A city of western Belgium west-northwest of Brussels. Founded in the seventh century, it was a medieval wool-producing center and remained virtually independent until its capture by the Hapsburgs in 1584. Population: 233,000.
Belfry of Ghent, photograph taken from the Saint Bavo Cathedral
Treaty of Ghent 英美一戰許多糊里糊塗事
Ghent, treaty of, 1815. Peace talks to end the War of 1812 between Britain and the USA began at Ghent (modern Belgium) in August 1814. A treaty was signed on 24 December. It resolved none of the proclaimed causes of the war. Because of slow communications, a major battle was fought after the conclusion of the treaty, at New Orleans in January 1815.
Wikipedia article "Treaty of Ghent".
Collectors make an art of their craft
GHENT, Belgium: When Anton and Annick Herbert began collecting art in this medieval Flemish city more than 30 years ago, he was a textile machinery salesman and she worked in the fashion business. Now, as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art devotes two-thirds of its space to showing what they have acquired, the Herberts still hardly fit the conventional profile of collectors.
Reflecting the collection's standing in the contemporary art world, the show's opening this month in Barcelona attracted leading European museum directors and gallery owners, as well as many artists whose works the Herberts have bought. Yet they have never sought public attention and have exhibited part of their collection only twice before, in 1984 and 2000.
Further, they are not rich. True, they are also not poor, but they neither inherited nor earned a fortune. Rather, they worked to buy art. And since they acquired works by experimental artists they befriended who had not yet gained fame, they were able to build up a collection tightly focused on artists of their own generation.
"I've always said it's very bad for a collector to be rich because he can buy anything; he can buy badly," Herbert, 67, said in an interview in the loft of the converted factory here where he and his wife are usually surrounded by their collection. "I don't think you need to spend huge amounts of money. The challenge is to achieve high results with little spending."
In the case of the Herberts, that meant deciding what they did not want as much as what they wanted. For instance, they steered away from Pop Art, Neo-Expressionism and movements like Fluxus and Viennese Actionism. Instead, what drew them was Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Arte Povera.
The first work the Herberts bought was just a sentence, "As if It Could," by Lawrence Weiner. "Don't forget that when we started, we didn't understand anything," Herbert recalled with a laugh. "I mean, here was this crazy guy putting a sentence on a wall and saying, 'This is my artwork.' But we bought it because it was so different, so shocking, so against. We postponed buying our first television so we could buy the Weiner. We put it on our wall. No one who visited even looked at it."
Still, they said, even then what really interested them was not to possess art, but to participate in social and cultural change through an intellectual engagement with artists who were rebelling against the existing art world.
"It was like a family," Herbert recalled. "You went to an opening and there was nobody. There were the artists, the gallery and three or four crazy people. There was so much to say and to do with this art, but no one was listening. Today, the contemporary art world is blown to a level of stupid craziness and materialism. At that time, everyone was against it."
The resulting collection is made up of works by some 40 artists, including Donald Judd, Don Graham, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Richard Long, Daniel Buren, Gerhard Richter, Gilbert and George, Robert Ryman, Carl Andre and Martin Kippenberger. Most of the art was created during what Herbert considers the landmark years of 1968 to 1989, with a smaller number of works from the 1990s.
"It's a private collection created at the right time in the right place," said Manuel Borja-Villel, the Barcelona museum's director, who helped to organize the exhibition.
The works seem very much at home in the striking white Modernist museum, which Richard Meier designed in the mid-'90s. Indeed, the white rectangular box of Graham's "Public Space/Two Audiences" from 1976 - the title also used for this exhibition, which runs through May 1 - almost merges with the museum's rectilinear atrium. Entered through two doors, the box's interior is divided by glass, with a mirror on one wall creating a disturbing perspective.
Also in the atrium are Judd's "Untitled" from 1984, a multicolored rectangular metal case, and LeWitt's "Incomplete Open Cubes" from 1974, both important Minimalist works. The museum's second floor is given over to art created from 1968, a year of youthful revolt in many Western countries, to 1989, the year the Berlin Wall crumbled. The art, though, is not political; if anything, it is antipolitical just as it is anti-"art."
Richter's "Four Panes of Glass" from 1967 is a metal structure sustaining four frames with transparent panes of glass. For Herbert, a crucial figure in this period was the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers, one of the first to paint words, and many works use language, from Robert Barry's "It Is ... It Isn't ..." to Nauman's "One Hundred Live and Die," which lists 50 words, each followed by "and live" and "and die."
In the early 1990s, the Herberts paused in their collecting, as if their generation's work was done. But then they resumed with a small number of artists who, they felt, spoke to a new era, prominently Kippenberger, who died in 1997, but also Mike Kelley, Franz West and the not-so- young John Baldessari, now 75. In fact, the Herberts had known Baldessari for years before deciding to include him in their collection.
"It's a slow process," Herbert said. "Every year, two or three times, we discuss what the collection should be and what it should not be. Finally, we decided that if we have Mike Kelley, we absolutely need Baldessari. We also make an imaginary collection, 10 or 15 artists who are not in our collection but in our head. Then you see Sigmar Polke in it."
Unsurprisingly, then, they also see collecting as an art. "That's what Duchamp said," Herbert said later over lunch. "You can 'paint a collection' together by choosing your works and bringing them into a context. We try to do that, and I think that in Barcelona you see a kind of vision of a whole."
In the current art market, though, they feel like loners. "We think that today the art world is too art-fair-minded, too money-minded, too market-minded," Herbert said.
Aware that the art market also has its eyes on their collection, the Herberts, who are childless, have begun making plans for the future. And as a step in that direction, they are testing a private collection's relationship with a public museum, both in Barcelona and at the Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, where part of the collection will be shown from June 10 through Sept. 3.
A museum has an audience, it offers continuity of art and it provides education, Herbert noted. "Private collectors are fast, they can act subjectively and they have no responsibility," he added. "This is also a quality because, if you have no responsibility, you have complete freedom."
The Herberts have decided to create a foundation that will take over their collection. "Time is running so fast, and we have an obsession with the news of the new," Herbert said. "But in art, what has been done is necessary for what's going on. We don't want to create a mausoleum foundation. We want to use it as a way of ensuring the continuity of art history."