Closure Lokaal 01 Breda – Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. 2016. Karen Maenhout – Frederik Vergaert. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele
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 with Frederik Vergaert (FRED&FERRY) Opening ceremony new location Lokaal 01 Antwerp. Exhibition: 'Er is iets rot in de staat Europa' – 2001. From left to right: Frederik Vergaert – Eric Antonis – Ger Adriaans.
With the work of Peter Buggenhout in the background. Photo: archive L01.
We’re you exposed to art while growing up?
Not particularly, music and literature were always at hand, the visual arts were only sporadically discussed.
Closing session exhibition project My Painting – 2010 (Breda) Photo: archive L01.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
When I was sixteen I started studying Architectural Training in Ghent, at the Sint-Lucas art high school. This training has inspired me enormously, because there were some fantastic teachers there, such as Gilbert Decouvreur and Ferdinand Schlich. The emphasis was predominantly on architecture, but visual arts were also discussed, for example through another teacher and artist, Benoît van Innis. There was little talk of contemporary art then, not even during art history classes. This only came to the fore later, during my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, but especially during my postgraduate training at Post Sint Joost in Breda/Den Bosch.
The company of humour – Lokaal 01 Breda (23.09 t/m 18.12.2011) Werk: Jimmie Durham – Malinche & Guillame Bijl – Lustrerie Média (collectie S.M.A.K) Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
What was your first job in a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
During my end-of-year exhibition, I was approached by Ad van Rosmalen, who was involved in Lokaal 01 at the time. He found my work interesting and invited me to come and talk. We got along so well that on the one hand I was invited to make a solo exhibition and gradually started working for the organization as an artistic collaborator.
Assessment of incoming files. Robin Vanbesien – Frederik Vergaert – 2011. Photo: archief L01.
Lokaal 01 was a very special place: it was founded in 1981 by a number of artists from Breda. A room in a studio building was made suitable for, as it was then called, 'The Openness of the Artwork'. Over the years, the initiative developed into a work and research space for young contemporary visual artists and opened a second space in 1993, in Antwerp.
A few years later, I was asked to manage Lokaal 01, which I did with great pleasure and enthusiasm until the end of 2016. During the seventeen years that I was involved I got to know a lot of artists. As a team, we have realized more than eighty exhibitions and concerts inside and outside the premises of Lokaal 01, and we have collaborated with more than two hundred and fifty artists. We have supervised approximately seventy artist-in-residence periods, and compiled and edited various publications and books. This is always in consultation with all employees of Lokaal 01 and in particular with all the artists involved.
Photo during the installation of Lustrerie Média - Guillame Bijl (S.M.A.K collection) – 2011 Photo: archive L01.
After Lokaal 01 closed down, I was involved in various projects and initiatives. I like to work with committed people, with people who want to bring about change, who want to support the arts and artists especially. For example, I entered into a conversation with Marion De Cannière and Louise Osieka, two women who contribute to the development of the arts landscape from their own perspective. I worked with Louise in CIAP in Hasselt, with Marion in the gallery in Antwerp, which I - after she had indicated that she wanted to quit - continued together with my companion Ferry Saris.
Ferry and I met at our children's school gates. At one of the obligatory birthday parties, a beautiful sculpture by Carel Visser was on display in Ferry's living room and the conversation took shape. Ferry has been a great lover of art from an early age and has acquired his knowledge of the visual arts in an empirical way. He was a loyal visitor to the exhibitions and projects of Lokaal 01 and has always followed me during my activities. This is how we found each other, both in engagement and in interest in young artists.
Benjamin Greber – Mary Star of the Seas – Lokaal 01 Antwerpen – 2011. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
It may be because of my history in the not-for-profit sector, but experiment and research remain of great importance. In particular, the initiative of artists in making exhibitions is essential. That is why we have come to the following description:
FRED&FERRY GALLERY is an artistically motivated and artist-dedicated gallery. The exhibition programme accommodates national and international artists and mainly includes the work of young and upcoming artists. On the one hand, the presentation is prominent and the way it is designed in dialogue with the gallery space, while on the other hand, interested visitors get a unique opportunity to meet artists at an early stage of their career.'
