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interview

Focus on the KBR Collection of Drawings

The drawings held in the KBR Print Room have long been overshadowed by the prints, and are therefore less well known to the general public. Since 2013, however, efforts have been made in making this important collection accessible, in particular via the digital library Belgica. Daan van Heesch, its curator, reveals how he and his team are working on the conservation and study of more than 700,000 works on paper.

Daan van Heesch obtained his PhD in the history of art in 2019 and continued as a postdoctoral researcher at the KU Leuven. His fascination with the art of drawing dates back to 2013, when he wrote his thesis entitled The Antwerp Sketchbook, a fascinating study into copying practices and the dissemination of images in the 16th century. Since September 2020, he is the curator of KBR's collection of Prints and Drawings

The Royal Library houses the largest collection of drawings in Belgium. What does this unique collection contain?

The KBR Print Room holds around 25,000 drawings from the 16th century to the present day. The collection includes about 3,500 pieces drawn by old masters, but the majority are drawings by Belgian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most prestigious pieces include works by great masters such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Joris Hoefnagel, Hendrik Goltzius, Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordaens. We are currently preparing a richly illustrated catalogue of the hundred most beautiful drawings by Flemish and Dutch masters. 
In addition to the most famous names, the collection also contains drawings by lesser-known painters, sculptors, architects and designers. All types of drawings are represented, from architectural studies and theatre designs to sketchbooks, topographical works and even courtroom drawings.

What are the modern masterpieces in the collection?

We are proud of our collection of 19th-century Belgian drawings, with masterpieces by artists such as Félicien Rops, Fernand Khnopff, Léon Spilliaert and James Ensor. The provocative pastel The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1878) by Rops, in which a voluptuous woman appears to the saint as a crucified Christ, caused a real scandal in its time and is now one of the highlights of the collection.

Daan van Heesch

Bosch, KBR

What about contemporary drawings?

Contemporary Belgian drawing is only marginally represented in KBR. It would be a dream to develop a representative collection of contemporary drawings, but at the moment the resources available do not allow us to do so.

Does the collection also include foreign works? 

KBR also holds small but beautiful collections of drawings from other geographical areas. For example, sheets by the Venetian artists Domenico Campagnola and Giambattista Tiepolo are fine examples of the Italian school. 
Non-Western drawing is represented by an exceptional collection of African watercolours from the 1920s and 1930s. These pioneering drawings were made by Congolese artists such as Djilatendo and Antoinette and Albert Lubaki, whose work marked what is known as the beginning of modern Congolese art in European art history. 

What is the acquisition policy of the Prints and Drawings Collection?

The acquisition policy of the Print Room is focused on collecting works on paper from the southern Netherlands and Belgium, from all periods. We follow the art market closely and focus mainly on existing gaps in specific collections such as the old master drawings and nineteenth-century Belgian art. 
Given our relatively limited acquisition budget and the record prices currently being paid for art from the southern Netherlands and Belgium, we are increasingly dependent on external funding in order to acquire works from the upper echelons of the art market. Thanks to the Roi Baudouin Foundation, KBR has, for example, been enriched in recent years by superb print designs by Hans Bol and no fewer than 86 sheets by the Brussels artist Richard van Orley.

Can you give me an example of a recent acquisition? 

In 2020 we were able to acquire a monumental drawing by the Belgian symbolist painter Jean Delville. The drawing in question is La Justice Moderne, a preliminary study for one of the large paintings the artist made between 1907 and 1914 for the Palais de Justice in Brussels. The original paintings illustrated the development of the administration of justice through the different historical periods. However, during the Second World War, this magnum opus was lost in a fire caused by German soldiers. Fortunately, Delville's descendants have preserved a series of large and very detailed drawings of the lost paintings. We have been able to acquire one last piece from the family's collection, which is an important addition to KBR's fin-de-siècle collection.

Antoninnette Lubaki, KBR

Rops, KBR

Are you also interested in contemporary drawing?

I try to yearly visit several exhibitions of contemporary works on paper. One of my latest discoveries is Stefan Serneels, whose masterly sketchbooks were recently exhibited in the Garage of the Hof van Busleyden Museum in Mechelen: distorted perspectives, bourgeois interiors and unrecognisable figures are recurring elements in his work. In recent years, I have also been fascinated by Philippe Vandenberg's drawings and I closely follow the activities of the foundation that manages the artist's estate. 

Drawing has a special place in the history of art. What is your opinion on the importance of this practice throughout history?

