Jan Dibbets is often mentioned in association with Conceptual Art, though he actively opposes this reference, since for him the idea is never more important than its implementation. 'An idea can be executed in a million different ways, but an art work only has a meaning through the personal way it is fulfilled,' Dibbet says (Jan Dibbets quoted in: A. de Visser, De tweede helft. Beeldende kunst na 1945, Nijmegen 1998, p. 213).
After studying at the St. Martin School of Art in London, he abandoned the medium of painting and appropriated more contemporary practices such as video and photography. He did not wish to document reality in the most straightforward sense these mediums are mostly used for, nor did he 'declare reality to be art, but [he made] art into an independent phenomenon through which the reality of experience was transported to the reality of consciousness' (W. Beeren, Actie, werkelijkheid en fictie in de kunst van de jaren '60 in Nederland, exh. cat., Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1979, quoted in: A. de Visser, De tweede helft gedocumenteerd, Amsterdam 2002, p.347). A photograph for him is not the final product and not an independent work of art, but rather a medium to create a work of art.
In Dibbet's oeuvre, the concepts of space and time are placed under scrutiny and applied in new and more conceptual means, distancing himself from the Renaissance notion of perspective and the modern way of depicting a three dimensional space on a two dimensional plane. His landscapes with horizons, for example, are amalgamations of separate parts of the same horizon, photographs taken at different times of the day and these loose photographs are pasted together to form one singular horizon that combines time and space into one. Similarly he has tried to capture the changes of time, and accordingly, light and movement, at one specific place: taking an image of exactly the same place multiple times a day and placing these images next to one another, time has joined space in one work of art.
Structure and geometric patterns also play a pivotal role in his architectural works from the eighties. He chose diverging buildings with a remarkable architecture, such as the Eiffeltower, and through collage he decomposed and recomposed archetypical buildings.
The design for the Guggenheim Museum, New York, was commissioned in 1943 by Solomon R. Guggenheim to Frank Lloyd Wright to house his collection of Non-Objective Painting. Wright's objective was to create an open and organic space, in which the art was to be in an on-going debate with the building. Dismissing the standard museum galleries, he designed one interconnected space, in which visitors would start at the top and spiral slowly downwards along the paintings.
Dibbets has used photographs of the building's interior and has placed them into a three-quarter circle to emulate the actual architecture. He has not reconstructed the exact interior, which is not necessary, because the museum is one of the most iconic buildings of the twentieth century, and its deconstructed image is easily complemented by the viewer. Completing the visual image of the present lot is the hand-drawn spiral in pencil that takes on the form of the nautilus shell the museum is based on. Dibbets turned the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum into an art work that went full circle in 1987, when the present lot was exhibited in the exact same museum that is represented.
'Architecture now becomes integral, the expression of a new-old reality: the livable interior space of the room itself. In integral architecture the roomspace itself must come through. The room must be seen as architecture, or we have no architecture. We have no longer an outside as outside. We have no longer an outside and an inside as two separate things. Now the outside may come inside, and the inside may and does go outside. They are of each other. Form and function thus become one in design and execution if the nature of materials and method and purpose are all in unison.'
(Frank Lloyd Wright quoted in: F.L. Wright, The natural house, New York 1954)