The first steps towards the present museum were set as far back as the Fifties when the first works were brought together. Later, when the collection was displayed to the public, the S.M.A.K. shared premises with Ghent's Fine Arts Museum that still sits opposite the present S.M.A.K. building. It was only in 1999 that S.M.A.K. gained its own premises, largely thanks to the tireless efforts of its then curator Jan Hoet, culture guru and legend in the Flemish contemporary arts scene.
The current S.M.A.K. Director, Philippe Van Cauteren, is currently brooding on plans for a new museum building. The present, non-purpose built building no longer meets the demands of a major contemporary art museum. This probably explains the name of the present exhibition, "Highlights for a Future". The exhibition opened last March and runs until 29 September 2019. All the works on show belong to S.M.A.K.'s own collection of contemporary art created after 1945. The S.M.A.K. collection consists of 2,500 works including big international names like Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon (detail below), David Hockney (further below), Joseph Beuys and James Welling (bottom) as well as all the big Belgian and Flemish names from the contemporary art scene: Panamarenko (top), Luc Tuymans and Marcel Broodthaers just to name a few.
Curators had the difficult job of selecting 150 works for the present exhibition. You will find familiar classics, but also "highlights for the future", works by artists who may enjoy far greater fame in years to come! Most of the works are on show at the S.M.A.K. Building, but don't forget to cross the road to the Fine Arts Museum, where you can admire Panamarenko's "Aeromodeller", one of the most legendary of the artist's airships that largely because of its size hasn't been displayed since 2005. Here too you'll find Joseph Beuys's 'Wirtschaftswerte' (or economic value), a "social sculpture" in which food from the former GDR is displayed on metal racks.
Next weekend's Happening on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 May forms the highlight of the S.M.A.K. at Twenty celebrations. Together with the Fine Arts Museum S.M.A.K. has invited countless artists, musicians, poets, dancers and writers to have their say on what a museum of the future should look like. There will be concerts, talks, tours, lectures, workshops and discussions as well as much much more in and around S.M.A.K. next weekend. The neighbouring Floraliënhal, the hall used for the Floralies or Ghent Flower Show, is part of the venue for the festivities. There will be a party atmosphere for all, with animation for kids too provided, while food trucks should offer a hearty bite to eat and who knows something interesting to drink.
For more details on who is coming when log onto the S.M.A.K. website.
All events outside, in the S.M.A.K. entrance hall and in the Floraliënhal are free. One day and weekend tickets to visit S.M.A.K. alone or combined with the Fine Arts Museum are available too. The cheapest is 15 euros.
S.M.A.K. is located in the Citadel Park in Ghent, ten minutes’ walk from the Gent-Sint-Pieters railway station.