Masterpieces in paint and video

How do artists of today and yesterday represent human emotion? In Double Act, contemporary video art and seventeenth-century paintings rub shoulders in an exhibition that investigates what it means to be human.

1. Paulus Moreelse, De foltering van Prometheus ca 1634-1638 © Centraal Museum Utrecht Ernst Moritz.jpg

On the painting by Paulus Moreelse, The Torture of Prometheus, the emotions jump out at the viewer.

Prometheus, the god who brought fire to earth, screams with pain as he suffers his punishment.

Fire is often used by artists to represent suffering. But fire is also an element that keeps mankind alive. Video artist Bill Viola uses fire, along with water, as a symbol of life and death. 

3. Hendrick ter Brugghen, Slapende Mars, 1629 © Centraal Museum Utrecht Ernst Moritz.jpg

Sleeping Mars by Hendrik ter Brugghen shows the god of war, peacefully asleep. There seems to be no danger. Or is there? His hand continues to clutch the sword.

This dreamy and colourful ambiance suggests a peaceful scene. But in this video, Richard Mosse plays with our perception. Actually, The Enclave is about the looming threat of violence during the civil war in East Congo.

5. Gerard van Honthorst, De koppelaarster, 1625 (detail).jpg

For centuries, women barely featured in art history except as a muse or model.

Gerard van Honthorst’s painting The Procuress, clearly painted from a male viewpoint with strong erotic undertones, is a typical example.

It is precisely this male gaze to which the artist Marina Abramović objects.

Video was still a new medium in the 1970s, not yet dominated by (white) men. Many women therefore used this art form to critically address their position in the art world and in society at large.

7. Bart Rutten.jpg

“With Double Act we explore the sensation of the sublime that the visual arts can offer. With the art of the past and the present, we aim to stimulate the viewer’s mind as well as touch heart.” 

Bart Rutten, artistic director ———

“I consider video artists to be key figures in a longer art history; they respond to issues of our time, while investigating human perception and the human condition.”

——— Pam Kramlich, Kramlich Collection

Practical information

Double Act

Masterpieces in paint and video.

Two seemingly very different collections meet in Double Act: the monumental video installations by the American Kramlich family on the one hand, and the 17th-century paintings of Centraal Museum on the other. Contemporary greats like Bill Viola, Marina Abramović, Bruce Nauman and Steve McQueen rub shoulders with top pieces by the renowned Utrecht painters Abraham Bloemaert, Roeland Saverij, Jan van Scorel, Dirck van Baburen and Gerard van Honthorst. The combination works like a mirror for the soul; let yourself be immersed in the emotions in these old and new masterpieces.

About the Kramlich Collection

With more than 200 film, video and media installations from the 1960s to the present, the Kramlich collection is regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive private collections of media art in the world. Pam en Richard Kramlich belong to the first collectors to focus on 'new' media art by the late 80's. The emphasis in collecting is on works that reflect on aesthetic, ethical and social contemporary issues. Artists from North American, European and Asian countries are represented in the collection. During Double Act, a part of this remarkable collection, which has never been displayed outside of America, in on show.


In the media guide you can listen to speakers who share their stories based on their own expertise, passion or interest: psychiatrist and philosopher Damiaan Denys, climate-change activist Chihiro Geuzebroek, and spoken-word artist Amber-Helena Reisig. The museum’s artistic director, Bart Rutten, also explains his fascination with video art.


A beautifully designed magazine is published exclusively for Double Act. With contributions from Ramon Coelho, Aebhric Coleman, Marian Cousijn, Catharina van Daalen, Liesbeth M. Helmus, Shannon Jackson, Jorinde Keesmaat, Iris Kensmil, Pam Kramlich, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, Bart Rutten Fiona Tan and Gaby Wijers. The magazine is available at the museum, pay as you like.

Collaboration ILFU

The Centraal Museum is collaborating with the International Literature Festival Utrecht (ILFU). Together we have commissioned a number of writers to write about the combinations made from Double Act. The names of the authors will be announced later.


The exhibition combines works of art with video installations. The galleries are therefore dark with the paintings highlighted. A number of videos include scenes of violence, flashing images and loud sounds. Because the galleries are dark, we also advise visitors with a visual impairment to bring someone with them. Entry for carers is free: complimentary carer tickets are available at the ticket office. Audio fragments in the media guide are also available as texts in the app. The media guide is compatible with screen readers.

The exhibition is accessible for people with limited mobility, with the exception of two mezzanine floors where works by Takeshi Murata and Marina Abramović are presented together with silverware and paintings. These mezzanine floors can only be accessed using stairs. Several doors in the exhibition have to be opened by hand. We recommend that wheelchair-users bring a carer/support person with them. There are benches and folding stools in the galleries

For further information about accessibility at the Centraal Museum, please click here.

Participating artists

Marina Abramović, Allora & Calzadilla, Dirck van Baburen, Jan van Bijlert, Abraham Bloemaert, Hendrick Bloemaert, Ambrosius Bosschaert de Jonge, Jan Gerritsz. van Bronchorst, Johan van Bronchorst, Hendrik ter Brugghen, Michiel de Bruyn van Berendrecht, Hendrick Goltzius, Gerard van Honthorst, Steve McQueen, Johannes Moreelse, Paulus Moreelse, Richard Mosse, Takashi Murata, Bruce Nauman, Pipilotti Rist, Roelant Saverij, Jan van Scorel, Johannes ten Stall, Adam van Vianen, Bill Viola, Cornelis Jansz. Van Weerdenborch.

Thanks to

HouseTMM_Centraal Museum_Double Act_Logobalk_Blok_Wit.jpg

Special thanks to


Image: Richard Mosse, Madonna and Child, 2012 and Hendrick ter Brugghen, Sleeping Mars, c. 1625-26. House TMM commissioned by Centraal Museum Utrecht, 2022.


  • Double Act Magazine : Kramlich Collection, videokunst en schilderkunst in dialoog, vrouwen in opera, literaire bijdragen ILFU, Steve McQueen, Marina Abramovic, Richard Mosse, Inl. Bart Rutten, hoofdred. Sanneke Huisman, teksten Aebhric Coleman, Marian Cousijn, Catharina van Daalen, Liesbeth M. Helmus, Shannon Jackson, Pam Kramlich, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, Bart Rutten, Centraal Museum (Utrecht, 2022), 24 p.
  • The Human Condition : media art from the Kramlich Collection, I, ed. by Shannon Jackson, Thames and Hudson, Thames and Hudson (New York, 2022), 192 p.
  • In elkaars schijnwerper, Joke de Wolf, (Museumtijdschrift [Vitrine], 7, okt-nov 2022), p. 30-34

Collection in this exhibition

  • No objects from the Centraal Museum collection were shown in this exhibition

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