This year’s Ultima for lifetime services to culture – the new name for the Flemish government’s culture prizes – goes to Luc Tuymans, the painter celebrated the world over.
Tuymans last week saw the end of the exhibition La Pelle in Venice, which had attracted crowds since its opening in March last year, despite the weather and flooding problems the city had experienced. He is now preparing an exhibition of new works in Hong Kong.
“Luc Tuymans belongs among the greatest of contemporary artists,” said Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon, who is also responsible for culture. “The professional jury judged that the two exhibitions of the past year were the crowning point of his career.”
Tuymans was born in Mortsel near Antwerp in 1958, and he still lives and works in the port city. He began his studies at the Sint-Lukas institute in Brussels, then at La Cambre art school in Ixelles and the Fine Arts academy in Antwerp. He then gave up painting altogether, and experimented instead with video and film for three years from 1982 to 1985.
But just as the work of El Greco had brought him into art in the first place, paint brought him back to the easel, and would in time make him into one of the leading figurative painters of his generation. His works have been shown in exhibitions worldwide, and belong to collections of major institutions in New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Maastricht and his home town of Antwerp.
According to the prize jury’s citation, Tuymans merits the prize “because he is incontrovertibly at the top of his career, has an enormous impact on the international stage, and seldom seeks publicity for his generosity towards young artists and artistic initiatives.”
He is also, however, unforgiving in his criticism, for example regarding the decision by the government of Jambon at the end of last year to cut deeply into cultural subsidies, what he described in an interview with De Morgen as “a dangerous situation”.
“Nobody invited me, or the cultural sector as a whole, for a dialogue,” he said then. This government and this non-minister of culture [Jambon himself] have created their vision of the future of Flemish culture out of whole cloth. I can only say I find it utterly mistaken.”
Tuymans has said he will be present next month at the ceremony in the Concertgebouw in Bruges for the presentation of his culture award, and the others yet to be announced.