What is The Vanhaerents Art Collection? How was it founded, and how are works selected?
Walter Vanhaerents: The Vanhaerents Collection is a family collection which was founded in 2006. The selection of the works happens in a very intuitive way, based on feeling. A work of art has to touch me and has to express something. Every three years we present a new thematic exhibition in our space in Brussels.
What’s the premise behind your exhibition in Venice, Heartbreak Hotel?
The collection had never left its original location up until now. The exhibition in Venice is a unique opportunity to show it to the whole world. The Venice Biennale literally offers a window on the world. This is the perfect opportunity to show what we have to offer in our space in Brussels. Through this, we will hopefully inspire visitors to also come to Brussels.
The exhibition is based on the lyrics from the eponymous Elvis Presley song — how important was this song as a point of departure?
The song Heartbreak Hotel is based on a ‘dark’ story: ‘Just take a walk down Lonely Street to Heartbreak Hotel / Well they’re so lonely. They’ll be so lonely, they could die…’ It breathes sadness linked to doom, but also refers to the nostalgic atmosphere of Los Angeles: remote hotels with flickering neon lights, deserted sunlit pools, waving palm trees and emotions of melancholy which are also present in a number of works from the collection.
Katharina Fritsch (B.1956), Händler (dealer), 2001. Polyester, paint. 192 x 59 x 41 cm © Katharina Fritsch / 2014 SABAM Belgium / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo © Nic Terwiggenhorn. Courtesy Vanhaerents Art Collection. All rights reserved, DACS 2015
What works are featured in the show, and how did you select them?
In the beginning I wanted to collaborate with an external curator, but they felt that I had a very strong bond with the works and suggested that it would be best if I curated the exhibition myself. I accepted the challenge enthusiastically. The exhibition will mainly be a combination between sculptures and paintings of established and up and coming talent, with an important dose of Pathos and drama, but with space for a ‘dreamy’ atmosphere. For this exhibition, I commissioned a sculpture from the young artist Nick Van Woert, which has as subject erasing the memory and dark souvenirs. This fits perfectly with the history of Giudecca, where we are showing Heartbreak Hotel. It was an exile island.
The exhibition is in celebration of your 70th birthday. Is this something that guided your selection of works?
Not really, although we are showing a magnificent work of Matthew Day Jackson, titled August 9, 1945. I was nine days old that day — a very amusing coincidence!
Matthew Day Jackson (B.1974), August 9, 1945, 2011. Scorched wood and lead on panel. 243.8 x 472.4 x 35.6 cm. Courtesy Vanhaerents Art Collection
The exhibition is held in Venice’s Zuecca Project Space, an institution established in 2011 to promote cultural research and dialogue. How was the partnership between Zuecca and the collection established?
I like the calm Venice of Giudecca. De Zuecca Project Space is a fascinating space; a little austere, severe, sober and beautiful. Alessandro Possati, the man who runs the space, loved the project. He received several offers but gave the preference to Heartbreak Hotel. Ai Weiwei exhibited here during the last Biennale. The fact that the space is part of the prestigious Bauer Hotel is also a nice advantage. Basically, it’s a very cool space!
The exhibition coincides with the Venice Biennale. How important was this for you?
During the Venice Biennale, the whole world comes together to see lots of contemporary art in one of world’s most beautiful classical settings! It’s the moment par excellence to make the collection known to an international audience. It’s obvious that there is no coincidence in choosing to be present during the Biennale. On top of this, the Universal Exhibition will be hosted in Milan and many people will go to both locations.
This is the foundation’s first exhibition outside of Belgium. What are you plans for the future projects?
The next exhibition of the Vanhaerents Art Collection in Brussels is with Tomàs Saraceno (1973), an Argentinian installation artist. Hopefully we’ll then be able to reap the benefits from our presence in Venice and attract more visitors.
What are you most looking forward to seeing while you are in Venice, and why?
Ask me again in a few months what I saw, because I’m staying here in Venice, living on Giudecca from the beginning of May until halfway through September, or for as long as the Heartbreak Hotel is open!
Heartbreak Hotel runs from 6 May to 15 September at Zuecca Project Space, Giudecca. Marianne Hoet is an International Director of Post-war & Contemporary Art at Christie's
Main image at top: Ugo Rondinone (B.1964), If there were anywhere but desert 2, 2000. Fibreglass, paint, clothing, glitter, blanket, 43 x 200 x 110 cm. Courtesy Vanhaerents Art Collection
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