Gabriel Lester (Amsterdam, 6 February 1972) is an inventor, visual artist and film director living and working in Amsterdam. His practice encompasses music, cinema, spatial installation, performance art, sculpture, architecture, photography and prose.
Family and early life
Gabriel Lester was born in Amsterdam on 6 February 1972. Son of Mark Dunning Lester (New York City, USA 1947) and Frederika Rolande Wilhelmina Erwteman (Bruxelles, Belgium 1944 † Groningen, Netherlands 2006). Lester grew up in a cooperative commune named ‘Impuls’ in the small village of Pieterburen, in the province of Groningen (the Netherlands).
Early career in music
In 1984, he moved to the province’s capital, the city of Groningen. It was around this time that Lester became interested in early street and hip-hop culture. He began graffiti writing under the ‘tag name’ Catch. Lester later produced rap music using so called tape loops, cassette decks and turntables before moving into digital samplers and sequencers. In 1986, he formed the group ‘Definitely Def’ with Andy Godderis. In 1989, Eugen Walker joined the group to become ‘Utile Connection’ (or U.C.). U.C. would record several tracks and perform in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Education and early career in cinema
In 1991, Lester moved to Amsterdam, where he frequently MC'ed and performed freestyle spoken-word together with various jazz and Hip Hop musicians. In that same year, Lester attended a weekend course that was dubbed the pre-cinema school.
In 1994, Lester moved to the city of Breda (the Netherlands), where he attended a course of audiovisual arts at the Sint Joost art academy. After successfully completing the first year, Lester decided to travel instead of spending more time at the academy. That summer he traveled by bus to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, where he spent a number of months researching and writing his first feature length screenplay titled ‘Travel without a Course’. Upon his return from Georgia, Lester entered a course in experimental cinema at the Sint-Lukas Hogeschool in Bruxelles (Belgium). Again, he concluded the first year of a four-year course, without the inclination to continue.
Lester returned to Amsterdam in 1995 and worked as a director, assistant director and editor of video-clips and commercials for the film production company Filmhouse. In 1996, he was engaged by Carlos Amorales, with whom he had previously worked on a short film, to collaborate in his Amorales art and performance project, a collaboration that lasted for two and a half years. This project introduced Lester to the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, to which he applied and was admitted in 1998. Before starting at the Rijksakademie, Lester traveled to Iceland, where he lived for five months farming and writing a collection of short stories. Upon his return to Amsterdam, Lester self-published a selection of the stories in a book called “Over and Done With”.
Early artistic practice
In January 1999, Gabriel Lester started a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie, with the intention to do further research into cinema and produce some short films. However, in April of that year, shortly after an internal open-studios, Lester decided to avoid making film-art or video-art and rather create cinematic experiences in a three-dimensional fine arts practice. Later that year, Lester joined Fons Welters Gallery. At the end of 2000 Lester moved back to Brussels, where he was based until 2008.
Current artistic practice
In the years following the Rijksakademie, Lester initially focused his practice on spatial installations, sculpture and occasional experimental film and video. Later he would direct part of his attention back to writing, film directing and performing. In the period of 2011 - 2013, Lester was based part-time in Shanghai, where he has participated in several group exhibitions, leading up to his solo show ROXY at the Shanghai Minsheng museum. He currently resides in Amsterdam and is represented by Leo Xu Projects in Shanghai and Fons Welters in Amsterdam.
Lester frequently collaborates with Raimundas Malašauskas, Aaron Schuster, Onco Tattje, Job Chajes and Arnaud Hendrickx. Other collaborators include: Jennifer Tee, Freek Wambacq, Thomas Bakker, Herwig Weiser.
Lester’s work is part of several public and private collections, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 798 Art Zone Beijing, 21 Museum Nashville, Mudam Luxembourg, CitizenM, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
Publications on the work of Gabriel Lester include: How to Act (monograph, Veenman publishers 2006), ‘Gabriel Lester’s Elevating the Witte de With’ (Paperkunsthalle 2007), ‘62 Gasoline Stations’ (artist book self-published 2007), Forced Perspectives (monograph, Sternberg Press 2015).
