The ‘Berckelaer Donation 2021’ consists of 57 ‘lacuna’ drawings on paper, in which Seuphor used horizontal lines of varying length to create forms from the space left blank. It was a painstaking approach to art, for which Seuphor drew inspiration from the abstract artist Piet Mondrian and the horizon of the Port of Antwerp. Each of the 57 drawings stands in its own right, although some can also be combined to form a larger composition.
Never before has the museum received such a large collection from one abstract artist. The importance of donations like this cannot be overstated: many institutions owe the scale of their current collection to donors and the KMSKA is no exception. Almost 40% of the museum’s holdings were originally donated.
The refurbished museum will also have a print room, a darkened, protective environment in which to show works on paper, which are extremely sensitive to light. It’s the perfect place to exhibit the donation for the first time.
‘A print room in the new museum is an important step forward’, says Adriaan Gonnissen, researcher at the KMSKA’s 20th-century collection. ‘Showing works on paper always entails extra risks due to their sensitivity to light. Because of this, many of the ones in our collection were rarely shown in the past. Now they will have a place of their own. The print room will stage a new presentation roughly three times a year, making it the perfect location for curators to experiment. They can regularly try out ideas, stories and compositions on the walls.’
Seuphor in Antwerp
The donation also has an important role to play for the city of Antwerp, Michel Seuphor’s birthplace. It was here that he began his artistic development and grew into a cultural jack-of-all-trades, active as a poet, critic, art historian and artist. He was also a key figure in Antwerp and European modernism. Shortly after the First World War, for instance, he founded the modernist, avant-garde magazine Het overzicht (‘The Review’).
It is extremely important for the family to be able to share their grandfather’s work with the world and in so doing to respect his wishes. The fact that they are doing so in cooperation with the KMSKA in Antwerp is in itself an important step.