Vanitas explores death and dying, an important theme in contemporary art. The approach toward death (and life) has varied throughout human history. In modern society, death and dying are gradually being pushed aside, to the point of becoming almost taboo. Art, however, has never completely abandoned the theme. In the Renaissance era, the popular way of depicting the transience and futility of human existence was through still lifes, featuring such motifs as flowers and the human skull. Such motifs and themes have periodically re-emerged in art ever since, with the skull-and-flowers motif being the most common, yet still open to new, original interpretation. Flowers and skeletal remains are clear, intelligible symbols which easily convey their universal meaning, especially when juxtaposed in this manner: together, they symbolize the beauty of life, which is in stark contrast to human death and suffering. In many cases, however, they can form a strange harmony, where death becomes beautiful and life/nature is the symbol of human misery. The skull, as a symbol of radiant death, is in sharp contrast to the melancholy of wilting flowers, together forming an allegory of old age and dying.
Vanitas presents the works of more than 60 artists spanning several generations and a variety of genres, from painting and drawing to graphic arts, from photographs to sculptures, installations or conceptual projects.
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