A Quiz (again)
14 July – 5 September 2012
Curator: Lorenzo Benedetti
The Middelburg Foundation for Visual Arts (SBKM)/ Vleeshal is in charge of Middelburg’s municipal art collection, which is stored at the Museum of Modern Art in Antwerp. Parts of the collection are periodically on show in a series of exhibitions at Vleeshal Markt and Vleeshal Zusterstraat. Last year, after a number of retrospective exhibitions, Pipilotti Rist’s work Grossmut begatte mich was on display. This year it is the turn of the recently purchased L’isola by Rossella Biscotti, to be followed later in the year by Jimmie Durham’s 1995 work The Centre of the World. This summer the spotlight is on Nedko Solakov’s A Quiz (again).
Nedko Solakov is one of Bulgaria’s leading contemporary artists. His work can be seen at this year’s Documenta 13 in Kassel. In 1998 Solakov produced the exhibition A Quiz for the Vleeshal, and recently he donated it to the SBKM. His 1996 work This is me too… was already part of the collection, and was on display earlier this year at the major retrospective exhibition at the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent.
At this cheerful interactive exhibition, a member of the public can win a prize and so take something home – a metaphor for the experience gained from visiting an exhibition in one’s everyday life. In 1998, the then director of Vleeshal, Lex ter Braak, wrote: “His work for De Vleeshal, A Quiz, began with a dream. A large banner tells us that one of the statues in De Vleeshal suggested an idea to the artist while he was dreaming. The statue had spent years working out the exact points on the floor corresponding to the keystones in the ceiling, and assured Solakov that this was no easy task. The statue then proposed that the artist challenge visitors to locate the positions of the keystones on the floor, as though it were a mirror. And the winner should be offered a prize – say, five kilos of the best meat from the best butcher in town’ (Vleeshal takes its name from Middelburg’s former meat market, which was housed in the same building).
Visitors to A Quiz will indeed be invited to reconnoitre the exhibition space with the help of an alphanumeric grid and enter the requested coordinates of four keystones on a questionnaire. The visitor with the right answers will win the first prize: a special edition of four original drawings by Nedko Solakov, five kilos of the best meat from the best butcher in Middelburg, and a year’s free admission to the Vleeshal. The winner will be announced by a jury of experts on the final day of the exhibition.
Although the exhibition space is laid out in a practical manner to help visitors work out their answers, it remains autonomous and sculptural. The various features – the display case containing the prizes, the plumb line hanging from the ceiling, the safe for the completed questionnaires, the signs dividing up the floor into a grid and so on – transform the space and create an inextricable blend of seriousness, humour and irony, making it hard to decide which matters most: the irony of the game, the seriousness of the sculptural measuring process or the humour of the whole exercise.”
Vleeshal is a unique center for contemporary art, not only because of its atypical exhibition space and exciting programming, but also because it has a collection. In the 1990s, under the impetus of then director Lex ter Braak, an ambitious collection of contemporary visual art was begun. This collection was intended for a newly envisioned museum in Middelburg, with the working title Museum IX/13.
The collection concerns two blocks, on the one hand national and local art from the BKR scheme (the abbreviation BKR refers to the Dutch Artist Subsidy Scheme, unique in the world, which from 1949 until 1987 provided artists with a (temporary) income in exchange for artworks or other artistic compensations). On the other hand a start to a radically international collection of contemporary art, with a few large ensembles by a limited number of artists (including Jimmie Durham, Nedko Solakov, Suchan Kinoshita, Cameron Jamie, Pippilotti Rist and Job Koelewijn), but too few to be able to have a real impact without further collection development. The city of Middelburg decided not to build this museum and not to continue the collection. The impetus of developing a collection had thus lost its possible context and visibility and encumbered Vleeshal, for whom the collection had become a storage cost and management issue.
Given the close historical ties between Middelburg and Antwerp, M HKA's collection profile and the fact that Bart De Baere was a member of the advisory committee in the composition of the Vleeshal collection, it was given to M HKA on long-term loan. M HKA gave this collection a public existence by valorizing the artworks in its collection exhibition policy.
There has been no active acquisition policy for years. The collection is expanded here and there with sporadic purchases and donations from artists who are part of the Vleeshal program.