“Who’s still workin’ on this masterpiece?” at THE LOFT, Brussels
Who’s still workin’ on this masterpiece?1 is the 2017 -2018 selection of works from the Servais Family Collection – an exhibition organized annually by collector Alain Servais at his dedicated space The Loft in Brussels.
The exhibition curated by Dragos Olea looks at the storytelling potential of the act of collecting and how that unfolds in the case of the Servais Family Collection.
Informed by the work hard, play hard ethos and the extreme curiosity driving Alain, his way of collecting and disseminating the works through large annual exhibitions and countless introductory tours make up of a particular storytelling in a hypertext mode – nonlinear, casually expanding on a vast web of references, ideas and themes, continuously harvesting the new potentialities of art as a way of understanding, experiencing (and hopefully changing) the world.
The choice of using the polarizing term of Masterpiece is a sweet exaggeration permeated by humour and (self)irony.
Can the collecting process (or a collection) itself turn into a Masterpiece – a labor of love in the tradition of patronage? Can such a Masterpiece illuminate ways to navigate the immensity of information and contemporary phenomena, and also explore ideas beyond the Known?
Furthermore, is this term – which sounds withered to some, glorious to others –irrelevant, too exaggerated when used in reference to contemporary artworks engaged in such accelerating succession of ideas and aesthetics explorations?
Highlighting the ultra-subjective and counter-acting waves of hype and market interests, Who’s still workin’ on this masterpiece? is an attempt at showing artworks that have a strong potential of retaining topicality and urgency also in the future. Of course, only time will tell.
There are multiple treads and perspectives to follow in the selection of works by Lynn Aldrich, Allora & Calzadilla, Apparatus 22, Ivin Ballen, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION, Irina Bujor, Andrea Canepa, Julian Charrière, Ian Cheng, Claude Closky, Elmgreen & Dragset, Erro, Mounir Fatmi, Josep Grau-Garriga, G.C.C, Nan Goldin, GUKLYA, Robert Heinecken, Anna Hulačová, Michael Johannsson, Folkert de Jong, Gülsün Karamustafa,
Nikki S Lee, Christian Marclay, Eva & Franco Mattes, Adrian Melis, Moris, Farhad Moshiri, Elsa Sahal, Yoon Ji Seon, Elisa Sighicelli, Haim Steinbach, Tobias Sternberg, THOMSON & CRAIGHEAD, Ryan Trecartin, Vytautas Viržbickas (with two or more works on display from several of the above artists).
Some of the works operate on sharp grounds; such as the touching installation “Objects of desire (100 dollar limits)” of Gülsün Karamustafa looking at how women and goods were similarly referred to as objects of desire in the economic traffic between Turkey and the neighboring countries, or the “Dark Content” video installation of Eva & Franco Mattes digging deep in the volatile murky corners of the internet or THOMSON & CRAIGHEAD’s nod at the self-help ideologies offering the audience multiple speculative choices for their own redemption.
Extensive metaphors about ecology and learning from nature surface in the installations of Allora & Calzadilla, Julian Charrière and GUKLYA, while works that use mundane objects by Haim Steinbach or Michael Johannsson make visible the assiduous processes of fracturing, analyzing and restructuring of the world in new patterns.
Looping back in time for inspiration, for references or for direct source material from popular culture, art history or religion, works such as Christian Marclay’s “Telephones” video, Appau Junior Boakye- Yiadom’s colorful installation “P.Y.T.” picking up from a signature performative gesture of Michael Jackson or BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION’s The Apostles seamlessly navigate between satire and prophecy, between homage and unsettling appropriation.
Politics of labor come at fore in the almost absurd, yet very real situations in the video works “Surplus Production Line” and “Ovation” by Adrian Melis, while the gap between the projected political visions and realities in the Arab Gulf are scrutinized by GCC collective in the form of a seductive crystal trophy installation “Figure C: Kassel Congratulant”. The processes of transformation of Nikki S. Lee and her quest to challenge politics of the self and enhance her empathy for the other is beautifully documented in photographic series “The Seniors Project”, “The Lesbian Project”, “The Swingers Project” while the alienated psyche is tackled by Ryan Trecartin in the “READY (RE’SEARCH WAIT’S)” anarchic video.
