Dirk Braeckman, Belgian Pavilion | Venice Biennale
The 57th Venice Biennale sees the Belgian Pavilion showcase the work of photographer Dirk Braeckman, under the curatorial supervision of Eva Wittocx, General Coordinator of M-Museum Leuven. Happening spoke with Wittocx a few weeks prior to the event.
How was the curator chosen for the project? Was it a joint application with the artist?
This year, for the first time, the Flemish community in charge of the Belgian Pavilion at Venice called for proposals where the artist, in partnership with a curator, would propose a joint project. The government brought in an artistic jury, headed by the Minister of Culture Mr. Sven Gatz, to select the winning artist-curator duo.
Supervision of the exhibition at the Belgian Pavilion usually alternates between the French community and the Flemish community. At previous editions organised by the Flemish community, chosen via an artistic jury, the artist was often selected to represent the country, then subsequently the curator.
What is the objective of the Belgian Pavilion at Venice? Is it to showcase home-grown talents? Or rather, does it focus on the specific tastes of the artist and curator?
A national pavilion at the Venice Biennale is, above all, an international platform.
It is an incredible opportunity to increase the visibility of an artist — as we will see this year, with the exhibition shining a light on Dirk Braeckman’s work. However, it also offers an opportunity to promote the Belgian art scene, highlighting what is emerging there. This year, the focus will be on photography, with a website designed for the occasion by Arts Flanders International, and a university symposium to be held in Autumn 2017, both in Venice and Louvain.
B.O.-D.F.-17 / B.I.-B.I.-16 © Dirk Braeckman / Courtesy of Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
What’s the makeup of the team?
The organisation of the team came about in an organic way — the artist drew upon assistants from his studio, whilst I collaborated with those at the M-Museum in Louvain. We’ve also brought in experts to cover specific areas such as graphic design, international press and PR.
What’s the timetable like? How do you organise such a project, thinking alongside the artist? What is your influence on his production? How are you able to orient your work around his? Do you meet regularly?
At the moment we are focusing on: the creation of new works, the composition of the exhibition, production and all the supervision, communication, publication, etc. There is intense communication between the artist and curator; between the M team and the Braeckman workshop. We hold weekly meetings, each with a different target and agenda.
Regarding the production of new pieces, the artist and the curator discuss potential avenues. New images are discussed in conjunction with their possible layout.
How is the budget organised? Is it supervised by the Ministry?
We have a good base budget allocated to us by the Flemish government. However, to complement this, the M-Museum Leuven have collaborated with a number of sponsors — 'Friends of the Belgian Pavilion' focuses on private individuals and collectors. This budget is organised by the museum, though the department is kept up-to-date and informed.
Is the artist's gallery involved in the project at Venice? Do they hold any influence over what's going on?
The artist has been with Zeno X, in Antwerp, for more than 15 years. For some years now, Braeckman has also collaborated with the Thomas Fischer Gallery, in Berlin.
Zeno X is a partner on the project, and has been actively involved in its preparation, offering its advice and providing the team with a network of contacts.
Is the final destination of the works decided in advance ie. their possible sale?
The exhibition consists mainly of new works. After their debut at the Venice Biennale, they will return to Belgium for a double exhibition at Bozar in Brussels and at the M-Museum Leuven. Then, it is possible that the work to be shown abroad at various international exhibitions — yet to be confirmed. Eventually the work will be made available for sale.
Words by Henri Robert