Situated in the countryside at Deurle, the Flanders industrialist couple Jules and Irma Dhondt-Dhaenens decided to build a museum to house their collection, inaugurating a modernist structure back in 1968. Their collection focused almost exclusively on Flemish artists from 1880 to 1950. Today the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens strives with a contemporary profile with its strong exhibition program, artist residencies and related activities.
In their current presentation, “Schöne Sentimenten”, the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens brings the potential of its collection to the fore. In the exhibition, core works from the museum’s own collection enter into dialogue with works from private collections which the MDD currently manages or would like to manage in the future. The whole is therefore not a classical, but rather an imaginary collection presentation. Real works of art are combined with reproductions and even ‘absent’ works so as to emphasise the importance, capacity and possibilities of the displayed collections.
The core of the exhibition consists of pieces from the Dhondt- Dhaenens, Matthys-Colle and Cooreman collections, each of which played an important role in the acceptance of modern and contemporary art in Flanders. Together they virtually span the entire 20th century and, as a whole, provide a particular perspective on different styles, genres and movements, ranging from Flemish Modernism from the museum’s own collection, to post-war Belgian and American art from the Matthys-Colle collection and contemporary, global art from the Cooreman collection.
Iconic works from the Dhondt-Dhaenens collection by, among others, Albert Servaes, Rik Wouters, Constant Permeke and James Ensor are confronted with established names such as Franz West and Thierry De Cordier, as well as young talent such as Sarah Baker and Lucy Mckenzie. The artworks are presented in a number of groups: they are freely combined through substantive connections, attitudes, and aesthetic or formal choices. The labyrinthine, open set-up opens possibilities for new associations and stimulates the imagination of the viewer.
Schöne Sentimenten refers to an eponymous edition by artist Jan Vercruysse, which is given a central place in the exhibition. The title implicitly alludes to the beauty, but also the fragility of a museum collection. This suggestive collection presentation, placed in an individual scenography by Maxime Prananto, including the enormous series of posters by Michel François that are hung in and around the MDD, raises questions and provides possible solutions around the future of these collections.
In view of the historically-grown sensitivity of the Dhondt-Dhaenens museum to the significance of the committed art collector, the MDD pays special attention to public access, research and the presentation of committed Flemish private collections. Since 2007, Tanguy Eeckhout, former curator of the MDD, has conducted scientific research into private collections that have played an important role in the acceptance of contemporary art in Belgium and whose importance transcends the private sphere. This approach has been reflected, since that time, in biennial collection presentations.
This expertise and these intense collaborations with private collections have led to new forms of collaboration models and management agreements. This has greatly expanded the patrimony of the MDD in recent years. In addition to its own collection, the MDD now also manages a group of works from a number of private collections that represent significant added value within the Flemish and even international museum landscape.