Museum for a Small City

Museum for a Small City


“The Museum for a Small City should not emulate its metropolitan counterparts. The value of such a museum depends upon the quality of its works of art and the manner in which they are exhibited.” — Mies van der Rohe

The S.M.A.K. collection presented, (re)-viewed and (re)-visited — an exhibition project by Richard Venlet.

Museum for a Small City is an exhibition by the Brussels-based artist Richard Venlet (°1964, Hamilton, Australia). His work combines a variety of disciplines such as sculpture, art-historical research, exhibition design and architecture as well as collaborative and artistic curatorial approaches – he often incorporates the work of other artists. For this project, Richard Venlet works with the S.M.A.K. collection and archives. On a plinth-like exhibition device designed by the artist, claiming an autonomous space in the museum, he ‘performs’ a succession of ‘museum- material’ such as artworks, artefacts and documentation. Through the public staging of ‘cases’ – a series of lectures, conversations and other happenings, featuring guests like a.o. Charles Van Den Hove and Heimo Zobernig – the artist further activates and questions the frequently changing constellations in his temporary museum. Comprising 66 single carpet-covered elements, this modular floor component covers a huge area of the S.M.A.K.’s left wing. The visitors enter a new exhibition space providing access to the museum’s depot facility and the archive featuring the information due to come under the spotlight in the coming months. The sculptures Lemurenkopf I en Lemurenkopf II (both from 1991) by Franz West will permanently accompany this exhibition, which is set to grow organically during the course of the event. Venlet will systematically add further works and documents by very many artists including Marcel Broodthaers, Thierry De Cordier, Martin Kippenberger, General Idea and Art & Language. It is also in this context that the exhibition’s title, Museum for a Small City has to be understood. Richard Venlet appropriated it from the architect Mies van der Rohe, who developed a similarly named study in 1942, driven by the desire to minimize the presence of architecture in order to maximise the space earmarked for the paintings and sculptures on display. Now part of the collection belonging to the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Van der Rohe’s sketches show a large, glass-enclosed space, divided by free-standing screens against which the works of art could be placed, Richard Venlet has reproduced not only the title of the architectural study but also the prototypical modernist idea of the potentially endless grid providing his floor component with a structure. Richard Venlet approaches the S.M.A.K.’s collection as a collection of blind spots, on the basis of which a spate of new features and narratives are to be revealed. The continuous movements on the platform will be interrupted by talks and lectures approached as public ‘cases’ hosted by Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders, the collaborative platform of Flanders’ four main contemporary museums, with next to S.M.A.K. also Mu.ZEE (Ostend), M HKA & Middelheimmuseum (Antwerp).

The project is organized by S.M.A.K. in cooperation with the Research Council of LUCA School of Arts, OPAK, Research Platform for Architecture and the Arts, and CAHF, Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders.


Commissioned by Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders, the collaborative platform of Flanders’ four main contemporary museums, with next to S.M.A.K. also Mu.ZEE (Ostend), M HKA & Middelheimmuseum (Antwerp)

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