Johan Tahon: Embrace is on view at IKOB – Museum For Contemporary Art, Eupen
October 11, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Johan Tahon was born in Menen/Menin in 1965. He lives and works in Oudenaarde (Belgium). He studied sculpture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, and is recognized as one of the most important Belgian artists of his generation.
Tahon is no stranger to IKOB – Museum of Contemporary Art, where he previously exhibited his works in 2007 together with Ronny Delrue, and having been presented in various shows of the museum’s collection ever since. Prompting his return to Eupen was a conversation in which the artist openly confessed a desire to revise his work “Xanax” (2006), which has been part of IKOB’s collection for sixteen years. The resulting exhibition project, “Umarmung” (Embrace), tackles the pressing questions of art, its conservation, related copyright claims, and the general purpose of museums.
Together with the artist, we decided to give him permission to alter his own work. For many observers, this might seem like a first, for others it might amount to blasphemy, since museums are generally understood to be the custodians of artworks, shielding them from modifications, damage, and transformation — if need be, even against the intention of the artists themselves. As a museum, however, we are convinced that we need to ask ourselves whether this position, held by museums for more than a century, still applies today, or whether there is a need for a new form collaboration between museums and artists, the details of which would still need to be negotiated. Tahon’s modified work therefore is the center of “Umarmung,” and marks the beginning of an unprecedented dialogue between artists and museums about adjustments to their works.
The reinterpreted work is accompanied by newer pieces by the artist, as well as older ones from the IKOB collection. The aim is to show his practice in the context of older works, to point out new developments and old passions, and to showcase the connection between IKOB and Johan Tahon as it is: an embrace, which manifests through a trusting dialogue about the museum’s sensitive handling of artworks and their creators.
IKOB – Museum For Contemporary Art
Photos by Lola Pertsowsky