Brecht en Yoeri with sculpture by Jan Dries, 2016.
How (and when) did they start their gallery, what has changed in the art world since then, what is their profile, what do they collect themselves, and what is the impact from Corona at their gallery? This week withBrecht Callewaert & Yoeri Vanlangendonck (Callewaert Vanlangendonck Gallery)
An opening in Wolstraat with Paul Van Hoeydonck and Sergio Servellón, 2014.
Were you exposed to art while growing up?
BC:As a child, art was always present at home, but there was no Belgian abstract canvas on the wall, something we now specialize in with the gallery. My father was a celebrated amateur actor, he mainly played Flemish repertoire, while my grandmother sang in the Kortrijk operetta company.
I have a very broad view of art and I especially believe in the mixing of arts. At our home it seemed like an arts centre where art was created and performed, free access, the door was always open to everyone. School activities were inferior to after-school ones, but were not neglected. There was a fine balance to experience the art of living in all aspects.
YV: Culture was not present in the family I grew up in, but I came into contact with it at an early age, through a love for history and relics from the past, the romantic idea of "tangible history" so to speak.
As a child I collected fossils, stamps and later Roman coins. My grandfather was a numismatist and philatelist and he probably passed on his passion for collecting and history to me.
I was soon looking for museums and through this gate I literally entered another world. I understood the power of art, and that is why to date I highly value the socio-cultural aspect of bringing people from different layers of society together with art as a binding agent in our gallery work.
Visiting the consul general in New York on the occasion of the opening of the Zero exhibition at the Guggenheim in 2014.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
BC: At age 18, I completed the academic youth courses at the Antwerp Studio Herman Teirlinck Institute, where I later completed both the theatre and cabaret courses.
It was a small step from village life in West Flanders to the big city, because as a five-year-old I knew that I would become an actor and would never do anything else in my life ... I then also spent twelve years on stage non-stop. By the time I was thirty-three I had enough of that: I had seen it and wanted to move on, but I knew that one day it would come back.
I needed some time in the shade. I met my former husband, the Belgian fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen, whose company I ran for eight years. That was a very gruelling but extremely fascinating and instructive time, in all areas. We've seen the world, it cost us our relationship, but it left me with an incredibly beautiful friendship.
In the meantime I have picked up acting again and now and then I teach at the Brussels conservatory, an alternation with the gallery keeping that I can’t do without.
Opening in de Wolstraat, 2014.
YV: As a History student, I collected sixteenth and seventeenth-century graphics and nineteenth-century photos of Antwerp, which is how I ended up in antiquarian bookshops in Mechelen and Antwerp, including Paul Verbeeck’s Antwerp gallery, an eclectic antiques dealer where you’ll find prints by Ensor as well as modern art. I got to know him through my former professor Herman Van Goethem (provost of the University of Antwerp), who shared my passion for nineteenth-century photography and art; through these two men I was included in a network of like-minded people. Collector Philippe Janssens (project developer Immpact NV) saw potential in me and asked me to co-manage his important photo collection - so as a student I could search and buy photos for him at fairs in Paris, London and New York. This opportunity has given me a different view of the (art) world and enriched me enormously. Over time my view shifted to the avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s and from there it was only a small step to arrive at the Belgian avant-garde of the 1950s, of which many protagonists were still alive ten years ago.
I contacted the Antwerp constructivist Guy Vandenbranden and we became friends. It is through that defining friendship across generations that I got a foot in the art world.
Building up exhibition with Jef Meyer, 2016.
What was your first job in a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
BC: I was working with Tim Van Steenbergen when I met my current gallery colleague Yoeri. Tim and I mainly collected contemporary art. At the time, Yoeri was just under 20 and was a model for our men's collection. We bumped into each other more often and he kept talking about the Belgian post-war abstract art scene, which I was totally unfamiliar with but which, according to him, was such an interesting and still unexplored potential for the general public. And so it turned out. I was immediately drawn to and overwhelmed by the strength and quality of these gems in Belgian and international art history. Work had to be done on this, this would have to be rediscovered by everyone and gradually it turned out to be cherished by the general public. I proposed starting a gallery together and a few months later we opened: Callewaert Vanlangedonck Galerie was born.
YV: In 2011, Paul Verbeeck asked me to participate in his new gallery project, but less than a year later and immediately after completing my studies, I started the Callewaert Vanlangendonck Gallery with Brecht, the beginning of a beautiful story.
Opening Guy Vandenbranden, Sint-Jacobstraat, 2017.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
BC: We deliberately focus on Belgian post-war abstraction, supplemented by some contemporary Belgian artists who think and work in that line. The Belgian generation of artists from the 1950s and 1960s did pioneering work and created a new international élan. Antwerp was the hub in that whole scene, something Antwerp is still not fully aware of. The greats of modern art were here: Fontana, Klein, Uecker, Manzoni… they literally worked together with our Guy Vandenbranden, Mark Verstockt, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Jan Dries, Jef Verheyen, Gilbert Swimberghe. They were friends-colleagues, competitors, who inspired each other and did not know at the time that they would be hugely decisive for the future. Until today they are not history in that sense.
