Inside The Outside UN

Inside the Outside UN

Soloshow 2019

JAN 14. - JAN 20. 2019


United Nations Headquarters


405 E 42nd Street (46th St & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10017




Inside the Outside

When Ruprecht von Kaufmann began the Inside the Outside series of portraits, the media were filled with images of streams of arriving refugees. Television stations were showing an anonymous mass of people  reaching the beaches of Lampedusa and Lesbos by boat or moving in seemingly endless rows of marchers along the Balkan route. Several of them wept on arriving in “Fortress Europe”. Some faces smiled with relief; still others appeared to be immersed in anxious thoughts about the future that awaited them in a foreign country.

Ruprecht von Kaufmann wanted to experience what moves people to leave everything familiar behind to seek refuge in a strange country and take on the great risks of fleeing their homeland. Over two years the Berlin painter invited refugees to his studio and painted their portrait. The result is a series of twenty-six works. As different as the faces of the sitters, as individual are the stories of their pasts in their homeland. His models told him about their reasons for fleeing, and the everyday struggles in their new home during the hours they spent in his studio. His artistic focus was not on hyperrealistic reproduction; instead, the works reflect the impressions of an encounter between two people, the artist and his model. They try to draw the individual refugee out of the homogenous mass.


“An oil portrait is a status symbol. I wanted to harness this symbolic power to give people, who were hidden behind the anonymous television images of streams of refugees, a face and a voice.” Ruprecht von Kaufmann

The Inside the Outside series will first be exhibited in January 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In February 2019 the Museen Böttcherstrase in Bremen will show the portraits. Final negotiations are currently underway with other renowned international institutions. The intention is not to show the paintings as a self-contained group but rather to integrate them into the existing exhibitions of old master paintings of European Museums. Throughout many centuries of art history, a portrait painted with oil paints was a privilege of the rich. To place the portraits of refugees amongst the faces of the aristocratic and powerful underscores their vulnerability and the unique situation of the sitters. In this way the viewer discovers room for contemplation away repetitively hectic media images. A thought process is set in motion that reaches beyond mere emotion. 


In the winter of 2018, the Distanzverlag will issue an extensive publication on this extraordinary project. In addition to the twenty-six paintings, the stories of the portrayed, and a detailed explanation of the project by Ruprecht von Kaufmann, outstanding guest authors lend their voice and their personal experiences with migration to the book.

Maynat Kurbanova was born in Grozny. From the beginning of the Second Chechen War, she was a correspondent for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta and for Radio Liberty in the northern Caucasus. Thanks to a collaboration with Agence France-Presse, her articles were published under the name Mainat Abdulajewa in newspapers such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

After receiving several threats from the Russian military, she left the country in 2004. She was a grant recipient in the Writers-in-Exile Program of the German PEN-Zentrum. In 2010, she moved to Austria with a grant form the ‘Wien als Zufluchtsstadt’ program of the IG Autorinnen und Autoren. She since lives as a freelance author in the Austrian capital. In 2009, Maynat Kurbanova was awarded the RADIO Journal Rundfunkpreis and in 2011 the Sonderpreis Edition Exil “Schreiben zwischen den Kulturen” (Writing between Cultures).


Michele Cinque is an Italian director and author. He attracted international attention with his documentary film Iuventa (2017). Over the course of a year he accompanied missions of the NGO Jugend Rettet (Youth Saves), which has been rescuing refugees at sea in the Mediterranean with the ship Iuventa since mid-2016. After rescuing around 14,000 people at sea, the ship was suddenly seized in August 2017 by the Italian authorities and held in Lampedusa. The organization has been accused of cooperating with gangs of refugee smugglers. Charges have yet to be filed, however. With his poetic visual language and his objective stance, Cinque has managed to produce a stirring film.