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Private Brussels art collections open up to public view

08:00 05/12/2017
With museum budgets stretched, private art collections are playing an increasingly important role in the contemporary art world. La Central(e) opens its doors to 11 of them.

Belgian art collectors have been celebrated for decades for their daring, their passion and their embrace of risk - championing new artists and new movements. They were at the forefront, for instance, of the acceptance in Europe of US movements such as Pop Art in the 1960s.

With the current boom in the international contemporary art market, the role of these collectors has become even more important, as the positions of public and private have changed and in some cases reversed.

Sometimes the collectors find themselves at the head of collections that dwarf the capabilities of museum directors hobbled by paltry budgets. The private collectors' financial ability allows them to take risks based on their personal commitment and acumen that professionals often cannot match.

The Central(e), the City of Brussels' Museum of Contemporary Art, has decided to open a window on these "Private Choices" by highlighting 11 private Brussels collections.

"Each collection is very personal," says La Central(e) art director Carine Fol. "We have selected the pieces on display in three different ways. In some cases we made the choices together, in other cases they made the choices alone, and finally in other cases I was given a total carte blanche to make my selection of the works, but in fact, in each room you see the identity and the specificity of each collection."

Part of the Central(e)’s large open space has been subdivided to create rooms for each collection - and there are 250 artworks from 245 artists on display. Fol also recorded an interview with each collector that the visitor can listen to while looking at the pieces.

She also asked each collector to choose a favourite book and piece of music, “because I wanted to make it larger than only visual art which gives the possibility to have additional layers of insight into who the collectors are".

The idea that this exhibition, due to its subject matter, might be hermetic and not very accessible is shattered when one enters the space and is confronted with a kaleidoscope of colours, shapes and media.

The Vanhaerents Art Collection, called "Once Upon a Time", is mostly cinematic. The selection from the Frédéric de Goldschmidt collection consists of only white pieces.

And then there is La Collection Invisible from the Veys-Verhaevert Collection. "Christian Veys chose the theme because he doesn't live with his collection so it's in his heart and in his head," Fol explains.

"The title The Invisible Collection comes from the novel by Stefan Zweig that recalls the history of a collector who is blind. He is a collector of graphic works and his family, unbeknownst to him, have sold many of his pieces. Someone visits and he describes each piece to the visitor when in fact he is holding blank pages."

Private Choices - or The Discovery of the Human Capital of Art - La Central(e), until 27 May 2018

Written by Richard Harris