Born in 1959 in Hilversum (the Netherlands), lives in Amsterdam (the Netherlands).

Erwin Olaf's art implicitly visualises the unspoken, the overlooked, that which typically resists easy documentation. Olaf's trademark is to address social issues, taboos and bourgeois conventions within the framework of a highly stylised and cunning mode of imagery. With the aid of his razor-sharp aesthetic intuition, Olaf purposely conceals his themes so that the viewer unconsciously and initially accepts the concealment found in his photo series. Yet in the end, his unconventional style never fails to deliver dramatic visual and emotional impact. By providing scenic and striking design, along with the utmost perfect composition in his typical, immaculate 'Olaf' style, combined with his passion for conceiving flawless scenarios, he vividly captures the essence of contemporary life.

Mixing photo journalism with studio photography, Olaf emerged on the international art scene in 1988, when his series Chessmen was awarded the first prize in the Young European Photographer competition. This award was followed by an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany in the same year. In his earlier work on the subject of social exclusion Olaf was deliberately disturbing with the intention of raising awareness and he was dedicated towards exploring issues of class, race, sexual taste, beliefs, habits and grace. In the series Rain (2004), Hope (2005), Grief (2007) and Fall (2008) Olaf challenges the notion of domestic bliss. Dusk (2009) and Dawn (2010) show how culture can become repression, despite a beautiful appearance. A similar disengagement takes place in Olaf's Hotel (2010) series in which he explores the subtle range of detached melancholic emotions in dimly-lit exquisitely furnished 1950s hotel rooms. In the new series The Siege and Relief of Leiden (2011) Olaf depicts a number of now iconic scenes from the relief and brings the leading figures together in a dramatic setting. Olaf took his inspiration from existing paintings and new research into the experience of the 3rd of October.

In 1987 he began working with film which has since then continued to be an important medium for his art. Often these movies provide a parallel history to his colour photography. In the past years Olaf's films have been screened at several leading museums and film festivals all around the world. A selection of screenings at museums at Centre Pompidou – Paris, Reina Sofia National Museum – Madrid, SCCA, Centre for Contemporary Art – Ljubljana, and the Museum at FIT – New York. A selection of screenings at film festivals: Fashion Film Festival – Melbourne, Rencontres International Film festival – Paris, International Film Festival Turkey – Ankara, EMAF Festival – Osnabrück, Dutch International Film Festival – Rotterdam.

Olaf's visually sophisticated and conceptually provocative style has been embraced by the advertising world. His worldwide campaigns for Diesel Jeans and Heineken won him the coveted Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions Festival for Advertising. In 2010 Louis Vuitton commissioned Olaf for a portrait series in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. He also won numerous other international art and media prizes, such as Photographer of the Year in the International Colour Awards in 2006, and “Kunstbeeld” magazine's Artist of the Year of the Netherlands in 2007. In 2008 he received a Lucie Award from the United States of America for his achievements in photography. Recently he won the prestigious Dutch State price of the Arts, Johannes Vermeer Award 2011. The jury selected him because of the high quality of his entire body of work.

Recent monographs are 'Erwin Olaf', Aperture Foundation, New York, (2008). This autumn his new book named 'Own', from Lido Books, Amsterdam, (2011) will be published, providing a retrospective of his work.

Erwin Olaf has had numerous important group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including George Eastman House, Rochester, USA; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Chelsea Art Museum, New York; Kunsthalle, Winterthur, Switzerland and the Museum of the City of New York, New York. Solo exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Bilbao Art Centre, Bilbao, Spain; Groninger Museum, Groningen; MonteVideo, Amsterdam; Modern Art Gallery of Bologna, Bologna, Italy; Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia; The Hague Museum of Photography, The Hague; Photo Museum Antwerp, Antwerp; Institut Néerlandais, Paris; Domus Artium, Salamanca; Hermitage, Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. His work is part of the collections of Municipal Museum, The Hague; Central Museum, Utrecht; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Groninger Museum, Groningen; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany; FNAC Collection, Paris; Caldic Collection, Rotterdam; Rosenblum Collection, Paris; Orefa Collection, Paris.


