To mark the opening of Art Brussels this week, we spoke with curator of “Private Choices”, Carine Fol, about the exhibition, what it was like to personally hand-pick the artworks, and why it’s important that the public gets to see private collections.
Can you tell us about “Private Choices” and what was behind the concept of the exhibition?CARINE FOL
The concept of the exhibition is to highlight the identity of each of the eleven collections, whilst presenting each in a specific and individual setting. I wanted to consider the collection as a kind of portrait of the collectors, referring to the phenonemonological approach of the importance of the viewer and the dialogue with the artworks. Every viewer has their own personal vision of an artwork or creative process and links all the works in a conscientious, or perhaps unconscientious collage. In each space the viewer discovers the artworks and can listen to the testimony of the collectors.
In addition, I also asked the collectors to choose a book or a piece of music so that I could try to discover a little more about their personality. Christophe Veys chose the novel from Stephan Zweig, “The Invisible Collection”, that tells the story of a blind collector who knows every artwork in his mind, for example.
What was the selection process to choose the eleven featured collections?CARINE FOL
I tried to show a great diversity of collections and collectors: women, couples, different generations, different financial levels, as well as established and emerging collectors. It is a very subtle balance between the different collections, some are more conceptual, others more visual, other surreal, but all of them feature local and international artists and all the collectors are engaged to buy works and help artists and galleries.
Belgium has been gaining more and more attention over the last couple of years with its private collections. Why do you think Belgium, with Brussels in particular, is such a hub for both emerging and established collections?CARINE FOL
Indeed Belgium is a territory for collectors, it shows the role of the engaged people. Brussels is becoming a very important city for Contemporary Art with the arrival of more and more international galleries and art fairs, and of course the collectors play a role in the development of the town with initiatives as the Vanhaerents Collection, Eté 78, and Foundation CAB to name a few.
Many of the collections included are not currently publicly accessible – did you feel a sense of educational responsibility to bring the private collections into the public realm?CARINE FOL
I did not really feel a sense of responsibility when it came to education, however I did want to give the the public the to discover hidden treasures. It was a very inspiring journey to unearth these collections; the way their creators live with them and the stories they have about art and living with it. It was my responsibility as the curator f “Private Choices” to try to exhibit each collection with the greatest respect for the artworks and the collectors.
How involved were the collectors with the curation and selection of the works?CARINE FOL
There were three ways of working: in dialogue, I received a total “carte blanche” and they had a very precise idea how they wanted to show their collection. I proposed them the spaces, which all agreed with, as well as approving my selection when they gave me the total freedom of choice. I think that the success of this project is the result of an important dialogue with the collectors.
In your opinion, what are the different ways the collectors interact and relate to their collections?CARINE FOL
Some of them live with their collection so to give them energy, others don’t because of lack of space, whilst some really search for a harmony between the interior and the works.
Is there a theme running throughout the exhibition?CARINE FOL
There isn’t just one theme in “Private Choices”. It wasn’t my concept to search for a thematically approach; the concept is the collector and their relation to the artworks and the artists.
What was your personal journey like with being able to discover the works?CARINE FOL
It was an extraordinary journey to have the opportunity to discover all these interesting personalities and the very interesting artworks. I really thank them to have given me the chance to loan these works, to empty their houses, and to have put their trust in me.
Do you have any advice to give young or emerging collectors?CARINE FOL
I think that collecting is a virus; you have to follow your passion. That is one of the lessons I learnt from this exhibition, that sometimes the pejorative idea that is often conveyed about collectors as speculators isn’t correct, or at at least not for the ones taking part in this exhibition. All are passionate about art and artists and sometimes quite literally ruin themselves for their collection.