The Library is the result of a long dialogue between the artist and Philippe Van Cauteren, director of S.M.A.K., in response to a donation that Koen Broucke wanted to make to the museum.
This conversation began in 2013 and focused on how his diverse oeuvre could become part of the S.M.A.K. collection. The significance of Broucke's work lies not only in the concrete works of art - paintings, drawings, sketches, texts, performances and the like - that he creates, but also in what happens between those works.
The challenge of The Library is to make this in-between space visible, to give the viewer insight into how Koen Broucke's artistic thinking functions. After all, for a museum like S.M.A.K., collecting is more than simply accumulating works of art; it is also holding on to and making visible the artist's mentality. This is often done by means of paintings, drawings or objects, but in Koen Broucke's case also by means of a collection of books, which were invariably present in his studio, and which comprise, as it were, the artistic field in which he operates. This collection, like Broucke's artistic practice, is highly diverse and includes not only books on art, but also literature, poetry, biographies, history, music, etc.
This monumental piece of library furniture, a replica of the original designed in the studio by Renaat Nyckees, forms, as it were, the humus layer in and around which Koen Brouckes' paintings, drawings and sketchbooks are displayed and preserved.
The complete inventory of The Library was also published in an artist's book of the same name, with handwritten notes by the artist and texts by Leen Huet and Philippe Van Cauteren.
Koen Broucke (b. 1965, Sint-Amandsberg) is a visual artist, historian and performer.
The following excerpt from Philippe Van Cauteren's letter to Koen Broucke gives the spectator an insight into the contours of this project
"It is not surprising that, as a historian, you’re interested in events, in how history is created, coloured and packaged. But should we understand your escapist tendency as a comment on the present, perhaps even a denial of it, or more as a romantic projection towards that which is no more? We’ve been talking for a few years now, trying to find the right form for your work to become part of the S.M.A.K. collection. The starting point is your generous gesture to donate work to the museum. From day one, the challenge has been to find a form that does justice to both the stratification and complexity of your oeuvre. Its meaning lies not only in the individual works themselves, but also in what happens between them, the transitions, the glissandos. The challenge is to make that slippage visible, to show the viewer how Koen Broucke’s artistic thought processes operate. Collecting is about more than accumulating objects, it is also about trying to hold on to the artist’s attitude, often via paintings, drawings, objects.... But in your case, also through a collection of books, a wall full of books, both read and unread, that circumscribe the terrain in which Koen Broucke moves. Literature, poetry, biographies, military history, art, music.... a vertical and juxtaposed stack of books, a climbing wall for the imagination. This screen of books forms the layer of humus against which paintings are displayed, and in which sketchbooks are kept. An inventory of every volume on the bookcase will be published as an artist’s book. The inventory is the score of Koen Broucke’s imagination, a score that is performed by walking through it with your eyes, by connecting books with each other.”