In 2010 The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp invited visual artist Jan Vanriet to design a grand itinerary through the galleries of the Old and the Modern Masters.
For the Closing Time exhibition, Jan Vanriet (°1948, Antwerp) selected no fewer than 175 works from his thematic series of the past twenty years. He presented these works in combination with 150 thematically or stylistically related pieces from the museum collection. Vanriet did not only confront his work with masterpieces that are permanently on display in the museum galleries, but also with never-displayed treasures from the reserve.
Vanriet as a painter and a curator
To make this exhibition possible, almost all of the rooms in the museum had to be rearranged. Most of the collection pieces on display were not shown in their usual location, but in a different room, with different dimensions, proportions and lighting. The chronological order of the collection had to be abandoned. Instead, Vanriet combined pieces for thematic or stylistic reasons, on the basis of colour, motif, design, etc. This way, the paintings entered into a dialogue, a mutually enhancing confrontation, so that all the works featured in the show - be they from the museum collection or by Jan Vanriet - assumed new and multiple meanings. It was up to the visitor to explore the relationships, affinities and tensions within the ensembles of paintings.
Image meets narrative
Closing Time was an exhibition in twenty chapters. The names of the various rooms were mostly borrowed from titles of previous painting series or exhibitions by Vanriet. His familiar themes of parents and relatives, politics and war, ideology and downfall were combined into a new, encompassing narrative, an absorbing contemporary account of the complexity of human existence and of human failing. Old Masters suddenly became strikingly topical, and Vanriet became part of an age-old tradition. Each room in the exhibition was thematically constructed around one or several key works of art, resulting in an engaging encounter of image and narrative. The final room was a cabinet of drawings by Jan Vanriet accompanied by some documentary photographs by Herman Selleslags.
Download the visitors' guide (PDF, 748 kB)
This exhibition was accompanied by the publication Closing Time. Jan Vanriet written by Eric Rinckhout and Maarten Doorman and illustrated with photos by Herman Selleslags.