Drawing is one of the oldest forms of human expression and communication. It has always been there and always will be. In the Renaissance, the art of drawing was considered the foundation of all artistic activity. The medium allowed artists to develop and refine their creative abilities. In the sixteenth century, the art of drawing also acquired a more intellectual dimension: the medium was no longer considered only as a professional skill, but also as the pre-eminent expression of human inventiveness. 
After all, drawings are not only finished products, but also manifestations of the artists' creative process. The drawing equally fascinates as a material object: it is tactile and vulnerable and offers, like no other medium, an intimate insight into the artist's creative quest for new forms and meanings.

More info about the collection of Drawings of KBR:

Photo credits:
Home - James Ensor, Masks, © KBR – Prints and Drawings, inv. S.IV 241
1. Daan van Heesch, KBR
2. Follower of Hieronymus Bosch, Beggars and Cripples, ca. 1520-1540, © KBR – Estampes et dessins, inv. S.II 133708
3. Antoinette Lubaki, Européen transporté dans un hamac, ca. 1920-1930, © KBR – Prints and Drawings, inv. S.V 12795
4. Félicien Rops, La Tentation de Saint Antoine, 1878, © KBR – Prints and Drawings, inv. S.V 86652
5. Hendrick Goltzius, Cruyck vis, 1569, © KBR – Prints and Drawings, inv. S.V 62409

Goltzius, KBR

 

interview

Vincent Geyskens: a search for reality through images

Almost two years after his participation to Art on Paper, we meet up again with the Belgian artist, Vincent Geyskens (1971, Lier), 2019 edition laureate of the SOFAM Prize for Best Solo Show, to reflect on his artistic practice and his latest news.
In his practice, Vincent Geyskens has been questioning our image overload today. For the artist, every drawing, collage, or painting is an attempt to discover and experience new ways to deliver our gaze from visual expectations. Vincent has been represented by Galerie Annette De Keyser and Trampoline Gallery, both in Antwerp, next to his job as art teacher at the KASK, Ghent. In 2012 he had his first retrospective at the SMAK in Ghent. Vincent’s work will be exhibited this year, from 28 May to 5 September at the M-Museum in Leuven.

What role do drawings and works on paper play in your art practice? 

Compared to painting, drawing and collages are not activities that I have to conceptualise or prepare. With my collage practice, for example, I collect pieces of paper all the time. I have boxes full of scraps. When I am in my studio working on a painting, suddenly, I find myself working on a collage. As for the drawings, a few years ago, I started regularly walking in the Forêt de Soignes as a way of turning my back on the art world. I began to draw my experience and perception of nature while walking. Collages and drawings are an ongoing activity that happen in the margins of my painting practice. It is something that is not planned, orchestrated, or thought of before. 

It is interesting to see how a creative process depends on a technique…

The material and the specific circumstances determine the type of work I make. My paintings require a thought process. My collages happen spontaneously with the ripping, the twisting, the folding and cutting and my drawings only happen with paper and pencils on my walks through the Forest. Both are the result of a certain necessity in the sense that it is not an image that is transferred to another support, it is really something that happens within the action. 

Vincent Geyskens, untitled, s.d, pencil on paper, photo: courtesy of Trampoline Gallery

Vincent Geyskens, The Spam of Control, 2016, collage, photo: courtesy of Trampoline Gallery

How do you define your artistic practice?

My practice is a way to get out of the illusion and virtual aspect of images. Everything I do is a way of stepping away from our visual expectations to make contact with reality. Therefore, I have to destroy images to find openings and to get in touch with the tactile and tangible reality. That implies a certain brutality because you must cut your way through the prejudice and image’s strategies to liberate your vision, to see what appears under the surface and exterior of images of things and objects. All my artwork, every drawing, collage, or painting is an attempt to discover and experience new ways to liberate our gaze. 

How did you come up with the idea for your solo show at Art on Paper 2019?

In March 2018, my gallerist, Simon Delobel  and I created an exhibition called ''Moving the Mustache''. It was located in a large and old empty automobile garage in Antwerp. To show my collages, we built an entire cardboard wall. By cutting holes in the cardboard, we placed and assembled the collages inside the wall. In a way, we enlarged the collage technique of my works to the scenography of the exhibition. We were very happy with the result. A year later, Simon Delobel suggested presenting this idea again at the 2019 edition of Art on Paper. We decided to design the booth the same way we did in 2018, reusing the remaining cardboards from the previous exhibition to present my latest collages.

Do you often use this type of scenography to present your work? 

Most of the time, it is very hard to create this type of installation. I want my work to be shown in the best way possible. If the scenography becomes too noticeable it can take the attention away from the artworks. The scenography is there to support them and should adapt itself to the type of work presented. At Art on Paper, it worked perfectly because the collages were made and constructed in the same way as the exhibition walls. They were equally thought and built; brutally cut, folded, and ripped apart. The exhibition was made with collages using the medium's own techniques. My artworks and the whole booth became one entire in situ installation. I think that was what made it so interesting.

