Gabriel Lester

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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[edit]

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[edit]

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 and Germany.

Education and early career in cinema[edit]

In 1991, Lester moved to Amsterdam, where he frequently performed freestyle spoken-word and entertained crowds together with various jazz and Hip Hop musicians. This resulted in weekly concerts, performances and several album and CD recordings. 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 invited 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[edit]

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,[1] 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, at the public open-studios, he showed his first artwork, entitled “How to Act”, a light sequence mimicking the light given off by television screens paired with a collection of generic movie soundtracks. Lester joined Fons Welters Gallery[2] that same year, and concluded the Rijksakademie in 2000. At the end of 2000 Lester moved back to Brussels, where he was based until 2008.

Current artistic practice[edit]

In the years following the Rijksakademie and his move back to Brussels, Lester initially focused his practice on spatial installations, sculpture and occasional experimental film and video for publications, exhibitions and/or commissions. Later he would direct part of his attention back to writing, film directing and performing. In recent years, Lester has been known to exhibit, install, publish short prose, occasionally curate and co-curate, teach at art academies and post graduate courses, and direct narrative cinema. 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.


PolyLester[3] - 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, artists, and thinkers. Previously, Lester has produced numerous artworks and proposals for public space, including: a light art façade on Witte de Withstraat in Amsterdam, periscope sculptures in The Hague and Enschede (the Netherlands) and Anyang, Gyeonggi (South Korea), a design for a rehearsal and performance space, titled G.O.D., produced with URA architects for Genth (Belgium), and a post office interior design produced with Jennifer Tee[4] in Culemborg (The Netherlands). These projects, among others, are characterized by their collaborative nature, and are now situated under the roof of PolyLester, in contrast to Lester's autonomous artistic practice.

Residencies, collections, publications and commissions[edit]

  • 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

Gallery Fons Welters based in Amsterdam, represents Gabriel Lester.

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 and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Publications on the work of Gabriel Lester include: ‘How to Act’ (a monograph, published by Veenman publishers), ‘Gabriel Lester’s Elevating the Witte de With’ (a catalogue, published by Paperkunsthalle), ‘Its Hard to get Trough to You’ and ‘62 Gasoline Stations’ (both self-published).

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • Follies, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, (DE)
  • Folkestone Triennial 2014, Folkestone (UK)
  • 5th Marrakech Biennale, Where are we now?, Marrakech (MA)
  • The Ears Have Walls, Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai (CN)
  • 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, Syndey (AU)
  • Blank Stare, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland (NZ)
  • The Secret Life of Cities, Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam (NL)
  • 2nd CAFAM Biennale, The Invisible Hand: Curating as Gesture, Beijing (CN)
  • The Future That Was, NASA, Amsterdam (NL)
  • ROXY, Minsheng museum, Shanghai (CN)
  • dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (DE)
  • Deep Screen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (NL)[1]
  • BIG BANG, Bloomberg Space, London (UK)
  • SEEN Boniers Konsthal, Stockholm (SE) [2]
  • Highlight (plan B) NICC, Free Space, PSK, Brussels (BE)
  • Beautiful Gamble, IASPIS, Stockholm (SE)
  • Cut to the Chase, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (NL)
  • The Gift of Gab, Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul (TR)
  • CIS, Kadist Art Foundation, Cine 13 Paris (FR)
  • The Prompt, Performa 09 Biennial New York City (US)
  • Slow Movement, Kunsthalle Bern (CH)[3]
  • Made Up, Liverpool Biennial (UK)
  • Prix Jeune Peinture Belge, Palais des Beaux-Art/Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (B)
  • Black Market World, Baltic Triennale, Vilnius/London (LT/UK)
  • More Than This!, Gothenburg Biennale (SE)
  • Rio de Janeiro Film festival Capacete, Rio de Janeiro (BR)
  • Puerto Rico 04 Biennale Proyectos, Puerto Rico (US)
  • Promotion, Z33, Hasselt (BE) [4]
  • Suspension of Disbelief, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (NL)[5]
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai (CN)


Coined Phrases and Quotes[edit]

  • "Trust me, I'm an Artist."
  • "See you in the future." (i.e. “See you soon", “Au revoir", “Tot ziens”, “ Bis zum nächsten Mal”)


  1. ^ Zonnenberg, Nathalie (2007) Palpable presence. Spectacle and imagination in the work of Gabriel Lester. Bozar Expo. Retrieved 2009-11-20
  2. ^ Fons Welters Gallery "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-06. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  3. ^ PolyLester Website:
  4. ^ Post Office for the residents of the Beatrix Care Centre in Culemborg.

External links[edit]