Work, the workplace, and working conditions change over time. Although work-process mechanization began some 150 years ago, physical labour was still crucial. Many works of art from around 1900 depict strong, united men. The advent of machinery – and more recently, automation – made manpower less important: the hard-working labourer was replaced by seated men staring at a monitor. Small workshops in the heart of the city made way for anonymous, block-shaped buildings along a busy motorway. In a little more than a century, physical stress was replaced by work stress. Are we capable of outperforming robots in order to keep our jobs?
Some things never really change, they just look slightly different: the long hours of factory workers are now being made by highly educated employees in the business and financial sectors.
In this exhibition, featuring work by artists like Maximilien Luce, Anton van Rappard, Pieter de Josselin de Jong, Jan Toorop, Hans van der Meer, Cas Oorthuys, Reinier Gerritsen, Edward Burtynsky, Michael Wolf, Michele Borzoni, and Vincent Fournier, these developments are depicted by artists with compassion, humour, admiration, or disgust.