You shared your for Best Solo Show with Simon Delobel, owner of the Trampoline Gallery in Antwerp. Can you tell me a little bit more about your relationship with Simon, your gallerist? 

Yes, Simon Delobel and I built the booth together, so it seemed natural to share the price. When you are exhibiting alone, it gets very intense but when you work together, it is much more fun and enjoyable. I have great memories from the Art on Paper 2019, it made our friendship stronger. 
There is a book called “Vineland” by Thomas Pynchon, an American writer. He writes about an old hippie, Zoyd Wheeler, who lives on government cheques because he has psychological problems. Every year he has to do something to prove to the government that he is still crazy. He would call the media, dress as a woman, and jump through a window. The press would get footage of him doing all kind of crazy things and release it on television. After that, the old hippie would be okay for the rest of the year. For me, it is the same with exhibiting my work. I just have to jump through the window once in a while and I will be okay for some time. And then, a year after, or two years later, I will have to do it again, to prove I am still around.

What has 2020 been like for you and what is coming next? 

During the first lockdown, I worked a lot on my drawings, I thought that I should have a look at all my drawings to see which ones were valuable. I have thousands of them.  Most of the time, they are just scribbles but sometimes I find one that is really good. Thanks to drawing, my search for the reality beneath the images is an endless quest that I enjoy and will continue to pursue in my work. Trying again and again to look at something and trying to convey it on paper, knowing that you are never going to get the reality of it. 
At the beginning of 2020, I started painting from nature in my studio. I worked on still life, looking at some cups, apples or fish. It was another way of making contact with what I was seeing.
Now I am actively preparing my exhibition coming up on 28 May  at the M-Museum Leuven, which will show my work over the last ten years. In 2012, I had a retrospective exhibition called “UnDEAD” at the SMAK in Ghent. A selection of what I did since then will be a showed in Leuven. Next to that, I am still teaching painting at KASK in Ghent and working on a film-montage with Jan Op de Beeck.

More info:

Photo credits:
1. Vincent Geyskens, untitled, s.d, pencil on paper, photo: courtesy of Trampoline Gallery
2. Vincent Geyskens, The Spam of Control, 2016, collage, photo: courtesy of Trampoline Gallery
3. La Simonie Gallery, Vincent Geyskens, Art on Paper 2019, Bozar, photo: Geoffrey Fritsch, courtesy of Art on Paper

La Simonie Gallery, Vincent Geyskens, Art on Paper 2019, Bozar, photo: courtesy of Trampoline Gallery

interview

Joost Declercq and Charlotte Crevits, a shared vision of drawing

Joost Declercq and Charlotte Crevits are joining the Art on Paper team as art directors for the next three editions of the fair. They shared their vision for Art on Paper with us in a joint interview.

Joost has spent his entire career in the cultural sector. In 1986 he founded his gallery 'Joost Declercq' in Ghent, presenting a generation of post-conceptual artists (Jan Vercruysse, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Gerhard Merz...) as well as young artists (Berlinde De Bruyckere...). From 1992 to 2004 he worked for private and public foundations, such as the Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman Foundation in Antibes and the King Baudouin Foundation, as well as on projects all over Flanders. From 2004 to 2020 he was director of the Dhondt-Dhaenens Museum (MDD) in Sint-Martens-Latem. Today he works as a cultural consultant for various private foundations.
Charlotte studied art history in Ghent and has been working as an independent curator ever since. She has worked as a freelance curator for institutions such as the Camden Arts Centre and the Chisenhale Gallery in London and the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, before working with Joost for the past four years as a curator for MDD. In addition to her role as art director of Art on Paper, Charlotte is curator of Cc Strombeek since January 2021.

What is according to you the specificity of Art on Paper?

Charlotte Crevits – Art on Paper is an art fair that focuses on a niche - this is quite unique in the world of art fairs. This focus on just one specific medium, drawing, allows you to zoom in and focus on its quality and plurality. The small scale of the fair is also an asset, there are 40 participating galleries, which allows for such a deepening. Drawing not only has a long history, for many artists it also occupies a special place within their artistic practice. Drawing is often a first, direct translation of certain emotions, ideas or thoughts, which then develop further in the artwork. In this sense, drawing is a very personal tool.
Joost Declercq – Apart from the basic form to another medium, drawing can of course also function very independently. What is also special about Art on Paper is its location. The fact that a fair takes place in a cultural institution with a great tradition, BOZAR, is remarkable considering that fairs are usually organised in a commercial location. In BOZAR, on the other hand, you are in the heart of one of the major cultural centres of Belgium.

