Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
As with the other museums in Flanders and Belgium, the first generation of abstract artists in Belgium also come onto the scene rather late in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK). Although during the two World Wars, contemporary art is indeed acquired, the historical avant-garde only finds supporters in the 1950-1960’s in the circle of art promoters and collectors for the Ghent museum.
The first purchase of an early-Abstract avant-garde work (Haven. Opus 2 by Victor Servranckx from 1926) only comes in 1962. The purchase is part of an extended series of acquisitions by primarily paintings of post-war abstracts, with works by, among others, Amédée Cortier, Henri Michaux, Antoine Mortier, Jozef Peeters, Serge Poliakoff, Engelbert Van Anderlecht, Louis Van Lint, Dan Van Severen and Jef Verheyen. With the veritable split of the Museum of Fine Arts and the establishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MHK) in 1975, this collection is handed over to the latter museum, along with the art works that are acquired by the Association for the MHK since its founding in 1957. After the renovation of the Casino building and the reopening of the MHK (renamed the SMAK) in 1999, the portion of this collection dating before 1945 makes its re-entry into the MSK.
Parallel to this development, the MSK specialises in the expressive arts during the preceding decades of the 19th and first half of the 20th Centuries. In essence a two-fold policy is followed, by which the organisation of acclaimed exhibitions on this period are paired with the development of a collection’s ratio in which monographic and thematic accents are placed. Specifically for the Abstract Modernism the attention goes to both specific works as well as group ensembles of artists, by which the context of the development of the historical avant-garde does not get lost.
Thus the long search for a major work by Georges Vantongerloo in 2009 leads to the purchase of Studie nr. III, one of the earliest works that the artist made in 1920 after his years in the Netherlands. Another nice example is the purchase in 2013 of the image De jongleur (The Juggler) by Oscar Jespers from 1923. As a group ensemble, the legate of Mrs. Servranckx-Turcksin is of important meaning. In addition to the hundreds of works by the artist’s hand (paintings, sculptures, drawings, wallpaper designs), the important library of Servranckx also makes up a part. In this manner, the MSK conserves interesting, first-hand material of the artist, who from the early 1920’s until his death in 1965 moved amongst the vanguard of the modernist scene in and outside of Belgium. A great deal of attention also goes to the distribution of the work of these avant-garde, crucial series of graphic arts. In this context, the graphic work of Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Floris Jespers, Jozef Peeters and Edmond Van Dooren are acquired, as well as through purchased books illustrated by avant-garde artists. In addition, the museum is actively seeking contextual elucidation of the historical avant-garde, whereby the focus is on the collection of avant-garde publications.
Johan De Smet
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