BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Space for the Future

The Vanhaerents Art Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Walter Vanhaerents
Walter Vanhaerents

The expression “building a collection” is a familiar one. In the case of the Vanhaerents Art Collection in Brussels, the connection between building and collecting is more than metaphorical. Walter Vanhaerents, the collection’s founder, first became interested in contemporary art in the 1970s when his passion for film lead him to works by Andy Warhol including Sleep (1963) and Lonesome Cowboys (1968). The Warhol films represented an awakening of sorts for Vanhaerents, a successful building contractor, and, since his first encounter with Warhol’s meandering, epic explorations of the possibility of film, he has emphasized a philosophy of collecting that insists on looking towards the future. Visiting the collection, situated among the narrow streets and curving lanes of the center of the Belgian capital, one gets a palpable sense not only of who Vanhaerents is as a collector, but also of the sense of the alchemy created by the interaction art and space that inspires him.

(l–r) Rashid Johnson, ‘What Comes Funky’, 2012; James Lee Byars, ’The Death of James Lee  Byars’, 1994 
(l–r) Rashid Johnson, ‘What Comes Funky’, 2012; James Lee Byars, ’The Death of James Lee  Byars’, 1994 
Sterling Ruby, Bad Moon Rising, 2011; Franz Ackermann, Haus im Sumpf, 2007
Sterling Ruby, Bad Moon Rising, 2011; Franz Ackermann, Haus im Sumpf, 2007

The building in which the collection is housed has an impressive, even imposing solidity. The industrial lineage of the space is apparent inside and out; from the weathered bricks and stone of the exterior, to the expansive floors and sturdy concrete, the site speaks both of its own biography, but also that of Vanhaerents himself. The architect Paul Robbrecht has spoken of using the space as a stage for what he referred to as “a game of old a new walls, a subtle variation of large and flexible spaces.” One feels both the expansiveness Robbrecht identified as one of the building’s most powerfully defining characteristics, but also the strange lightness that the dialogue of walls, pillars and ironwork produces, particularly in some of the smaller rooms created by Robbrecht’s design.

Overview of the second floor
Overview of the second floor
Delucia Michael, Silver Screen, 2012; Projection (Green), 2012
Delucia Michael, Silver Screen, 2012; Projection (Green), 2012

The collection itself bears the traces of Warhol’s influence, and Vanhaerents’ passion for video art, including pieces by Bill Viola and iconic works by the performance artist and sound-art pioneer, Bruce Nauman, among the works from the permanent collection. Perhaps for me the most arresting works were those that engaged most directly with the space itself. For example, the hypnotic James Lee Byars that sits with perfect, almost organic snugness between a set of concrete pillars exerting a ramshackle imperiousness. The eerie light effects created by a pair of Ivan Navarro works were both unsettling and comforting at once, like watching a rainbow being teased apart in a space that suddenly felt as intimate as someone’s bedroom. The Vanhaerents is also known for the spectacular exhibitions that accompany its permanent collection, currently a mind-bending set of works by the Argentinian artist and thinker, Tomas Saraceno. Saraceno’s delicately durable works envision a future of urban spaces that are whole and dynamic but which are only loosely tethered to the earth. “Cloud Cities”, Saraceno styles them, they are the kind of cities one can easily imagine Vanhaerents dreaming of: epic in scale, vivid yet familiar and, perhaps most importantly as concerned with being of the future as well as in the future.

Bill Viola, Transfiguration, 2007
Bill Viola, Transfiguration, 2007
Tomas Saraceno, ’Many Suns And Worlds’. Installation view
Tomas Saraceno, ’Many Suns And Worlds’. Installation view

William Kherbek is the writer of the novel Ecology of Secrets (2013, Arcadia Missa) and the forthcoming UltraLife (2016, Arcadia Missa). His art journalism has appeared in a number of publications in the UK, US, Germany, Switzerland and Romania.

All images courtesy Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels

More Information on Vanhaerents Art Collection

Collections (93)

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DJ Cassy and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Venke and Rolf A. Hoff in Henningsvær, Norway

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Pari Ehsan and Francesca Gavin meet with collector Lord David Cholmondeley in King’s Lynn, Norfolk

The Walther Collection

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The Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

Andrea Denver and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin in Upstate New York

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Gary Yeh and Francesca Gavin meet with architect and collector William Lim in Hong Kong

Early Passions

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Infinite Interiors

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Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Pari Ehsan and Francesca Gavin meet with collector Patricia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy

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JAHM – Justin Art House Museum

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Galila's P.O.C.

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The Ovidiu Șandor Collection – Timișoara, Romania

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Conversation Pieces

KUNSTSAELE Berlin – Berlin, Germany

Magazzino Italian Art

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Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

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Foundation Francès

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Czech Art Meets Czech Design – Prague, Czech Republic

Marciano Art Foundation

Contemporary art at the Masonic temple – Los Angeles

Time Stamps

Julia Stoschek Collection – Berlin, Germany

Generative Grammars

Servais Family Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Chasing the Future

dslcollection – Paris, France

Charged Atmospheres

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Adrastus Collection – Arévalo, Spain

Eloquent Silences

The Givon Art Forum – Tel Aviv, Israel

Counting to Ten

Ten Cubed – Melbourne, Australia

Dispersing Narratives

The Wedge Collection – Toronto, Canada

Dialogues in Nature

Chatsworth – Bakewell, Great Britain

Present Pasts

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Colección Contemporánea

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Adrastus Collection

A Collection That Shows the Diversity of Art in the Age of Globalization – Arevalo, Spain

Masters and Romantics

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Fondazione Rolla

A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Photography in Ticino

Finnish Rhapsody

Didrichsen Art Museum – Helsinki, Finland

Cranford Collection

One of Europe’s Most Important Collections with Renowned Contemporaries in Regent’s Park – London

Broad Minded

Artist Tomasz Kobialka on The Broad – Los Angeles, USA

Jean-Paul Najar Foundation

European-American Post-Minimalist Art in a Bauhaus-inspired building – Dubai

Treasure Hunt

The Wanås Foundation/Wanås Konst – Knislinge, Sweden

AMC Collezione Coppola

A Curious Collector Acquiring Art to Broaden his Understanding of the World

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Damien Hirst’s ‘Murderme’ Collection finds a permanent home – London

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Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

A Magic Sculpture Garden in Westchester County – Pound Ridge, New York

Shine On

Wurlitzer – Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection – Berlin, Germany

Houghton Hall – King's Lynn

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Igal Ahouvi Art Collection – Tel Aviv, Israel

dslcollection

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Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Inhotim – Instituto de Arte Contemporânea e Jardim Botânico

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Private collectors with a generous heart

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