WORKS FROM THE ESTATE OF JAN HOET, GHENT
‘I don’t know what art is. The art itself will tell us who she is. Not me. I can only offer a ticket for its discovery tour’
(Jan Hoet quoted in: J. Hoet, Op weg naar documenta IX, Leuven, 1991, p. 44).
A visionary collector, renowned curator and founding direction of Ghent’s contemporary Art Museum SMAK Jan Hoet’s has left a phenomenal legacy. Including works by Giulio Paolini, Marcel Broodthaers and Herbert Brandl, Christie’s is proud to include a selection of works from his collection as part of our Post-War and Contemporary auction.
Growing up in Geel, where his father worked as a psychiatrist, Jan Hoet’s childhood was positioned between psychiatry and art. From an early age, Jan’s father, Joseph Hoet, ensured his children were aware of art. He encouraged his children to contemplate the role of art in society, and sparked the debate. Not only was Joseph Hoet an avid collector of art, their home also welcomed well-known artists. Sowing the seeds for his passion for the arts, the likes of James Ensor and Consant Permeke were no strangers to the young Jan Hoet. Reflecting on these early, formative years Jan Hoet commented, “Passion for art must have the ability to grow. In 1957 I was
already arguing with my father about Karel Appel. He did not like his works, considered them barbaric even. It took until 1964 before I got him on the same page. Then, all of a sudden, he saw it. The essence of art is doubt and revolution. “
“I cannot say it enough: art always comes from below. The son of a bourgeois is not likely to become a great artist. “
Hoet originally had the ambition to become a full-fledged artist. Pursuing this passion, he simultaneously began work as an art teacher at a secondary school in Oostakker. A discerning critic, Hoet evaluated his own work with a keen eye, coming to the conclusion that he didn’t have the necessary talent to be an artist. With this realisation, aged twenty-eight, he started to study Art at Ghent University, and devoted the rest of his life to advising art organisations and staging exhibitions.
“I always had to compete with my knowledge and intuition, between knowing and feeling. Exactly because I had such an intuitive approach to my art policy, I was always given loads of criticism.”
From 1975 onwards Jan Hoet has been at the forefront of contemporary art, founding the first museum for contemporary art in Belgium, the S.M.A.K.
in Ghent. Working with a limited budget, Hoet curated ground-breaking exhibitions, introducing new artists to the contemporary art scene in Ghent. It was in 1986 however that Hoet affirmed his position as a key figure in contemporary art, organizing an important and innovative exhibition, Chambre d’amis, where approximately 50 American and European artists were invited to create works for 50 private homes in Ghent. In doing so, Hoet, in his characteristically innovative and creative manner, abandoned the classical context of the museum and exhibited art in living rooms across Ghent. With this exhibition Hoet became internationally a known figure, the success of the project confirmed when it was awarded the prize for the best European exhibition of the year.
Hoet’s career came to a climax when he was appointed artistic director of documenta IX in 1992. For the first time non-Western artists got a stage within the Western art world; he launched among others Ilya Kabakov. That edition of documenta additionally served as a catalyst for the career of Luc Tuymans.
In 2003 Hoet resigned as director of the S.M.A.K. In the same year he started a new story in Herford as director of MARTa for five years. After his German adventure Hoet organized various projects both in Belgium and abroad. With his unwavering dedication to the arts, Hoet would not have been himself if he would not have encountered some level of confrontation. He was the curator for the biennale of Yinchan in China in 2012, and it was here that his uncompromising vision was faced with Chinese censorship.
At the news of Jan Hoet’s death, the Belgian prime minister tweeted that the Belgian art world “loses a father”. A charismatic curator, and innovator in the art world, the selection of works from his collection seen here, form a small insight into the visionary mind of one of the key figures in the European art world. The remainder of his personal collection, much of which are gifts from artists with whom he forged strong relationships throughout his career, will be the flagship project during Art Brussels 2016 as part of the exhibition Cabinet d’ amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet.