NU TE ZIEN
The M HKA collection is built around three approaches to art: image, action and society. While generally works cannot be classified exclusively under one of these denominators, they are useful approaches to explore the particularity and complementarity of our collection. Image, action and society are the three axes that together make up the space of a work of art: every performative work has a pictorial quality, looking is an action and every work of art relates to society. This division, therefore, primarily aims to be a starting point from which the public can interact with the works and create new connections.
Antwerp has a long tradition in the creation, reproduction and distribution of images. Logically, reflection on 'the image' is part of the practice of various artists represented in the M HKA collection. Images can refer both to other images, and to the way they are made.
From 1958, the artists' group G58 organises a series of exhibitions of contemporary art with local and international artists in the Hessenhuis. Their initiative breathes new life in the idea of an Antwerp avant-garde. In 1962, Jan Henderikse creates the work Houten groentekisten during the exhibition Anti-Peinture. He is a member of the Nul-groep, a group of artists whose works are mainly monochrome and serial. His free approach and use of waste materials makes Henderikse the least strict of the group.
As an important representative of American Minimalism, Dan Flavin aims to reduce sculpture to its essence. Untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1b affects the environment and encourages viewers to reflect upon the relationship between light and space.
Fully in line with Minimalism, Joëlle Tuerlinckx questions the foundations of art. She starts from the idea that works of art only originate in the mind of the viewer. In Aux Dimensions de: quelque chose, objects are reduced to their mathematical proportions. Tuerlinckx explores the boundaries between being and non-being, something and nothing.
Raoul De Keyser investigates the essential elements of painting: texture, line, carrier, material and size. He combines a radical approach with intuition and feeling, evidenced, for instance, in a work like Zilver, that lets a glimpse of reality shine through.
The works entitled Stilleven by Lili Dujourie refer to the traditions of art history. Although, at first glance, the abstract collages seem to have little to do with classical still lifes, they share their focus on composition and texture. This series is a precursor of Dujouries later, more spatial theming of elements of artistic tradition.
Jan Vercruysse distrusts any communicative approach in art. His work examines both formal and content-related problems, and refers to architecture and theater. The empty chairs of Les Paroles (III) refer to the absence of a voice, a conversation or a discourse.
Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans are part of a generation of artists who, in the 1980s and 1990s, bring the medium of painting back to the foreground as a practice that includes both thinking and doing. Both artists frequently start from existing imagery, which they transform into new images. Dumas' Sacrifice takes the human figure as a starting point for a visual questioning of contemporary racial, sexual and social identities. Tuymans places remembrance central in the vanishing point of a resonating image. In Vlaams dorp and IJzertoren, he focuses on empty symbols. The muted, faded colours of Hotelkamer evoke a desolate atmosphere.
Cindy Sherman criticises the contemporary visual culture and its influence on our identity. Untitled No. 121 A, depicting, as in all her works, the artist herself, thematises the tension between authenticity and imitation, individuality and identification.
In his work, Dirk Braeckman explores the possibilities of the photographic process. The unconventional camera framing enhances the cinematic effect of CPS 100-0067-2002. Instead of revealing the image, the light reflections actually make the picture less legible. The image becomes an image of an image.
David Claerbout is fascinated with the way we observe the world and the functioning of our visual memory. In Olympia (The real time disintegration into ruins of the Berlin Olympic stadium over the course of a thousand years), start 2016, the image adjusts to the weather conditions in Berlin. The vegetation encroaches onto the exact, detailed representation, which will gradually disintegrate.
The term ‘action’ refers to performance art in the narrow sense, but also to art as a 'performative' practice, able to change reality, or the way we understand it. Artists now also experiment with their own body, the zeitgeist and the horizon of expectations of the public.
It could be stated that the M HKA collection has its origins in one of Gordon Matta-Clark’s actions. In his 1977 work Office Baroque, he transforms a building on the Ernest Van Dijckkaai by cutting geometric shapes out of it.
