“Bel group”

Contemporary art, the cash cow

One hundred milligrams of calcium per portion and only 19% fat…this is The Laughing Cow. Something of a cult- and this year it is Belgian artist Wim Delvoye to design the collector’s edition box. Previewing at the FIAC, at only 5 euros, it’s the most affordable piece of contemporary art at this year’s fair. With four hundred million consumers worldwide, two hundred and forty portions eaten each second, The Laughing Cow is the gold standard amongst amateur cheese lovers; the quirky triangular cheese, imprinted with an image of a jovial, earring-clad cow is eaten by half of all families with children under the age of fifteen. It would seem that there is no shortage of milk on the contemporary art scene. Cheese company Bel Group has taken the bull by the horns and launched their ‘collector’s box’, a limited edition by one of the biggest names on the international art scene. So what’s the concept? An upcoming contemporary artist will create a cardboard box with 24 portions of cheese bearing the unmistakeable little red zipper of the sometimes irritating, but essentially loveable brand. Combine this with a good dose of marketing and a worldwide zeal for spreadable cheese, and you have an industrial commodity where a supermarket mainstay meets the fine arts – a gentle nod to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. Between Pop art and bovine humour, iconic packaging has been reinstated in the canon of contemporary cool, and The Laughing Cow’s rounds of triangular cheese pieces in salute-worthy packaging is enjoying visible influence on artists. Hans-Peter Feldmann, German artist and passionate image collector, was the first commissioned by Bel Group to create a collectors box. He was followed in consecutive years by Thomas Bayrle, best known for his work with serial repetition techniques, and Jonathan Monk, a...

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A Big Cheese: Interview with Laurent Fiévet, Director of Lab’Bel

Born in 1969, Laurent Fiévet is a teacher, exhibition curator, collector and artist. Great grandson of Léon Bel — a manufacturer from the beginning of the 20th century and founder of The Laughing Cow cheese —, Laurent is now director of Lab’Bel, the artistic laboratory of the Bel food group. Art Media Agency had the opportunity to meet with Laurent Fiévet, who provided an insight into the artistic mission of the laboratory. How did Lab’Bel come to fruition? The Bel group initially wanted to create a collection; then we wanted to administer a more complex project which would combine a collection with a programme of exhibitions. With this in mind, we limited the purely financial and investment aspects of the laboratory, in the interest of enlarging the patronage section and implementing broader support of contemporary art. This support can be characterised by both the organisation of exhibitions and artistic events, as well as by the organisation of a collection. The first project took place in spring 2010. Today, Lab’Bel is primarily a team effort: I am not alone at the head of this exciting adventure. I work in partnership with Silvia Gerra, Artistic Director of Lab’Bel. Together, we have been at the helm of this project for four years. What was the first event organised by Lab’Bel? The inaugural exhibition took place in le Jura (department in the east of France), which is the birthplace of the Bel group. Entitled “Rewind”, it was held at the Maison de la Vache Qui Rit (The Laughing Cow) in spring 2010. It addressed the question of childhood, offering the view that, by analysing our own infancy, we might have access to new methods of contemporary art practice. How are you compiling the Lab’Bel art collection? A theme which runs throughout our collection is...

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