The Center of the World
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.