Raf Van Severen presents in his magnificent Bauhaus style Gallery at the trendy Godefriduskaai 52 in Antwerp a truly stunning collection of modern Congolese painting over the last 70 years. ‘EXPO CONGO’ 1946-2020 is one of those exhibitions you have to see. Until October 31st.
Text and pictures Hans Knol ten Bensel
An exhibition of modern Congolese painting over the last 70 years? One needs a real expert to show a truly representative collection. Such a connoisseur is Raf Van Severen. His father has worked and lived for 10 years in Congo and has collected their art since the ‘50s, so he was surrounded by these works since early childhood.
“Already in 2018 I paid tribute to my father with an exhibition of contemporary Congolese art.” Raf tells us. “The proceeds of the sale of the catalog I made for that exhibition were donated entirely to an NGO to build 12 schools in Congo. The management of this NGO then put me in touch with Nadia Ensayi, who is now the image curator in the MAS. She told me that in 2020 an exhibition of 100 x Congo in the MAS was going to take place. Then I thought, this is the perfect moment to present my expertise in the subject of Congolese painting and to make a second exhibition, and so I came up with the idea of making an overview of African art from 1946 to the present day. The is also the underlying reason why we find on the on the cover of Nadia’s recent book “Dochter van de dekolonisatie” – freely translated “Daughter of the decolonization” – a work by David Katshiunga, three paintings of which I also exhibit here.
“This exhibition is made up of four different collections” Raf Van Severen tells. “It really offers a beautiful panorama and overview of all the great painters Congo has had from the 1950s to the present day. I have also added the works that I have collected myself in recent years. It is a wonderful pleasure for me to meet again wonderful artists like Bers Grandsinge, a painter born in Congo in ’56 and who lived in NY in the early 80’s.”
A virtual vitrine
Besides his exhibition about African Art, Raf Van Severen also took a wonderful initiative in this digital age: “At Virtual / Vitrine we want to see artists flourish, give them the exposure and recognition they deserve, help them to expand their reach and make meaningful connections. Every week we put a new artist in the “spotlight”. We start with a teaser on social media (Instagram) with a picture of the artists’ work.” Raf tells us. “Further on social media appears a portrait of the artist in front of our Gallery at the Godefriduskaai combined with a short interview. “
The project is run by Raf together with Maya Bogaert (°1990), who is an architect, photographer and story creator. She is involved in the project by taking care of the social media, branding, and artist follow-up. The project also fits perfectly into her own artistic practice: she is fascinated by people, spaces and the stories that connect them all. The business side, such as showing and selling the works is done by Raf Van Severen himself.
“Indeed, after the intro on social media follows a pop-up exhibition, which can then be viewed offline in our showroom or “Vitrine”, every Friday from 2 to 6 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm. The public only knows in the beginning of the week who is featured as weekly artist. In addition to artists, educational tips will also be discussed on social media, to inspire those enthusiastic people who can then learn to grow as a person/artist.
“So, showing the work of the young artist is also important, hence the name Virtual Vitrine?”
We started on June 22nd and the 14th artist is planned for the weekend of October 30-31, he is very talented in working with light installations. We end this initiative with a so-called closing party (by invitation) with all the artists, a live DJ. A real “finissage” and networking moment!”
Virtual/Vitrine: every week on Friday from 2 to 6 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm, a new artist has the showroom at the Raf Van Severen Gallery, until end of October…