Panamarenko is central to the art practice of the M HKA. During the happenings in the 1960s – playful street performances in the centre of Antwerp which he helps organise – art and life are brought together. In the second half of the 1960s, Panamarenko creates a series of poetic objects, everyday sculptures fashioned out of everyday materials. Zwitserse Fiets, from 1967, brings out his fascination with technology for the first time.
James Lee Byars is also inextricably linked to the Antwerp avant-garde. The Giant draws on the fascination of the artist for letters and text, and positions the artist as a wanderer and the artwork as a temporary occurrence. During a performance held at the I.C.C., the precursor of the M HKA on the Meir, Byars introduces this same form on a colossal scale.
M HKA’s ongoing commitment to Jan Fabre originates in his performances, which can be considered as the "primal source' of his other works. During the performance Ik, aan het dromen , the artist examines his body. He sands the flesh of his legs, as he would the wood of a table. The object becomes the body, the body becomes the object.
In their performances, spanning a period from 1975 to 1988, Marina Abramović and Ulay test their own and each other's physical and mental stamina. In Rest Energy, the limits of exhaustion and pain are pushed to the extreme.
Under the term of 'society', we group politically and socially engaged art, but also art that reflects more indirectly on relationships between people. The collection reflects social changes, and has in the last decades focused increasingly on the multipolar reality.
Activist, writer and artist Jimmie Durham states that Europe cannot be seen as a continent in itself, but only as a peninsula of Eurasia. According to this strictly geographical, yet open, definition, Eurasia is and will remain the focus of the future collection development of the M HKA. With A Dead Deer, Durham encourages the visitor to reflect upon themselves, the world and other cultures, starting from the clichéd images white people have about Native American art.
Ilya Kabakov & Emilia Kabakov play a mayor role in the renewed dialog of the Soviet Union with the international avant-garde in the 1970s. In The Closet turns the attention on man, with all his puny dreams and desires that help him escape an often exacting and complex reality.
This social ambition is also evident in the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto. Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio reflects and multiplies itself, the museum space and the visitor. Reflection is here quite literally seen as the origin of the world, an image that also immediately incorporates any and every change.
Jef Geys turns the subversive gesture into his method and material. He incites the visitor to think critically about art, the art world and society. With the self-portrait Zwarte overall, Geys subverts the image that society has of the artist, by depicting himself in a sphere reminiscent of that of the prisoner, criminal or terrorist. The artist has used a heraldic blue color to fill in a triangle in the Star of David he is holding.
Thierry De Cordier, for his part, reflects on the way the artist relates to the world. Hoofdbreker, a headless torso reminiscent of a mountain, is a bleak work about loneliness, human limitations and the longing for answers.
Almagul Menlibayeva combines her interest in regional traditions with a critical attitude toward official identity politics. Steppen Police is a romantic, melancholic, yet also surreal reflection on the sudden cultural developments in her homeland Kazakhstan.
In Oozewald, Cady Noland reuses a press photo of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy, the very moment he is shot by Jack Ruby. The work thematises current events, violence and the role of the media.
Otobong Nkanga identifies some of the most pressing problems of our time. Infinite Yield deals with the relation between landscape, man, and labour.
LIBRARY & READING ROOM: REMARKABLE PRESENCES
A collection grows organically. Aside from its main objectives and core references, it is also made up of moments and presences that deepen the complexity and contingency of the collection. Amongst the books in the reading room of the library, visitors can discover some of the remarkable presences in the M HKA collection.
Madonna by Koen van den Broek is an abstract interpretation of a work by Jean Fouquet from 1452. The work was the iconic image of the exhibition Meesterwerken in het MAS, which had the visual idiom as its theme.
Compositie met dubbele lijn en blauw vlak (1934) – from the collection of De Vleeshal in Middelburg – is a work by Marlow Moss, the artist influenced by Mondriaan who introduced the double line in Neoplasticism; she found the single line to be too static, anti-rhythmic and definitive. It illustrates a second iconic perspective in the collection, parallel to the classical fine arts: the radical early avant-garde.
Mobile Medium University (Floating UIA) is one of Luc Deleu's first architectural proposals. The artist plays with the idea of using three brightly coloured aircraft carriers, and filling the ships with the entire study programme of the University of Antwerp.
