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Ben Luke talks to Michaël Borremans about his influences—from writers to musicians, film-makers and, of course, other artists—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work. Borremans, born in 1963 in Geraardsbergen in Belgium, is one of the most original painters working today.

Michaël Borremans, The Monkey (2023)

He marries a technical brilliance, born of a careful study of the style and touch of the Old Masters, with a sensibility and atmosphere that are completely his own. Though they depict figures, objects and environments, his paintings remain enigmatic, refusing to settle into easily readable narratives. They are full of uncanny detail and incident which is all the more pronounced because of his sensual handling of the paint.

Michaël Borremans, The Talent (2023)

Though he is a perceptive observer of people, things and space, Borremans says he paints culture as opposed to nature. When he makes a painting of a human face, for instance, he is not concerned with the mimetic process of portraiture, rather with a perception of the ineffable nature of human psychology; with what it might mean to be—and to represent—a human being today. Even though it is characterised by an often absurd playfulness, an abiding sense of isolation and disquiet permeates Michaël’s work.

Michaël Borremans, The Smell (2023)

He discusses the ongoing influence of Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez and Jean-Siméon Chardin, the inspirational comedy of Monty Python, the profound writing of Vladimir Nabokov, and his love of music by everyone from Franz Schubert to Taylor Swift. He gives insight into life in the studio and answers our usual questions, including the ultimate: what is art for?

Michaël Borremans: The Monkey, David Zwirner, London, opening in London Gallery Weekend, 31 May-2 June, and then 6 June-26 July

Michaël Borremans: The Promise, Prada Rong Zhai, Shanghai, China, until 9 June

Michaël Borremans, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, the Netherlands, 30 November-23 March 2025

This podcast is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects, the arts and culture app.

The free app offers access to a vast range of international cultural organisations through a single download, with new guides being added regularly. They include several museums in the US that have shown or collected the work of Michaël Borremans, from the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. If you download Bloomberg Connects you will find that the guide to the MCA Denver includes in-depth features on its current shows, including audio and video content on A Hand in Nature, an exhibition by the Los Angeles-based, Colombian-born artist Gala Porras-Kim. She introduces the show and explores individual works in depth in a series of audio descriptions.

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