The Johannes Vermeer Award, Winner

PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris, Winner for Aperture book

Deutsche Borse Prize - Nominee

PDN Award - Photography Annual New York, Hasted Hunt Gallery, for “The Hairdresser” from Rain, Winner

PDN Award - Photography Annual New York, for Lavazza Calendar, Winner

Commercial Prize - Festival New York, for Heineken ‘Line-up’, New York, Winner

Silver Lion Award, commercial-festival for Diesel Dirty Denim, Cannes, Winner

‘Woord en Beeld 1995’ Applied Photography, Association for Parents of the Mentally Disabled, Winner - First Prize


Museum De Lakenhal, The Netherlands
21c Museum, U.S.A.
Arad Collection, London, England
Ars Fundum, Spain
Art Progressive Collection, U.S.A.
Banco Spirito Santo, Spain
Blue Collection, Switzerland
Caldic Collection, The Netherlands
Centraal Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Coff Collection, Spain
Collezione Lavazza, Torino
Collezione Lafranchi, Milano
Collezione La Gaia, Piedmont, Italy
Deutsche Leasing Ag, Bad Homburg, Germany


Emotions, La Sucière, Lyon, France, March 21 - June 30
Erwin Olaf: Berlin, Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NY, March 14 - April 27
Erwin Olaf: Regressive, MMKA, Arnhem, The Netherlands, October 27, 2012 - January 27, 2013

Erwin Olaf, Gallery Kong, Seoul, Korea, October 5 - October 30
Works 2000 - 2012, Art Statements Gallery, Hong Kong, China, June 18 - July 31
Erwin Olaf Short Stories, Gallery Wagner + Partner, Berlin, Germany, March 16 - May 12

Erwin Olaf: Liberty! Relief of Leiden 1574-2011, Museum De Lakenhal , The Netherlands, September 29 - January 8
High Tension: Solo Exhibition by Erwin Olaf, Carbon 12, Dubai, September 19 - November 10
Erwin Olaf: De La Mar, Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NY, May 19 - July 1
Erwin Olaf: Captured Senses, Cermodern, Ankara, Turkey, April 30 - July 30
Erwin Olaf: Nordic Light International Festival of Photography, Christiansund, Norway, May 3 - 7

Erwin Olaf: Hotel, Galerie Magda Danysz/Flatland Paris, Paris France, October 16 - 27
Erwin Olaf: A Journey to Excellence, exhibition commissioned by Louise Vuitton and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 2 - 27
Erwin Olaf, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Beijing, China, July 31 - September 24
Private Lives: Erwin Olaf, Museum Forma - Centro Internationale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy, June 17 - September 12
Recent Work, Hamiltons Gallery, London, April 28 - June 4
Dusk / Dawn, Hermitage Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Hotel & Dusk / Dawn, HASTED HUNT KRAEUTLER, New York, January 28 - March 20

Photography & Video: Rain, Hope, Grief, Fall, Et D’Autres Oeuvres - Institut Néerlandais, Paris, France
Eye Candy 1984 - 2009 - Photomuseum Antwerp, Atwerp, Belgium
Erwin Olaf : 50 Years (Retrospective), Domas Artrium, Salamanca Ciudad de Cultura, Salamanca, Spain
Erwin Olaf - Langhans Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

Still Living: Structure, Surface and Espression - South Eastern Centre for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC
Hope, Rain, Grief & Fall - The Hague Museum of Photography, The Hague, The Netherlands
Grief - Flatland Paris & Gallery Magda Danysz, Paris, France
Erwin Olaf - Space E6, Shenzhen, China
Human All Too Human - Fotografia Europea Reggio Emilia 2008, Reggio Emilia, Italy

House of Beautiful Nightmares - Arcaute Arte Contemporaneo, San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico
Grief - M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
Grief - HASTED HUNT Gallery, New York
Grief - Reflex New Art Gallery, Amsterdam
Le Dernier Cri - Galerie Rabouan Moussion, Paris, France
Elegance & Perversity - Shoalhaven City Arts Centre, Shoalhaven, Australia

Rain & Hope - HASTED HUNT Gallery, New York
Elegance & Perversity - Australian Centre of Photography Sidney, Australia
Fashion & Style in Photography - Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia
Imitation of Life - Modern Art Gallery of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Moving Targets - Montevideo, Dutch Media Arts Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Hope - Flatland Gallery, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Vertias Splendor: Erwin Olaf Photographs 1998 - 2003 - Museum Sztuki, Lodz, Poland
Silver - Groniger Museum, Gronigen, The Netherlands

Retrospective - Cultuurcentrum Knokke-Heist, Knokke-Heist, Belgium
Paradise - B & D Tomasorenol Di Bracco ContemporaryArtVision, Milano, Italy
Booby Trap - Museo D’Arte Provincia Di Nuoro, Nuoro, Italy

Royal Blood - Bilbao Art Centre, Bilbao Grand prix de l’affiche, Humour & Pub, ‘Charal advertising’
Silver Lion - commercial-festival for Heineken ‘Corner’, Cannes
Action (Erwin Olaf & Paul Smith) - Galway Arts Centre, Galway
Mature - Laurence Miller Gallery, New York
Retrospective - Museum of Modern Art, Hasselt; Crown Gallery, Brussels

Mature & Royal Blood - Paris Photo/Flatland Gallery, Paris
Fashion Victims - Il Ponte, Roma
Retrospective - Arsenal, Prague
Mature - Kunst Rai / Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam
Mature - Il Ponte, Rome

Chessmen - La Bonbonniere, Maastricht

Stars in Black, White & Color - Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sidney, Australia

Mind of their Own - Il Ponte Contemporanea, Rome
Erwin Olaf Fotografien ‘84 -’95 - Museum, Erlangen.