Charlotte Crevits

Joost Declercq

What are the main challenges for the 2021 edition of the fair?

JD – Ensuring that the fair can take place in all its glory and can reach the public in the safest possible way. After a particularly difficult year due to Covid-19, its optimal organisation will be one of the biggest challenges. Art on Paper wants to provide at least the same quality as in previous years, and even better quality in 2021.
CC – Indeed. Confirming and further strengthening the quality and added value of Art on Paper will be central next year. We want to play on the unique identity of the fair in 2021 and broaden its visibility and scope in Belgium.
JD – Experiencing art physically again will be a challenge anyway. Something we all missed.
CC – The beautiful thing is perhaps that drawing invites by itself to an intimate and one-on-one experience. After all, the essence lies in the details, such as the lines, the grain of the paper, the hardness of the pencil, shadow and depth. In this sense, the fair is diametrically opposed to the rapid consumption and glitzy experiences of a standard art fair.

How would you like to position Art on Paper in the next upcoming years? Which direction do you want to give to the fair?

CC – Art on Paper wants to be more than an art fair. It rather functions as a generous platform, a catalyst that brings drawing to the forefront and allows it to be properly validated and viewed by the various players within the arts field. Making drawing a matter of course is actually a mission in itself.
JD – The most important task is indeed to take drawing out of its subordinate position. Within this medium, there are masterpieces that are at least as important as masterpieces in other media. Drawings are also just as precise as objects of experience. It would be fantastic that in a few years' time there will no longer be any distinction between the different media, that we will no longer talk about drawing as a kind of 'little brother of'. We want to convince important galleries to have a permanent presence in the fair and build a strong synergy between public cultural institutions, such as BOZAR, and private ones. There needs to be a greater cooperation between collectors, auction houses, museums, curators, art academies, etc to really put the focus on that medium.
CC – In order to broaden the support, for each new edition an artist will also be invited to act as an ambassador for the fair. In the course of the next three years, we also want to broaden the presentation itself. We will strive for an equal presentation of drawing from western and non-western cultures; we would also like to eliminate this distinction and see it as a matter of course.

You highlight the current and historical importance of drawing, how can Art on Paper, BOZAR and their partners work together to increase the focus on this medium?

JD – In order to show the broad spectrum of drawing, we move away from purely monographic presentations and also emphasise the historical character of drawing. Secondly, we are looking forward to introducing an auction of drawings. Finally, we aim to organise a curated exhibition at BOZAR. On the one hand, we want to emphasise the economic importance of drawings through an auction, on the other hand, the intellectual, art-historical importance through a curated exhibition.
CC – Drawing in exhibitions and collection presentations is usually the exception rather than the rule in institutions today. The 2021 edition is followed by an exhibition at BOZAR on the drawing practice of the English icon David Hockney. This is a very encouraging signal for the promotion of drawing in the future...

Art on Paper initiated the Brussels Drawing Week in 2019 in order to celebrate the plurality and diversity of drawing. What is your vision for future editions of this event?

JD – We are very happy with such an event that can only increase the enthusiasm, dynamism and social embedding. After all, this off-site event involves various artists, art institutions, foundations and art schools all over the city. So, this format will certainly be continued and expanded with new partners. It would be great if institutions in Brussels could consciously include the Brussels Drawing Week as a recurring event in their annual programme.

 

 

Exhibition 'Philippe Vandenberg – Molenbeek' at BOZAR

BOZAR is exhibiting works on paper by the Belgian artist Philippe Vandenberg in the exhibition 'Molenbeek', which can be visited until 24 January 2021

This is the first solo exhibition in Belgium of Philippe Vandenberg (1952 - 2009). It retraces the last years of his life spent working in his studio in Molenbeek. His drawings are observations of his neighbourhood that he experienced as 'burlesque': ''an imaginary place where personal and collective traumas intermingle with the problems of big cities and world conflicts''.

More information on the visits: bozar.be
And about the artist: philippevandenberg.be
Visit the online exhibition: bozar.be/magazine

©EstatePhilippeVandenberg
©EstatePhilippeVandenberg
©EstatePhilippeVandenberg
©EstatePhilippeVandenberg
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A look at Art on Paper 2019

The 2019 edition of Art on Paper took place from Friday 25 til Sunday 27 October at BOZAR, Brussels.

2019 exhibitors' list: galleries
Eeckman Art Prize and SOFAM Prize laureates: prizes
Photos: photo gallery
Brussels Drawing Week 2019: drawingweek.brussels

https://www.artonpaper.be/sites/default/files/video-thumbnails/2021-01/AOP%2019%20Aftermovie_1.mp4
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