Jef Verheyen Window on Infinity

23 March 2024 until 18 August 2024

The KMSKA will devote the spring and summer of 2024 to the experimental Antwerp painter Jef Verheyen. From an early age, this post-war artist probed the essence of art, prompting in him the desire to introduce a new way of looking. Verheyen was concerned more with a sense of spatiality than with the visible world, which led him to focus on light and colour, the twin essences of painting. His works are windows on infinity that not only established him on the neo-avant-garde map, but also placed his home town of Antwerp in the international spotlight.

Engine of the avant-garde

At the age of 25, Verheyen moved to the Milan of Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Gianni Dova and Roberto Crippa. This international avant-garde accelerated his artistic quest to such a degree that he emerged in Antwerp as the engine of an international network centred on ZERO artists like Yves Klein, Günther Uecker and Hermann Goepfert, plus Belgian artists such as Walter Leblanc and Guy Mees.

It was partly on his initiative that the late 1950s witnessed a tipping point, a tabula rasa. Following this recalibration, Verheyen developed an inimitable painting technique in which he applied thin, vaporous layers of paint on top of each other. In doing so, he banished the thick, clotted paint of the expressionists and paved the way towards conceptual art.

'Peintre Flamant'

Verheyen saw himself very much as a painter and he sought throughout his life to reconcile tradition with innovation. His modernist adventure was accompanied by ceramic experiments, non-Western thinking and a Flemish painting tradition from Jan van Eyck to Le Peintre Flamant, as Verheyen teasingly nicknamed himself.

Contemporary resonance

The curators have also invited contemporary artists to cast light on Verheyen’s role as a pioneer of a different way of looking at art. Installations by Ann Veronica Janssens, Kimsooja, Arocha Schraenen and Pieter Vermeersch will intensify visitors’ spatial and visual experience of the exhibition.

Jef Verheyen: Window on Infinity is a collaborative project between two Antwerp partner museums, the KMSKA and M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp). This exhibition is the result of extensive research performed by M HKA in cooperation with the Jef Verheyen Archive.

Photo at top: Filip Tas - Collection Fotomuseum Antwerp