Jason Ysenburg, of Gagosian Gallery, guest curator of the Vanmoerkerke Collection
ONE OF THE PLEASURES OF DOING BUSINESS WITH A VARIETY OF IMPASSIONED AND INTELLIGENT GALLERISTS AND DEALERS IS THE WIDE RANGING SCOPE OF INFORMATION AND OBSERVATION THAT SURFACES IN THE COURSE OF THE TRANSACTION. DURING A VISIT TO SONNABEND GALLERY, WHERE JASON YSENBURG HAD SERVED AS CO-DIRECTOR WITH ILEANA SONNABEND’S SON, ANTONIO HOMEM, JASON, NOW SENIOR DIRECTOR AT GAGOSIAN GALLERY, DESCRIBED AN EXHIBIT HE HAD CURATED FOR A PRIVATE COLLECTION IN BELGIUM.
THE VANMOERKERKE COLLECTION, IN OSTEND, BELGIUM, LOCATED IN A RENOVATED WAR-TIME BUILDING, IS ONE OF THE FINEST COLLECTIONS IN THE WORLD DEDICATED TO CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN ART. FOUNDED IN 1998, MARK VANMOERKERKE, A REAL ESTATE AND PRIVATE EQUITY INVESTOR, HAS ACQUIRED AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF OVER ONE THOUSAND WORKS. SINCE THE OPENING OF THE ART SPACE IN 2008 AT OUD VLIEGVELD IN OSTEND, EVERY SIX MONTHS, MR. VANMOERKERKE INVITES A CURATOR TO ORGANIZE AN EXHIBITION AND OPENS THE SPACE TO THE PUBLIC.
JASON’S UNDERSTANDING, APPRECIATION AND UNDOUBTEDLY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE OUTSTANDING VANMOERKERKE COLLECTION MADE HIM A NATURAL CHOICE FOR GUEST CURATOR. HOW FORTUNATE FOR US THAT JASON HAS AGREED TO SHARE THE ESSAY AND IMAGES OF HIS EXHIBITION, “THINGS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT” ON THE LRFA BLOG!
What defines a group of objects as a “collection of art”? In the most basic sense, a collection is the multi-faceted reflection of the identity of the collector. It comes together because, for some reason, the collector desires those objects and identifies with them. But what more precisely constitutes this desire? “Things I Can’t Live Without” explores the conflicting impulses that drive the collection of art and reflects some of the identities contained in the stunning Vanmoerkerke Collection.
Within the Vanmoerkerke Collection, the belief that more is better sits uneasily alongside the conflicting conviction that less is better. “Maximalism” competes with “Minimalism.” As a result, this collection is driven by – and reveals—a rather double- handed set of desires.
On the one hand, the collection is fueled by an insatiable desire for objects. If one Bernd and Hilla Becher water tower photograph is good, several typologies are even better. If a single Alighiero Boetti tapestry is powerful, an entire wall of them is more impactful. This type of collecting is endless. There is never too many of one thing. Desire remains unfulfilled because there is always the possibility of more of the same to fill out the set. Or to put it another way, you can see the work of art best when there are more examples to see.
Yet there is something that keeps collecting from becoming mere hoarding. The art of collecting, the collecting of art, has a counter desire, which recursively critiques acquisition. On the other hand, then, collection is also selection. You can only see the work of art best when you have fewer works to look at. The one perfect object in the room will say it all. The Banks Violette sculpture stands alone almost in perfection. But the problem lies in the “almost.” Desire in this form is also unfilled because the collector is on a quest for the absolutely perfect object, and yet that search for the perfect object is endless. The work of art aims to achieve perfection, but always falls short in the eyes of the collector.
These two conflicting, impossible desires drive the Vanmoerkerke Collection and are represented by the differing approaches to installation in the two buildings. Building One focuses on “Maximalism” and the desire for more. Building Two explores the force of “Minimalism” and the desire for selection. Within each building, the installation provides a more detailed interrogation of the conceptual juxtapositions that result from these differing desires.
IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, JASON PROVIDES A DEPTH OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURE OF THIS PERSONAL SELECTION OF UNIVERSALLY ADMIRED WORKS.
JASON’S LOVE OF ART AND HIS KNOWLEDGE IS INCOMPARABLE, SO PLEASE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HIS ENTHUSIASM AND GENEROSITY AND SEND YOUR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS. MANY THANKS!