Jos Van den Bergh

  • Wim Delvoye

    If there can be said to be such a thing as a Belgian attitude in art, Wim Delvoye embodies it perfectly: without becoming anecdotal or regional, his work addresses things that are rotten in the state of Belgium. Delvoye transforms the surrounding environment into a sardonic fairy tale, endowing familiar objects (such as ironing boards, tennis rackets, carpets), and clichés or obsolete proverbs (like “home sweet home”) with an entirely new identity.

    His latest exhibition was his most extreme so far; in fact, it triggered a polemical discussion about the ethical aspects of his artmaking, as well

  • Angel Vergara

    Imagine one day entering your favorite gallery, only to find it has been transformed into a bistro differing from a typical SoHo café only in that the service is better and the place seems to have been there for centuries. You have probably walked into an installation by the artist Angel Vergara, one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets. Vergara may appear at first glance to be a practical joker, yet his work is never as obvious as it seems. In the café projects recently presented in Brussels, Antwerp, and Tokyo, or in the stylish ice-cream parlor he created in Aachen, Germany, one could sit and have

  • Guillaume Bijl

    In 1979 Guillaume Bijl wrote a fictitious pamphlet in which the Belgian government dismissed art as “superfluous.” The perverse but logical conclusion was that all art spaces needed to be transformed into useful social institutions. Ironically, during the next decade the very opposite of what Bijl had predicted occurred: in Ostend a former warehouse was transformed into the Museum for Modern Art, and in Antwerp an old factory was transformed into the Museum for Contemporary Art—the very same “museum” in which Bijl’s recent installation was exhibited. More than anywhere else, in Belgium reality

  • Luc Tuymans

    How is it that Luc Tuymans’ apparently neutral and aloof paintings manage to be so unsettling? Does the viewer sense that there is something hidden beneath the surface, or is it simply a matter of their particular texture and style—the artist’s deliberate use of the “wrong” colors, for example? The paintings in Tuyman’s recent show entitled “Heimat” suggest that it could be a combination of both.

    This series, which shared the same title as the show, dealt with themes related to the extreme right in Flanders. Tuymans’ approach in these paintings seemed in many ways familiar: one found the same

  • Walter Swennen

    To do: Quote the little passage where Swennen says that in the early 1960s he filled his time with essential and complicated things: the existence of God and how to seduce a girl. Say that he wrote poems to the music on John Coltrane’s first album. Say that his cat’s name was Pollock and that he thought you had to lie on your belly to paint. ( . . . ) Say that it took him twenty years to realize that it’s easier to paint in an upright position.
    —excerpt from the catalogue W. Swennen

    Walter Swennen is probably one of Belgium’s best kept secrets. His paintings are tempting and seem extremely simple

  • “Philoctetes Variations”

    The Greek warrior, Philoctetes, who inherited Heracles’ poisonous bow and arrows, is on his way to Troy when a snake bites his foot. The wound suppurates, giving off an unbearable stench. Philoctetes’ so-called friends avoid him and it is on Agamemnon’s direct order that yesterday’s hero is banished to the uninhabited island of Lemnos for the ten years that the Trojan war raged.

    If this myth didn’t exist, the Wooster Group’s much acclaimed actor, Ron Vawter, could have written it. Not only was Vawter once a U.S. soldier (a contemporary warrior after all), but for someone with AIDS the ancient

  • Danny Devos

    Seeking possible links between crime and art is not new: anyone who finds this unethical or inappropriate should look again at the frenetic and horrifying paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, Francisco de Goya or Francis Bacon. However, it’s legitimate to question why crime lays claim to an increasingly larger part of our cultural imagination. Every age has its Jack the Ripper or Gilles de Rais but never before were they embraced or recuperated in this way by writers, filmmakers, or artists. In this respect it becomes rather tricky for any artist to handle this all-too-fashionable topic: his or her

  • Marlene Dumas

    On the surface Marlene Dumas’ art is quite seductive. The subjects portrayed, no matter how macabre, seem to invite the outsider to share their feelings. But irresistible as they may seem, Dumas’ latest paintings all deal with anger and disgust for the intellectual’s so-called respectability and tolerance. Aiming for love/loving to be hated is the age-old desire of the peintre maudit: to be accepted in being rejected by society, to be respected just for being marginal. With a disturbing pseudo-opportunism Dumas presented “Give the People What They Want,” a show constructed as a riddle.

    Her recent

  • Ria Pacquée

    Without exception Ria Pacquée’s actions deal with the desperate attempt to connect contemporary art with daily life. It would be difficult, if not virtually impossible, to go further than Pacquée does. She cloaks herself as an archetypal banal character and allows this persona to interact with a location usually not associated with art. One can see similarities with other artists, but only superficially, since Pacquée does not depict a range of possible characters but rather actually becomes someone else. This is the closest an artist can come to creating a symbiosis between two parallel worlds.