‘Un-Scene II’ versus ‘Landschap’: a case of expecting too much… and nothing at all?

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When is a work of art a work of art? Who is to decide? The artist? The curator? The viewer? What makes the difference between an amateur and a professional artist? Skills? Or just the answer to that question: what’s your profession? It was a confusing one, the day on which I visited two exhibitions presenting Belgian talent. Landschap (landscape) is an exhibition for which Hans Op de Beeck has selected some 30 paintings from 1.000 paintings presented to him by 350 amateur painters. He shows them at De Warande (Turnhout; through August 19) in a gloomy, greyish setting, clearly bearing his signature. Un-Scene II, at Wiels (Brussels, through August 26), in an attempt to show what’s going on right now in the real Belgian art scene, presents the work of 12 artists. How come I was somewhat disappointed by Un-Scene and I was sometimes surprised by the work of those amateurs at De Warande? Just a case of expecting too much and expecting nothing at all? Was Op de Beeck’s scenography a clever magician’s trick? Did he make me see things that weren’t there? And did I fail to really see the potential of some of those works at Un-Scene? Didn’t I say so? A confusing day. My kind of day.

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