Zonder Titel by Els Dietvorst is part of the monumental installation Skull - a giant skull of a Neanderthal with teeth in the shape of human figures - which she created in 2015 during the Moscow Biennial. The Neanderthals lived peacefully together with the new immigrants: homo sapiens. The work is a symbol of migration and respect.
Mutation by Erbossyn Meldibekov transforms the classic Lenin bust into an 'art-Lenin' and a 'Central Asian Lenin'. Especially for the M HKA, he has added a 'Lumumba-like Lenin': a 'Belgian Lenin' to the series.
There are numerous other works on view by artists such as, among others, Evgeny Antufiev, Alain Arias-Misson, Charif Benhelima, James Lee Byars, David Claerbout, Vaast Colson, Rein Dufait, Jan Fabre, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Robert Filliou, NS Harsha, Suchan Kinoshita, Ivan Kožarić, Bernd Lohaus, Taus Makhacheva, Guy Mees, Jacqueline Mesmaeker, Nadia Naveau, Panamarenko, Ria Pacquée, Laure Prouvost, Timothy Segers, Koen Theys, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven, Ben Vautier, Franz West, Xu Zhen and a selection of pre-cinema objects from the Vrielynck collection.
FROM FILLIOU TO BIJL: ART AS LIFE
In the space adjacent to the lavatories, we present a number of artists from the collection who play with, problematise, or even try to abolish the boundaries between art and life.
A key focus in the M HKA Collection is the happening, which is closely related to Fluxus, an art form that, since the 1960s, aims to merge art and life. Incessantly, and with a great sense of humour, self-declared 'genius without talent' Robert Filliou calls the status of the artwork into question. According to him, everyone is an artist, and it is the task of all artists to demonstrate this.
Guillaume Bijl wants the viewer to directly engage with art. His installations are sometimes a reality in a non-reality, or vice versa: fictions in reality. His works are both hyper-realistic, surreal and tragicomic.
Other works on view by, among others, Paul De Vree, Anna Bella Geiger, Carlos Ginzburg, Rustam Khalfin, Martin Kippenberger, Léa Lublin, Eugenio Miccini, Luciano Ori, ORLAN, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Lamberto Pignotti, Sarenco, Nicolás Uriburu, Ben Vautier and Peng Yue.
WORKS IN DIALOG WITH THE BUILDING
A number of artworks are truly inextricably linked with the M HKA. One of the first works of art realised in the M HKA is Projet de toilettes pour le Musée de Mönchengladbach by Robert Filliou. The artist invites the visitor to enter through the lavatory door of his or her choice - men, women or artists.
Visitors who take the elevator to the fourth floor come across another work of art: De groeiende ladder by Hugo Duchateau. This artwork was installed in the elevator shaft before the opening of the museum.
In the work Zonder titel, on display in the M HKAFE, Keith Haring combines the imagery of street culture with ancient themes and symbols. The mural, which he made one day before the opening of the museum in 1987, is one of his few public projects in Europe to have withstood the test of time.
On the roof terrace, visitors can experience the spatial dimension of daylight in James Turrell’s Skyspace.
During the renovation of the M HKA in 2009, a special space was reserved on the front facade for the logo designed by Christophe Terlinden: M HKA without 'u'.
The monumental, untitled work by Enrico David on the facade consists of ten identical figures reduced to pure lines, with both male and female traits, which turn their gaze to the sky.
There are more permanent works of the M HKA to be discovered throughout the city, including Quand le ciel est bas et lourd [When the Sky is Low and Heavy] by David Lamelas next to the KMSKA, near the former gallery Wide White Space, and of course the Panamarenko House with its helicopter roof in the Seefhoek.
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Optimistic Box n°4 and 5
Robert Filliou, Optimistic Box n°4 and 5, 1968-1981. Object, paper, ceramics, 9.5 x 16.5 x 11 cm.
Taus Makhacheva, Landscape, 2013. Installation, series of wooden objects, carved by kazbek alikhov.
Untitled (to the real Dan...
Dan Flavin, Untitled (to the real Dan Hill) 1b, 1978. Sculpture, neon, 244 x 12 x 22 cm.