Rini Hurkmans
Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture
'In the beginning was the gesture, and the gesture was with society, and the gesture was society. It was in the beginning with society. All things come into being by way of a gesture; and without it no one thing came into being.' Pierre Bal-Blanc

In 1972, Michelangelo's Pietà (1499) in the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was attacked. Since Rini Hurkmans in 1992 acquired a press photo that shows the moment just after the attack, the multi-interpretability of this photo has been an inspiration for her work. This can be seen in her films Dear Son (2003), The Flavor of Salt (2008) and Don Quixote (2015), as well as in the sculptures The White Shroud (2008), The Inner Garden (2010), Piedad de Argentina (under construction) and the conceptual work Flag of Compassion (2002-present) and Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture (2020-present).

The work A Personal Gesture focuses on the inviting gesture of Mary that reaches out to the viewer and was shattered during the attack on the Pietà. In this way, Mary’s left arm that asks for the public’s engagement was annihilated. The sculpture is restored, but since then it can only be experienced from a distance behind a glass wall. With A Personal Gesture, Hurkmans investigates how the gesture can get closer to the people again.

During Hurkmans’ residency at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), partner of the Akademie van Kunsten (KNAW), she visited the restoration studio of the Vatican Museum to see if a copy of Mary's left arm and hand could be cast. Since there are no old moulds, the director of the restoration studio, Guy Devreux, put her in touch with Andrea Felice. He is the owner of the FeliceCalci studio that makes moulds and copies of statues in a traditional way. Using a 19th-century copy of the Pietà, FeliceCalchi made a mould from the severed part of the arm. Subsequently, a new arm was cast with imitation marble, the same material with which the arm was restored in 1972.

The sculpture A Personal Gesture is travelling from individual to individual along with a manifesto. Anyone can have the arm in close proximity for a while and in return the recipient gives a brief description of personal thoughts and findings and takes a picture of it in a chosen setting. Thereupon, the work is passed on to another person. With the collection of stories and photos, an archive is created. On November 28 in 2020, the journey of A Personal Gesture started when Anne Vegter, poet, writer, and at the time chairman of the Akademie van Kunsten, officially accepted the work.

On the 28th of November 2020, Anne Vegter officially accepts the artwork A Personal Gesture during Art Amsterdam. This act takes place in Hurkmans' solo exhibition Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture at Lumen Travo Gallery in Amsterdam.