriam
September 21, 2023
With sadness we announce the death of Dutch artist and photographer Erwin Olaf (1959 – 2023).
Olaf’s art visualized implicitly the unspoken, the overlooked, that typically resist easy documentation. Olaf’s trademark was to address social issues, taboos, and bourgeois conventions in a highly stylized and cunning mode of image making. With his razor-sharp aesthetic intuition, Olaf purposely concealed his themes, so that the viewer has to accept the initial concealment in Olaf’s photo series. Yet in the end, his unconventional style never missed to deliver dramatic visual and emotional impact. By taking care of the scenic and lightning design, and the utmost perfect composition in his typical, immaculate ‘Olafian’ way, together with his passion for flawlessly conceiving scenarios, Olaf vividly captured the essence of contemporary life.
In 2012 Olaf received the Johannes Vermeer Award 2011 – the state prize for the arts – for the high quality of his entire oeuvre. In 2018 The Rijksmuseum acquired 450 photographs by Olaf for its permanent collection. In 2019 3 major shows were dedicated to Olaf: Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Fotomuseum Den Haag and Rijksmuseum.
In 2019 Olaf became a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands.
Erwin died of complications following a lung transplant. An announcement will follow shortly how and where one can pay his or hers last respects.