press release

The MACBA will present the most extensive show to date of the Herbert Collection (Ghent, Belgium), which is not yet widely known by the public. This exhibition, which will take up most exhibition rooms of the Museum, includes one hundred fifty works by the most well known artists from Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and Arte Povera.

For Annick and Anton Herbert, collecting art is about commitment and, at the same time, participating in social structures. They began to collect in 1973. Driven by a desire to find depth in relation to their acquisitions, they chose languages that avoided grandiloquence and over-confidence. In the Herbert Collection there is no place for the spectacular; no Pop artists, no Neo-expressionists, nor those representatives of the emphatic or “passionate gesture.” Nor are diffuse structures, such as the happenings, the Fluxus movement, Viennese Actionism or performances to be found. Annick and Anton Herbert, committed defenders of Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Arte Povera, converted the idea of what is “essential”- not “superficial”- into one of their collecting guidelines. As a consequence, their first acquisitions were works by Carl Andre, On Kawara, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, Daniel Buren, among others.

The Herberts’ attitude, however, did not represent any isolated case. Gallery owners such as Konrad Fischer, Fernand Spillemaeckers, Jack Wendler, Art & Project, and Nicholas Logsdail developed similar guidelines supporting determined artists, which ended up consolidating into a definite stance.

The timeline of the Herbert Collection is organized around two extremely important political moments: the student revolt of 1968 with its emphasis on the emancipation and liberation of the individual, and 1989, which marked the end of communism and the beginning of an era of technological materialism. This gives the collection an undeniably social profile: the young counter-revolutionary movement, the rebellion against the restorative tendencies of the post-War years, the reconsideration of the relationships between the sexes, and the sensibility of a generation confronted with society’s power structures.

Subjectivity, partiality and independence are all characteristics of the Herbert Collection, the spirit of which was explained by Anton Herbert in one sentence: “We have not collected works of art, but a new way of thinking.”

Other artists represented are Art & Language, Marcel Broodthaers, Luciano Fabro, Gilbert & George, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Donald Judd, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley, Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounnellis, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Mario Merz, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Jan Vercruysse, Franz West.

This collection is little known to the general public since the owners have always been reticent about showing it at temporary exhibitions in other institutions. Until now there had only been two partial presentations, the first at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in 1984, with the title “L’architecte est absent. Répertoire”, and the second, “Many colored objects placed side by side to form a row of many colored objects. Programme”, presented in 2000 in Luxembourg.

Now, shortly before the opening to the public of the Annick and Anton Herbert Foundation in Ghent, MACBA is presenting this exhibition, which aims to open a dialogue between two different collections, one private and the other public, raising different issues about collecting, memory or history.

Publication: Public Space /Two Audiences. Works and Documents from the Herbert Collection. Inventaire This book is published by Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain and Kunsthaus Graz, Austria on the occasion of the exhibition. In its first part, besides contributions by Anne Rorimer (“Minimal Art, Arte Povera, Conceptual Art: Reflections on the Herbert Collection”) and Diederich Diederichsen (“Artistic Theories of Public Space ­ A Prehistory of Interactivity”), it presents the transcription of a round table during which Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Peter Pakesch, Anton Herbert and Hans-Joachim Müller as moderator discussed various issues related to private and public contemporary art collections. Its second and longest part presents a selection of the works in the Collection, together with documents which can be found in the Herbert's archive.


only in german

Public Space /Two Audiences
Works and Documents from the Herbert Collection
Kurator: Manuel Borja-Villel
Co-Produktion: Museu d´Art Contemporani, Barcelona; Kunsthaus Graz

Werke von Carl Andre, Art & Language (Michael Baldwin / Mel Ramsden), John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Daniel Buren, Luciano Fabro, Dan Graham, On Kawara, Thomas Schütte, Lawrence Weiner, u.a.