The German-speaking Community of Belgium presents a group exhibition of its new acquisitions of the last five years (2017-21) at IKOB - Museum of Contemporary Art. Since 2017, a total of 527 works by 29 artists have joined the collection, including works in series. Entitled WAS UNS ANGEHT, this exhibition brings together a large part of these works and presents them to the general public in this constellation for the first time. Founded in 1974 and comprising more than a thousand works from the fields of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and photography, the Art Collection of East Belgium is a representation of artistic achievements from the region.

Contemporary art in and from East Belgium needs recognition and support. This is provided, among others, by the Commission for the arts of the German-speaking Community, consisting of Heike Binger, Walter Mießen, Anke Reitz, Nadine Streicher and Dr. Dirk Tölke. Decision on purchases are made at the two annual meetings as well as studio visits, with applications coming from local authorities, galleries, private individuals and commission members. The commission’s members rate the proposed works’ professionalism, artistic craftsmanship, innovation and topicality, their contribution to the diversity of the existing collection, as well as their relationship to East Belgium.

In addition to classic considerations of form and colour, the works in this exhibition grapple with contemporary issues such as the state of the environment and its changes, the animal world, technologies and their cultures, the visual worlds of new media, the effects of the internet, the changes in regional culture, the nighttime lighting of our landscapes, the working life of truck drivers, the continuities between images past and present, the musical use of paintings as scores, or the illustration of regional mentalities through stories, as well as visions for possible developments. These are issues that concern us all.

Oftentimes, an artist residing outside of a big city is devalued as regional and thus secondary, provincial. On another level, the concept of home as an emotional, idealized world has to hold out for political and touristic simplifications. It is therefore important for the Commission to deal with this duality of world views in order to be able to make a contemporary and fair assessment of regional art. Two things are happening at the same time: on a local level, besides hollow reproductions of past aesthetics, there is hardly anything left of traditional fashion or regional handicrafts; meanwhile, all artists are increasingly subject to an international competition due to transportation infrastructure, media, and the internet. That is why provinciality is now a phenomenon taking place mostly in the head of those affected by its tendency to create isolation. The artist’s place of residence or place of birth then forms the regional framework, while the art form itself does not have to show any ties to the region.

East Belgium as a historical construct has a disparate population and history. A small-scale structure, spatial organization based on agriculture, Prussian-German as well as Luxembourg-French-influenced building typologies, education, and multilingualism are all open to influences from beyond its borders. A common denominator that sets East Belgium apart from similar border regions is difficult to find, and more of an ongoing process than a single characteristic. Hence, artistic diversity must cover the spectrum.

The experience of the Commission shows that artists of different generations, origins and working methods choose to be based in East Belgium because it is a place where culture is promoted and appreciated, freedoms are granted and an interested and lively public engages with artistic practice of all kinds. The exhibition WAS UNS ANGEHT – NEW ACQUISITIONS OF THE EAST BELGIUM COLLECTION aims to raise the visibility of artists in East Belgium making significant contributions to art; to show that art in the region enjoys the encouragement and freedom given by Parliament; and that East Belgium shows itself and the world how dynamic, open and creative it is.

Text: Dirk Tölke

View or download the multilingual publication here.


Ausstellungsansicht, WAS UNS ANGEHT: NEW ACQUISITIONS OF THE EAST BELGIUM COLLECTION, © IKOB - Museum of Contemporary Art, Photo: Lola Pertsowsky