Art collection of late curator Jan Hoet raises high prices at auction in Antwerp

Art collection of late curator Jan Hoet raises high prices at auction in Antwerp
Jan Hoet inside the SMAK. © SMAK

A selection of works from the private collection of the late Jan Hoet, curator and founder of the Municipal Museum for Contemporary Art (SMAK) in Ghent, was sold this week at auction in Antwerp, raising almost double the expected €60,000.

The selection was put together by Hoet’s son Jan and two daughters Martine and Marianne and the sale was intended to help finance the curation of the rest of Hoet’s extensive art collection. The sale was made up mainly of Belgian works, including work by Panamarenko, Wim Delvoye, Hugo Claus and Roger Raveel, as well as Hoet himself.

“Certain pieces have really brought in a lot of money,” said Jan Hoet Junior afterwards. “For example, a lithograph by Marina Abramovic, which was touched up by hand, sold for €13,000.”

The selection was made by Jan Jnr and his sisters. “The selection is intended for the Belgian market. Auction house Bernaerts researched the works together with us and they have done their homework well.”

Hoet was born in Leuven in 1936, one of seven children, and qualified as a drawing teacher, later obtaining a diploma in art history from Ghent University.

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In 1975, Hoet became director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, which at the time was no more than a few rooms in the Fine Arts Museum. In 1999 he finally achieved his dream of opening the SMAK as its curator, but the dream was short-lived, and three years later he was forced to retire by the Belgian law for civil servants.

However, he remained in demand in the art world, as a guest curator for exhibitions from Tokyo to Arnhem.

But his health was deteriorating and he was admitted to hospital in Germany with a severe lung infection which required him to be maintained in an artificial coma. Later he suffered a heart attack on his way to a kidney dialysis session. He died in February 2014.

Later that year, Ghent city council decided to rename the square that separates the SMAK from the nearby Fine Arts Museum in honour of Hoet.

“We have archived a lot of works over the past three years,” Jan Jnr told the VRT, explaining where the money raised by the auction will go.

“We have had many of them framed and that was already a large amount. Now we are continuing to preserve the other works,” he said. “Everything costs money, the museum and the city of Ghent also have that problem. We hope to be able to open up the collection in the future.”


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