Marie-Rose and Paul Declercq in front of a work by Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven.
What do art lovers like? Where do they buy their art and, most importantly, what do they buy? This week it’s entrepreneur Paul Declercq (age 64)
What does art mean to you?
My wife Marie-Rose is an example of lively exuberance, with a Southern temperament. I myself am a pensive creative who allows new ideas to arise. We are each other's ideal opposite. For us, art is the never-finished puzzle of life, the artist's language transcends words, art is solidified energy which we endow with our own meaning, art is also the cement in our relationship.
Gideon Kiefer, Kontich Tumulus Swing, 2020, Geukens & De Vil.
Were you exposed to art while growing up?
We did not grow up with art. Working professionally in the clothing industry has helped us to better understand shapes, colours and materials. A highly developed sense of empathy, an open-minded view on what seems unusual and personal contact with the artist help to broaden our taste pattern.
Where do you read about the latest developments in the art world?
I get a lot of information from Instagram. I am an active user myself (@paulzilton). I also read the gallery newsletters, weekend sections of daily newspapers (De Morgen, De Standaard, De Tijd/Sabato), magazines (The Art Couch, Collect, HART) and websites of artists.
Where do you prefer to look at art?
First there is a preliminary search online. The place to view art does not matter and is very diverse: gallery visits, benefit auctions, pop-up events, studio visits to artists, museums, art fairs, viewing collections of collectors. We plan about 250 visits offline every year.
Carole Vanderlinden, cerbère, 2021, PLUS-ONE Gallery.
How often do you buy art each year?
Fortunately, there is no vaccine to temper our passion for collecting. We regularly buy unique works by Belgian artists. Now that the kids are out of the house, we solved the lack of free wall space by clearing the rooms, installing extra walls and buying a house nearby.
Where do you do your buying: in a gallery, at an art fair, at an auction or online?
We usually buy through a gallery. Sometimes we receive images from the gallery in advance. If we know the work of the artist, we buy without having seen the work beforehand.
Hans Op de Beeck, Stargazing, 2020, Galerie Ron Mandos.
Is it important that you and your partner always agree on a purchase?
When I discover a work of art or an artist after a digital search, I present a print to Marie-Rose, without any further explanation. Then the consultation starts whether the work fits in our art puzzle. The sale will only go through after consensus.
Do you have a special relationship with any one gallery?
For us there are three important links that impact the way a collection is curated: the artist, the gallery and the collector. Building a relationship with the artist goes smoothly once a work has been purchased. Establishing a trusting relationship with a gallery takes a little more time. As a collector it is important to explain the concept of our art collection, only then will valuable advice follow. Keteleer Gallery, among others, is joining us in our story.
If you had an unlimited budget, whose work would you buy?
Zeeberg' (2011) by Thierry De Cordier and 'Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing' by Francis Alÿs, and the work of Walter Swennen.
Who are your favourite artists?
Hans Op de Beeck evokes the moment when you put your own stories aside and can just be alone in the image.
Gideon Kiefer's work expresses a fascination for sometimes invented, disturbed memories.
Thomas Lerooy is known for his mixture of realism and surrealism.
Thomas Lerooy, Suspicion, 2021, rodolphe janssen.