Presentation during Intersections op Art Rotterdam. Frederik Vergaert – Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost. Werk: Nicolas Lamas ‘Dynamic exchange between fragments’-2015. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
What do you think is the best part of being a gallerist?
The dialogue. Both with the artists and with the public. The most beautiful moments are those when the passion for art is shared.
Opening presentation Annabel Lange @Lokaal 01 Antwerpen - 2015. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele
Which national / international galleries do you feel an affinity with?
Personally, I find gallery owners who do not let themselves be carried away by hypes, such as Ellen de Bruijne or Fons Welters from Amsterdam, very interesting, Stella Lohaus’ career and choice of artists – during the time she had a gallery in Antwerp – was also very special, but to feel related to, say, a gallery like Zeno X, which I greatly admire, may be inappropriate. Internationally, galleries such as Matt's Gallery, Cell Project Space and Gasworks in London or KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Johann König and Galerie Open in Berlin are interesting places I like to go.
Ferry Saris en Frederik Vergaert during a performance by Katharina Zimmerhackl - Talking Tongues – 2016. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
John Cage, at a young age. Or a collective like The Guerilla Girls, who worked on a better climate for female artists, but who have had little activity in Europe.
Closure Lokaal 01 Breda – Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. 2016. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
The number of artists since I graduated and today has increased enormously, which is a good thing on the one hand, but on the other hand is a problem for many young people. The needs and working methods of artistic practices have changed significantly, but there is no policy in Belgium that has been geared to this. Artists are currently too often forced to adapt – or think along – in business and market models. Fortunately, more and more artists are championing a more fair and diverse art field, even though I feel the power circuits of the existing cultural sector have become even stronger than before.
Art is being cut even more than before and I suspect that it is all too often an ideological battle with politicians looking for standardization. However, I do believe strongly in the future and want to further develop it together with 'our' artists in a sustainable way.
Building up with Antoine Waterkeyn. The Hour the Ships Come In. 2020. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
My collection is rather modest and mainly consists of editions, magazines/fanzines and works by artist friends such as Adrien Tirtiaux, Winnie Claessens, Geert Goiris, Reinaart Vanhoe, Leigh Clarke, Aline Bouvy, Marc Nagtzaam, Bob & Roberta Smith, Denicolai & Provoost...
well 2020 – Zoro Feigl. (Exhibition: Sea-change 25.10.2020 | 30.01.2021). Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see the artworld?
The pandemic has given me more time to think about what position we should/could occupy as a gallery. It also made me realize that many artists were thrown back even more on a difficult financial situation. Yet, it has also had a positive effect for many artists. Many artists I spoke to indicated that they had finally been able to thoroughly immerse themselves in their work, that the tranquility that was forced on them was particularly welcome.
Anne Van Boxelaere during the build up of ‘Urbanism’ (14.02 | 20.03.2021). Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele
It has forced us to think differently about things in all areas and was the perfect moment to finally allow for change, in a cultural, but especially also political, economic, social and ecological sense. I am rather pessimistic about whether this will yield much results, as this opportunity for change has been missed in Belgium, I am afraid. As far as the art world is concerned, I think there has been more attention for sustainability and local anchoring, and at the same time there has been more digitization. Which is very positive on the one hand, but can also be a major pitfall. Art must be experienced physically; Instagram and other social media are useful to me, but mostly as a promotional tool.
Frederik Vergaert – Ferry Saris. Final repairs before the opening of Leyla Aydoslu's exhibition (13.05 | 19.06.2021). Sculptures: Leyla Aydoslu – 2021 X – 2021 XII, 2021 XI. Photo: Tomas Uyttendaele.
See all represented artists by FRED&FERRY.