The exhibition brings together forty top works from the Matthys-Colle private collection, which S.M.A.K. received on long-term loan, and the S.M.A.K. museum collection.
In 2019, the Flemish Community acquired ‘Great American Nude #45’ (1963) by Tom Wesselmann from the Matthys-Colle Collection. The purchase was coupled with the long-term loan of thirty-nine other artworks from the same collection to the museum. This event marked the starting point of a unique and important public-private partnership in Belgium, from which this exhibition stems. Representative works of pop art from the Matthys-Colle Collection by Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Konrad Klapheck and others are brought together with a selection from the S.M.A.K. collection.
Pop art originated in London and New York in the 1950s and was initially a Western phenomenon. As a visual response to the unprecedented consumerism of the 1960s, its imagery was borrowed from the mass media world of advertising, magazines, television and film. The accessible style quickly captured the imagination of many young European artists and they too embraced the movement.
Pop art penetrated deeply into everyday life and gave rise to images so distinct and recognisable that their presence can still be felt today. The issues that formed a rich breeding ground for the pop art artists are as blisteringly topical as ever: from mass consumption and technological progress to sexual morality, race riots and gender equality. Not only do the themes remain recognisable to this very day, but pop art also remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the fashion, design and broader entertainment industries.
With works by among others Evelyne Axell, Christo, Tetsumi Kudo, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Daniel Spoerri, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Panamarenko, Martial Raysse, Gerhard Richter en Robert Rauschenberg.
This exhibition is part of a long-term collaboration between the museum and the Matthys-Colle Foundation. Since last year, S.M.A.K. has been managing a number of artworks from the prestigious collection of Mr Roger and Mrs Hilda Matthys-Colle. The couple collected the visual arts for the majority of the second half of the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on innovative artistic attitudes. Their focus was mainly abroad, where in cities such as New York, Paris and Düsseldorf they purchased work by international artists whose oeuvres were in full development at the time. The collection includes outstanding works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly, Franz West and Thomas Schütte.
Roger Matthys was, together with Karel Geirlandt one of the founders of the Vereniging voor het Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (V.M.H.K.), now the Friends of S.M.A.K., in 1957. At the time, the V.M.H.K. strove for contemporary art’s public right to exist in our region and purchased artworks with a view to establishing an autonomous contemporary art museum. Under Matthys’ chairmanship of the V.M.H.K. (1974-1979), the Museum of Contemporary Art (M.H.K.), now S.M.A.K., was finally established in 1975. Thanks to his vision and international connections, Matthys was hugely influential in shaping the V.M.H.K.’s collection. The parallels between the Matthys-Colle collection and that of the V.M.H.K. are plain to see.