Crushing restrictions imposed by society and bodily limitations come in metaphors of spirit and extreme vitality in the ever morphing self-portrait installation of Folkert de Jong and in Elsa Sahal’s ceramic rendition of a female body defying gravity, while works of Elisa Sighicelli and Irina Bujor convey feelings of displacement starting from what could be ordinary details of architecture; memory of a red stool in Paris suspended in a lightbox with the most subtle light intervention in case of the former, while the later is imprinting the felt copy of a circular staircase with words for an escapist ritual enhancing our mental hygiene. The ubiquitous mobile phones most of us are so obsessed with are turned in tools for humorous reflection by Tobias Sternberg who produced a box in lead for the phone as a perfect hideaway from the surveillance society, while Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion offer such objects a hypnotizing life extension when broken and disconnected from original use.
Even when it comes to aesthetic neologisms from past and present, the works in the exhibition thrive on critical edifice – from the two innovative textile works Josep Grau-Garriga made in the 70s commenting on the Spanish Civil War to Yoon Ji Seon’s haunting self-portraits in the form of a new breed between photography, sculpture and craftwork unveiling commentary on recent rise of cosmetic surgery and the pressures on women in Korea to adopt a westernized look, from the proposal of Apparatus 22 to (re)imagine the genre of still life as a code of visual poetry in order to include subversive contemporary symbols to Ian Cheng’s work using artificial intelligence to stimulate radical futures.
P.S. The question mark and the who in the title reverberate some further questions going beyond the actual exhibition on both the good and bad sides of the increasing role of collectors in the artistic ecosystem: on one hand acknowledging collecting as such as an essential way to safeguard artworks for the future, to further disseminate them and to support the artistic production, but also nodding critically at the lack of transparency or the grey area of ethics in using power by different players in the system, collectors included, in deciding the fate of artworks and therefore of artists etc.
Servais Family Collection
As a way to maintain and to further support the public mission of the works in the collection and to inspire audiences willing to discover a truly international repertoire of contemporary art practices, Servais Family Collection has been organizing for almost a decade an yearly large display at The Loft – a space that used to be the home of collector Alain Servais.
Furthermore during January – April 2017 a consistent selection of works from the collection had been the subject of Souvenir de Mwene Mutapa – Cartographie exotique d’une collection– a series of three exhibitions curated by Nicolas de Ribou at the prestigious curatorial program La Box, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’art de Bourges (France) aiming at questioning the way westerns collectors look at productions from the so-called “emerging territories”, and what it means and to collect artists from “elsewhere”.
List of Artists: Lynn Aldrich, Allora & Calzadilla, Apparatus 22, Ivin Ballen, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom,
Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION, Irina Bujor, Andrea Canepa, Julian Charrière, Ian Cheng, Claude Closky, Elmgreen & Dragset, Erro, Mounir Fatmi, Josep Grau-Garriga, G.C.C, Nan Goldin, GUKLYA, Robert Heinecken, Anna Hulačová, Michael Johannsson, Folkert de Jong, Gülsün Karamustafa, Nikki S Lee, Christian Marclay, Eva & Franco Mattes, Adrian Melis, Moris, Farhad Moshiri, Elsa Sahal, Yoon Ji Seon, Elisa Sighicelli, Haim Steinbach, Tobias Sternberg, THOMSON & CRAIGHEAD, Ryan Trecartin, Vytautas Viržbickas.
Curator: Dragos Olea – member of art collective Apparatus 22 and of the curatorial duo KILOBASE BUCHAREST
Collection management: Amandine Faugere
 repurposed from the lyrics of David Byrne’s love song “The Great Intoxication”
at THE LOFT, Brussels
until 15 March 2018