collected mahé, seychelles (august 1970)

catalogue number: hdv 1992.041.1
date created: 1970/1992
classification: works on paper
work type: assemblage
medium: 24 [25] seashells, collected in August 1970 on the beach of Mahé, Seychelles; on board and in vitrine
dimensions: 28 × 40 cm
signature and inscriptions: uninscribed
current repository: collection herman and susanne de vries
current repository number:
collecting history:
related works:
comment: the first time the work was exhibited, Edinburgh 1992, 25 shells were shown
photo/scan: studio herman de vries/Joana Schwender
rights & reproduction: herman de vries
section label

the real works

The body of work made by de vries between 1955 and the early seventies constitutes an extraordinarily rigorous intellectual, philosophical and spiritual preparation for the life-work of hís subsequent career as an artist. From some time in the mid-sixties de vries underwent a period of personal and professional crisis, a journey of contemplation, self-redefinition and renewed dedication to his vocation as an artist. In 1968 he resigned his post at the research institute at Arnhem, and within a year he had left his home and family and begun the first of many journeys to other parts of the world - to India, Africa, Scotland, the Middle East, the Seychelles, the Canary Islands.

In 1970 on the beach at Mahé in the Seychelles de vries picked up two handfuls of broken white coral, and observed, as if it were a revelation, that every piece was created by the same process, and yet that each was utterly distinct from the other: what was the same was different.

From the same beach de vries took twenty-four [twenty-five] seashells of the same species, and arranged them in a small cabinet frame in a three-line grid. "what is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts" wrote Wittgenstein in Tractatus, Proposition 2. A fact is an abstract classification: that the shells presented in the work are of a given species of mollusc is a taxonomic fact. As shells, however, they are irreducibly things, and every one is different from every other. collected mahé, seychelles (august 1970) presents us not with facts but with the actuality of twenty-four unique seashells. It is the first of what de vries has called 'the real works', and it inaugurates an extraordinary and sustained artistic-philosophical project of great significance and like no other in the art of our time.

Source: Mel Gooding, herman de vries. chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 41.

exhibition history
1992 'herman de vries. documents of a stream - the real works 1970-1992', Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
2001 'herman de vries : les choses mêmes', Musé Gassendi - Galerie du CAIRN, Digne-les-Bains
2009 'herman de vries. all this here - natur: werkgruppen und installationen', Schloss Moyland, Bedburg Hau
2010 'herman de vries. all this here - natur: werkgruppen und installationen', Kunsthalle Schweinfurt, Schweinfurt
2014 'herman de vries. all', Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam
2019 'herman de vries. all all all : werke 1957-2019. Gerhard-Altenbourg-Preis 2019, Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg
published references
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. documents of a stream, the real works 1970-1992 (Royal Botanic Garden : Edinburgh 1992) image repr. on page [8] (catalogue number 4).
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. ein trip durch die welt (Rijksmuseum Twenthe Enschede : Enschede 1998) i8mage repr. on page 6 (and title page).
article Cees de Boer, '"de wereld is mijn poëzie". Enkele momenten uit het leven = werk van herman de vries' = '"the world is my poetry". some moments from the life = work of herman de vries', in Oeuvreprijs 1998. Beeldende kunst : herman de vries (Stichting Fonds voor de beeldende kunsten, vormgeving en bouwkunst : Amsterdam 1998) image repr. on page 63.
exhibition catalogue 'herman de vries. les choses mêmes' reConnaître. Extrait du journal de Digne (Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence/Musée Départemental Digne : Digne-les-Bains etc. 2001) image repr. on page 55.
monograph Mel Gooding herman de vries. chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) image repr. on page 41.
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. all this here; natur: werkgruppen und installatione (Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland : Bedburg Hau 2009) image repr. on page 67, 131 (catalogue number 2).
monograph Cees de Boer, herman de vries. Overal stroomt mijn oog (Waanders & De Kunst : Zwolle 2014) image repr. on page 31.
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. all (Stedelijk Museum Schiedam/De Ketelfactorij : Schiedam 2014) image repr. n.p.
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. all all all : werke 1957-2019. Gerhard-Altenbourg-Preis 2019 / Lindenau-Museum Altenburg (Deutscher Kunstverlag : München 2019) image repr. on page 114/115, 152.
exhibition catalogue herman de vries. beyond the horizon (Galerie Geiger : Konstanz 2023) image repr. on page 13.