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Ghent Art Days - Initiative 86

Coinciding with Chambres d’amis during the summer of 1986, an exhibition entitled Initiative 86 was held in St. Peter’s Abbey in Ghent, for which three foreign curators, Kasper König (who curated Westkunst: von hier aus (Western Art: from Here On), Jean-Hubert Martin (former director of Kunsthalle Bern) and Gosse W. Oosterhof (Galerie ‘t Venster, Rotterdam), were invited to collaborate with Bart Cassiman in presenting their views of Belgian art. The initiative was sponsored by sixteen cultural associations in Ghent, who exhibited their own selection of Belgian artists in their own homes or private spaces. The organizers hoped to draw special attention to Belgian art through this international event.

Kasper König chose five different artists, each of whom already had a mature body of work: Chantal Akerman, Guy Rombouts, Raoul De Keyser, Jef Geys and the deceased René Heyvaert (1929-1984). Jean-Hubert Martin and Gosse Oosterhof both attempted to ascertain and reveal the characteristic aspects of Belgian art. They based this on a certain idea about Belgian art gained from works that were known abroad, works by Magritte and Broodthaers. Jean-Hubert Martin primarily selected ironical work, caricatures and artworks with a qualifying relationship to Panamarenko, Jacques Charlier, Guillaume Bijl, Willy Van Sompel and François Hers, proposing that Marcel Mariën was the spiritual father to all of them. But he also showed the fundamental sculpture of Didier Vermeiren, work by Luc Deleu and the only video in the exhibition, A las cinco de la tarde by Marie-Jo Lafontaine.

Gosse Oosterhof singled out the irony of Jacques Charlier and Walter Swennen, the enigmatic visual tricks of Narcisse Tordoir and Luk Van Soom, as well as the poetry of Lili Dujourie and Jan Vercruysse.

One direct result of Initiative 86 was the exhibition Guillaume Bijl, Jan Vercruysse, Lili Dujourie, Raoul De Keyser, which Ulrich Loock organized that same autumn at the Kunsthalle in Bern. This was the same Ulrich Loock who, six years later, would produce the first important international exhibition of Luc Tuyman’s work, at the same Kunsthalle. Initiative 86 ran from 21st June to 7th September, 1986. [Lieven Van Den Abeele]

Ghent Art Days - Chambres d’amis

In 1986, the Ghent Museum of Contemporary Art organized the international exhibition, Chambres d’amis, with 50 national and international artists invited to create original works for as many private homes in Ghent.

The exhibition was in part inspired by the conclusion that the Ghent Museum for Contemporary Art, which was housed in the building of the Museum of Fine Arts, was too small to exhibit both its own collection and temporary exhibitions. At the same time, held at a moment when the art market was seeing rapid expansion, the exhibition wanted to encourage individuals to collect contemporary art.

The artists invited for the exhibition included conceptual artists (Daniel Buren, Joseph Kosuth, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner) and arte povera (Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, Gilberto Zorio). While the new German and Italian painting was exceptionally popular at the time, their only representatives were Helmut Middendorf and Nicola de Maria. Rob Scholte (1958) was the youngest participant. The new generation was represented by Günther Förg, Niek Kemps and Juan Muñoz, who more or less made their entry into the art world here. The Belgian participants were Raf Buedts, Jacques Charlier, Jef Geys, François Hers, Danny Matthys, Panamarenko, Roger Raveel, Charles Vandenhove, Philip Van Isacker and Jan Vercruysse.

In contrast to what is suggested in the interview with Jef Cornelis, Gerard Mortier did not wait for Chambres d’amis to invite contemporary artists to De Munt theatre. For the renovation of the Royal Munt Concert Hall in Brussels (1984-1986), Sol LeWitt designed the floor of the foyer and Daniel Buren that of the Royal Salon. Additional works of art by Giulio Paolini and Sam Francis were also integrated. The first three artists, as well as Charles Vandenhove, architect of the renovation, were also invited for Chambres d’amis. Chambres d’amis was held from 21st June to 21st September, 1986. [Lieven Van Den Abeele]