S.M.A.K. FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is S.M.A.K.? What is a museum?

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A museum is a building where works of art are kept and displayed. In 1957, the Association for the Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in Ghent. This association brought together a group of people who loved contemporary art and collected works of art. There was no museum or museum building back then. The artworks were displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts. It was only in 1999 that S.M.A.K., the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors in the current museum building.

Now you can become a member of the Friends of S.M.A.K. yourself. You can attend guided tours and lectures, help build up the collection and help push for a bigger museum.

What happens before the opening of new exhibitions?

Before opening new exhibitions, a lot happens behind the scenes. The Ambassadors of 2022-2023, from the Mandala school in Ghent, find out how the exhibitions of Grace Ndiritu and Haegue Yang were prepared.

What if an artwork is accidentally sucked up with a hoover while polishing?

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An accident happens quickly, but museum staff know very well what they are doing. After the exhibition, all materials that you cannot keep and may spoil have to be disposed of again.

In the case of Artur Barrio's artwork, with coffee grounds and breads, you cannot keep. These go into the trash after the exhibition and new loaves of bread and coffee are bought at the next display. Or think of Ann Veronica Janssens' work with blue glitter, which is always strewn out again at a new exhibition.

How do you repair an artwork?

S.M.A.K. conservator Rebecca Heremans takes the Ambassadors to the restoration studio of the museum and explains what happens if one of the eggs from Marcel Broodthaers brakes.

Where do heritage guardians sleep? Is it dangerous at night?

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A heritage guard recounts his own experience: "I have never fallen asleep while working. Sometimes when it is very quiet in the museum, which rarely happens, your eyes dare to get heavy. Then you have to stand up quickly and walk around. There used to be a night watchman in uniform, with a gun. Today this function no longer exists, in the evening we, the heritage guards, go home and the whole museum building is secured by an alarm.

What is the job of a conservator?

To prevent our artworks from getting 'sick' or damaged, we try to make the surroundings as optimal as possible. S.M.A.K. conservator Rebecca Heremans takes the Ambassadors to the restoration studio and explains what a conservator does.

Who decides which works of art can be seen in a museum?

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The curator - that's the name of the person - considers, often in consultation with the artist, which artworks are best suited to what the exhibition is about and in which place in the museum the works will be shown to their best advantage.

What if all the artworks run out and no more art is made?

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Art per se does not exist. A work of art exists. An artist exists. A viewer exists. Art is the sum of those three Ks (Artwork + Artist + Viewer). The third ingredient is the audience. "Jeder mensch ist ein Künstler" or "Every person is an artist", said Joseph Beuys. So as long as there are people, there will be art. An artist wants to use images to show and tell something. After a museum visit, you often come out with more questions than when you walked into the museum. You don't look at a work of art, you look with a work of art. Because how you look and what you see or don't see also tells you something about yourself.

Where are the artworks located when they are not on view?

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We keep drawings and paintings in the painting depot. In S.M.A.K. we call this the 'klima'. This is a closed room where the temperature and humidity are always kept the same. Exactly as required so that the artworks do not break down and are preserved forever. We store sculptures in the 3D depot or the palette rack room. On large racks, sculptures have their own unique place. Very large works are kept in an external depot, outside the museum. Like under the stands of the Ghelamco arena, the football stadium of KAA Gent.

The Ghent city council, in consultation with the Flemish government, wants to draw up a concrete project for a new museum building. This would include an underground floor for more depot space for the S.M.A.K.'s extensive collection.

Why is S.M.A.K. buying a work of art they have yet to create themselves?

Highlights019photo Dirk Pauwels

Untitled (blue glitter) by Ann Veronica Janssens has to be made over and over again. With one big, powerful swing, a museum employee flings the blue glitter onto the floor in a fan. To do this, in addition to bags of glitter, S.M.A.K. needs a certificate from the artist. In it, the artist explains exactly how to do this. This is the artist's unique recipe.

How do you know what the artworks want to say?

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If you are lucky, you can ask the artist or someone who has spoken to the artist (e.g. a guide or a museum staff member) or read a text explaining the meaning of the artwork. You can also discover a lot by looking closely and asking yourself some questions:

What do I see? Look at the work and all its details. What shapes stand out? How are colours used? What draws your attention? What does the work remind you of?

How was the work made? What is it made of? Is it a large or small work? Does it consist of one part or several parts?

What do I think of the work? What do I feel when I look at this work? Talk about it with someone else. What does this person see?

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Are there real works of art on display at S.M.A.K.?

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Short answer: yes! If you want a longer answer, you have to ask other questions. Was this artwork created by the artist himself? Is this the only, original and original work? Are there other versions of this artwork? You might find the answer to these on the label, which is on the wall near the artwork.

How does S.M.A.K. get its artworks?

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The museum is allowed to use an annual budget from the government to purchase new works for the public. To buy the work Grande Casserole de Moules by Marcel Broodthaers, a big mussel party was organised. With the money raised, the museum bought the artwork. Sometimes the museum also receives a donation from an artist or collector or is allowed to borrow a work of art from its owner.

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