“Tanguy Eeckhout”

The search for the Belgian collector

They’re said to be demanding, eclectic, international… and above all, very numerous. Who are the Belgian collectors? A foretaste and a scan before meeting them face to face in the alleys of the BRAFA. As a small bilingual country at the heart of Europe, Belgium is often presented as “the country with the highest number of collectors per square metre”. In the absence of any global study on the matter, it’s impossible to confirm this, but what is certain is that Belgium is well and truly a “land of collectors,” declares Axel Gryspeerdt, president of Collectiana, a foundation aimed at studying and developing art and culture collections. But things get trickier when it’s a matter of defining “the” Belgian collector. “There’s no typical profile for the Belgian collector, and if ever Belgians present specific features, they result from a blend of factors such as internationalisation, networking, the multitude of exhibitions being held,” adds Axel Gryspeerdt. No identikit emerges, therefore, but we can single out the characteristics of these key players in the art world. Collectors that weren’t born yesterday “The collecting tradition dates back to Flanders in the 15th century when many orders of portraits and triptychs were placed,” comments Tanguy Eeckhout, curator at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Laethem-Saint-Martin. “The 16th and 17th centuries carried on this enthusiasm with the creation of curiosity cabinets, before a slowdown in the economy – and collections – until the end of the 19th century. Following World War II, there emerged a new generation of collectors who turned towards American art and conceptual art,” he adds. When the Sixties and Seventies shook things up, collectors showed support for Daniel Buren, Marcel Broodthaers, Niele Toroni and many others, years before these artists gained institutional recognition. This no doubt sparked the reputation of boldness among...

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