Tafel Van Tien - Flatland Gallery, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Joy - Kunsthal, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Erwin Olaf - Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany

Blacks: Seventeen Royal Portraits - Fodor Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


We Will Continue, Het Dolhuys, The Dutch National Psychiatry Museum, The Neatherlands, August - February 2012

SHOW OFF!, The Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, November 13 2011
No Fashion, Please!, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria, November 10 - January
The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the W.M. Hunt Collection, George Eastman House International Museum,
Rochester, NY, October 1 - February 19, 2012
DEAD_Lines, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, Germany, October - February 2012
Beauty/Culture, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA, May 21 - November 27
International Fotofestiwal Out of Mind, Lodz, Polen, May 5 - 15
Interaction to Micro-Sociology: The Dual Thread of Media Intervention into Art in The Netherlands and China, Laboratory Art Beijing, Beijing, China, April 16 - May 31

The unbearable lightness of being, Carbon 12 Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 22 - January 10, 2011
Decadence Now! Visions of Excess, Gallery Rudolfinum Praha, Prague, Czech Republic, October 4 - January 2, 2011
Longer Participation, Ideal Lab, Saint-Etienne, France, August 14 - September 30
Cinema X: I Like to Watch Carlos Aires, Regina Galindo, Bruce LaBruce, Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkacova, Dani Marti, Erwin Olaf, Steve Reinke & Jessie Mott, Santiago Sierra, Curated by Paco Barragán, MOCCA, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 2 - 11
Atopia: Art and City in the 21st Century, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain, February 25 - May 24
De Pictura: En defensa de la belleza/ In Defense of Beauty, EMAT Espai Metropolita d’Art, Valencia, Spain

The Non-Age: The Rebel of Age, Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
Wild Exaggeration, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel
Amsterdam/New York Perspectives: Dutch Photography in New York, The Museum of the City of New York
The Non-Age, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
All that is Nothing Melts into Air, MuHKA- Museum for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, Belgium
Why Look at Animals? - Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, Florida

Short Stories in Contemporary Photography - Zurich Museum of Design, Zurich, Switzerland
Dangerous Beauty - Chelsea Art Museum, New York
The Constructed Image - Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada
The Veil/ Il Velo - CeSAC (Centro Sperimentale per le Arti Contemporanee Caraglio), Caraglio, Italy
Spirit of the Nord - Maison Europeenne De La Photographie, Paris, France

Why Look at Animals? - George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Baroque and Neo-Baroque. The Hell of Beautiful - Salamanca Arts Center, Salamanca, Spain
BAC !05 - International Festival of Contemporary Art, Barcelona
Going Dutch - Museum of New Art, Pontiac, USA

Foto America 2004, The Cultural Centre Espantagruelico, Santiago, Chile
Lies, lust Art & Fashion - Signale der kleidung, Podewil, Berlin, Germany

Melting Pop - Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siene, Italy
Fundancion Foto Colectania - Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporaneo, Vitoria-Gazteis, Spain

The Mask, Il Volto Plurale - La Giarina Arte Contemporanea Verona, Verona, Italy
Shock & Show - Mostra internazionale d’arte contemporanea a Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Action (Erwin Olaf & Paul Smith), Galway Arts Centre, Galway, Ireland
Attention Please, Man Museo d’Arte Provincia di Nuoro
The Body of Art - Bienal de Valencia, Valencia, Spain

Bodies, Clothing, Surfaces - Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany

Haks was here, Groninger Museum, Groningen

The Deadly Sins, Amsterdams centrum voor de fotografie, Amsterdam

Triptych, Museum van Bommel van Dam, Venlo

Home is where the Heart Is, Fremdkörper Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam

Girls 1985 – 1995, Galerie Steltman, Amsterdam,
Girls 1985 – 1995, Galerie Steltman New York

10 Years of European Photo Prize - Kulturzentrum Englische Kirche, Bad Homburg, Germany

Manipulation - Staten Gallery, The Hague, The Netherlands

Style Shapes Function, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Double Dutch, Sala Uno, Rome, Italy
Illusions and Travestissements, AB Gallery, Paris, France

The Fourth Wall, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Exuberance Now!, Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands

Behold the Men - The Photographer’s Gallery, London, England

Nudity in Front of the Camera - Meervaart Theater, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Männer sehen Männer - Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany

The Art of Seduction - Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Foto 1984 - Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

© 2011
#157-78 Samcheong-dong Jongno-gu
Seoul Korea 110-230
T. 02 738 7776