YV: As a gallery that wants to reassess and open up a specific period in art history. We focus on the post-war abstract artists and curate exhibitions dedicated to their work, without forgetting the present. For example, we let greats such as Guy Vandenbranden, Paul Van Hoeydonck and Jef Verheyen enter into a dialogue with young talent, in order to build a bridge between past and present. That way, our audience immediately gets a different view of 'older work' and young artists are given a platform by being placed in a dialogue with household names. We also invite guest curators to show as many different interpretations as possible. The gallery attaches great importance to the publication of art books; in this way we contribute to making artists' archives accessible, and we hope to make a (small) contribution to Belgian art history.
Gallery view Sint-Jacobstraat, 2018.
What do you think is the best part of being a gallerist?
BC: The variety of tasks. It is a broad venture that we run with the two of us. We have three locations, we show many exhibitions, we enrich each exhibition with historical archive material, we publish books, we collaborate with museums and private art initiatives, we participate in fairs, we organize events around the exhibitions, we buy and sell, we give introductions, we do the office work, we clean, we deliver, we invest and discuss while we have no staff.
YV: Connecting people through art. We see many passionate people passing by, and they come from different layers and generations. Everyone is welcome: I think it is important to involve interested parties in our story and that of the artist. Of course, it is also a pleasure to find important works of art and to share them with the public in carefully curated exhibitions. The gallery is also a place where concerts and lectures are given, we consider it a privilege to contribute to Antwerp’s cultural life in this way.
Opening in the Sint-Jacobstraat, 2018.
Which galleries do you feel a national / international affinity with?
YV: Adriaan Raemdonck, owner of Galerie De Zwarte Panter, is an inspiration to me. His gallery has been bringing people together for over 50 years and there is even talk of a close-knit "panther community". Adriaan also took me by the hand during my first steps in the gallery world, and I am grateful to him for that. Galleries such as Iris Clert and Denise René - both in Paris - are international examples, since they were open to artistic experiment. Of course every gallery has its own profile, but for me a gallery has to connect and the artistic aspect is supported by the commercial success.
With Cel Overberghe, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Wybrand Ganzevoort, Ernest Van Buynder 2018.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
BC: A rediscovery. Someone out of the blue, never heard of, never seen, anonymously kept secret by time… but look: Such an amazing artist! Such great art!
YV: An artist with whom you can work together on a beautiful career. This can be either an artist to be rediscovered or a young talent. And if the heirs Yves Klein or Piero Manzoni are looking for new representation, they are always welcome (laughs).
Art Brussels showing Guy Vandenbranden, 2019.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
BC: I think I myself have changed the most, so not the art world in itself, but my own view on it. I learn every day, I discover new artists, new works, stories, nuances, experiences. Every day my view broadens, and I know better what is and what is not.
YV: I notice that the art world is slipping back a bit more on the local level. And maybe that's not bad, when you look at how much talent can be found in your own country. I also follow Brecht in his answer.
With Paul Van Hoeydonck and Bart de Baere, 2019.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
BC: A lot. Of course, artists from the period we represent. It has an addictive character. It feels liberating to surround yourself with what makes you feel good.
It becomes part of your life and your being. You live for, from and between art. How beautiful and inspiring can that be? Every day you discover new details in that great wonderful world. And you know that it will live further than yourself, it has already conquered its place in art history, and you will have been part of that for a while.
YV:All the artists we represent are also personal favourites, and I have several works of each in my collection. Contemporary work also finds its way; for example, I own artworks by Nadia Naveau, Guillaume Bijl and Koen van den Broek.
Luc Tuymans opens exposition Manu Engelen during Coronatimes, 2020.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see the artworld?
BC: It has indeed. I don't think the world will ever be the way it used to be. That is only logical, of course, because there is a constant evolution. If you were to be catapulted back in time for just five years, believe me, you'd be quite eye-catching. But now we are in this unprecedented situation, there is a huge delay that will trigger a tremendously accelerated response. Nobody can imagine what it will look like in a possible post-pandemic era, but it will be completely different. Totally. Art will survive, art will survive everything, life is art, art is life, we already notice that.
YV: Because there are currently no gathering moments such as an opening, it has become even clearer to me how important it is that people can come together as well as the importance of a physical experience of art. Virtual presence is important, but you won’t find the real energy online.
Yoeri en Brecht door het werk ‘Jef Verheyen, 'Le Vide', 1965, sculptuur in metaal, 50 x 31 x 6 cm.
See the artists representede by Callewaert Vanlangendonck