The Absent Museum
Editor: Dirk Snauwaert
Essays: Manuel Borja-Villel, Charles Esche, Dirk Snauwaert
Contributing artists: Francis Alÿs, Archives of the Universal Embassy, Younes Baba-Ali, Jo Baer, Monika Baer, Sammy Baloji, Guillaume Bijl, Dirk Braeckman, Marcel Broodthaers, stanley brouwn, Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, Marlene Dumas, Jimmie Durham, Jana Euler, Olivier Foulon, Michel François, Ellen Gallagher, Mekhitar Garabedian, Isa Genzken, Jef Geys, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Thomas Hirschhorn, Carsten Höller, Cameron Jamie, Ann Veronica Janssens, Martin Kippenberger, Goshka Macuga, Mark Manders, Lucy McKenzie, Wesley Meuris, Nástio Mosquito, Jean-Luc Moulène, Le Mur, Oscar Murillo, Otobong Nkanga, Felix Nussbaum, Willem Oorebeek, Marina Pinsky, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Gerhard Richter, Walter Swennen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rosemarie Trockel, Luc Tuymans, Peter Wächtler, Christopher Williams, Nil Yalter
Design: Boy Vereecken, assisted by Antoine Begon
Distribution: Exhibitions International, Actes Sud, Yale University Press
Print run: 3,500 ENG
Although museums – especially those devoted to contemporary art – have never been so popular, they remain notably absent from public debate on most key current issues. To mark its 10th anniversary, WIELS proposes The Absent Museum, conceived as a ‘blueprint for a museum of contemporary art for the capital of Europe’. This speculative exhibition and its accompanying publication address the challenges that both museums and artists face today. The participating artists all come from the wider region, from Amsterdam to Paris, from Cologne and Düsseldorf to London, with Brussels at the crossroads. In Brussels, as in many metropolitan areas, discussions around the creation of a new museum focus on a building or a collection, but avoid a fundamental question: How can they represent the current tensions between neoliberalism and globalisation, and their effects on individual voices and communities alike?
Included in the publication are original contributions by 47 contemporary and historical artists, translating their works to the book’s pages and setting forth certain directions for the future. Divided into two sections, in parallel with the exhibition’s dual retrospective and prospective focus, the pages devoted to the works on display feature both curatorial entries and artist’s texts. Editor and artistic director Dirk Snauwaert, who has been at the helm of WIELS since its inception, presents a critical account on the stakes of the art centre’s role. Two fellow museum directors, Charles Esche of Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum and Manuel Borja-Villel of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, act as respondents in their respective essays.