PolyLester - established by Gabriel Lester and Martine Vledder in 2013 - is a multidisciplinary design studio focusing on artworks, public sculptures, architectural interventions, landscapes, and interior design. PolyLester works together with an array of architects, designers, including such prominent creatives as Irma Boom, Beau Architects, Monadnock, Rem Koolhaas, URA Architects, Richard Niessen, Hella Jongerius and Jennifer Tee.
Residencies, collections, publications and commissions
- 2014 Elam School of Art, Artist in Residence, Auckland, New Zealand
- 2013 TWS Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo, Japan
- 2006 ROAD, capacete, mobile residency, Brazil & Peru
- 2005-2006 ISCP, New York, USA
- 2003-2004 IASPIS, Stockholm, Sweden
- 1999-2000 Rijksakademie van Beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam
- 1995-1996 Hogeschool Sint Lukas, Brussels - Experimental Film
- 1994-1995 St. Joost Akademie voor Kunst en Vormgeving, Breda - Audio Visual
Selected solo exhibitions
- 2017 Aeon and Lester’s Loops Groninger museum, Groningen (NL)
- If you happen to be Ryan Lee gallery, New York (USA)
- 2016 Apple Z De Appel Art center, Amsterdam (NL)
- The 9 Day Week CAC museum, Vilnius (LT)
- 2014 The Ears Have Walls Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai (CH)
- Follies Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (D)
- Blank Stare Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland (NZ)
- 2012 Roxy Minsheng Museum, Shanghai (CH)
- The Future that Was NASA/Smart, Amsterdam (NL)
- 2011 Suspension of Disbelief Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (NL)
- 2009 ProMotion Z33, Hasselt (B)
Selected group exhibitions
- 2018 Busan Biennale, South Korea
- 2016 Heaven, Hell & Earth Stedelijk museum Den Bosch
- forming in the pupil of an eye Kochi Biennale, India
- 2015 Moscow biennale Moscow (RUS)
- Istanbul biennale Istanbul (TUR)
- 2014 Sydney biennale Sydney (AUS)
- Marrakesh Biennale Marrakesh (MOR)
- CAFA museum Beijing (CH)
- Play Time Corner House, Manchester (UK)
- 2013 Garden of Diversion Sifang museum, Nanjing (CH)
- Performa 13 New York (USA)
- Venice Biennale Venice (IT)
- Sharjah Bienniale Sharjah (UAE)
- Call of the Mall Utrecht (NL)
- 2012 dOCUMENTA (13) Kassel (D)
- Blind Cut Marlborough Chelsea Gallery, New York (USA)
- 2011 Secret Societies Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (D)
- Television Commune Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul (SK)
- 2010 Not Our Cup of Tea 29th Sao Paulo Biennial (BR)
- De Nederlandse Identiteit Museum De Paviljoens, Almere (NL)
- A Map Bigger Than Its Territory Valand Fine Arts, Gothenburg (S)
- 2009 C.I.S. Kadist Foundation, Paris (F)
- Secret Ninth Planet MA CCA, San Francisco (USA)
- Slow Movement Kunsthalle Bern (CH)
Boards / Positions
- 2016 - now Main tutor Fine Arts Sandberg, Rietveld, Amsterdam
- 2013 – now Teacher Audio Visual Department Rietveld, Amsterdam
- 2014 – 2015 Artist in Residence Academie van Bouwkunst, AHK, Amsterdam
- 2016 – now Board Witte de With center for contemporary art, Rotterdam
- 2014 – now Board The One Minutes Foundation, Amsterdam
Coined Phrases and Quotes
- "Trust me, I'm an Artist."
- "See you in the future." (i.e. “See you soon", “Au revoir", “Tot ziens”, “ Bis zum nächsten Mal”)
- Zonnenberg, Nathalie (2007) Palpable presence. Spectacle and imagination in the work of Gabriel Lester. Bozar Expo. Retrieved 2009-11-20
- Fons Welters Gallery "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-06. Retrieved 2009-11-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- PolyLester Website: http://www.polylester.com/
- Official website
- Artist Page At Fons Welters Gallery
- Ryan Lee Gallery
- Lester's News at Leo Xu Projects
- Gabriel Lester at Artist Pension Trust