On Melly Shum

In its very first year of programming, 1990, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art presented a solo-exhibition of the Canadian artist Ken Lum. This exhibition also included an off-site commission of the artist’s billboard “Melly Shum Hates Her Job.” An image of it wraps around the front and back cover of the accompanying exhibition catalog, presented in this vitrine. Displayed here are documents related to this exhibition and commission. As you may read there, “Melly Shum Hates Her Job” is originally part of a body of work that the artist’s called “Portrait-Logos.” Besides this billboard, a number of works in this series were exhibited within the galleries of Witte de With as part of his exhibition.

In the bottom row are a series of key documents that point to how the project first came about. These materials make evident a shared artistic and curatorial intent to address immigrant experience. This is expressed in the artist’s writings, as well as in dealings and contracts between institutions.

Throughout the exhibition planning process, Chris Dercon, the founding director of Witte de With, proposed Ken Lum to make one of his “Portrait-Logos” as a city billboard. The artist accepted and selected “Melly Shum Hates Her Job” for this. In the center row of this vitrine are photographs showing the billboard across 12 locations throughout Rotterdam. These were taken by the people who pasted the billboards throughout the city. The billboards were exhibited in the public space for a period of six weeks.

Apart from requesting public funding to finance Ken Lum’s exhibition at Witte de With, the institution required additional funding to finance the billboard project. To realize the latter, Witte de With sold editions of the billboard to museums, galleries, and individuals in the Netherlands and internationally. On the top row you can see one of several funding applications and grant evaluations associated to the exhibition. Also included is correspondence between the neighboring Museum Boijmans, who purchased an edition of “Melly Shum Hates Her Job.”


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