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Art Contemporain [Flem. Kunst van Heden].

Belgian exhibiting society of artists founded on 1 March 1905 in Antwerp and active from 1905 to 1955. Its founder, the dealer François Franck (1872–1932), was motivated by the many short-lived attempts by Antwerp artists to set up an artistic forum alongside or in opposition to the Société pour l’Encouragement des Beaux-Arts (founded in 1788) and the Cercle Artistique (founded in 1852). The society organized annual exhibitions in which the work of one or several late 19th century or contemporary artists was featured on a spectacular scale (e.g. Alfred Stevens in 1907), with artist-members often showing alongside representative groups of foreigners. Between 1918 and 1939 Art Contemporain gained a dominant position in the artistic life of Antwerp through its membership structure. The enterprise was financially supported by enthusiasts: dealers such as Henri Fester (1849–1939) and politically committed intellectuals such as G. Serigiers (1858–1930), Louis Franck (1869–1937), Pol De Mont (1857–1931) and Emmanuel De Bom (1868–1953). This group regarded the promotion of ‘sincere and remarkable works of art, to whichever movement they might belong’ as a prestigious mission to society. The multifarious, sometimes precarious composition of the society made it wary of particularly innovative art, and after exhibiting work by the Ecole de Paris there was open internal conflict, which brought further criticism from Antwerp’s avant-garde artists. Nevertheless the work of members such as Jakob Smits, Albert Servaes, Georg Minne, Léon Spilliaert, Rik Wouters, Auguste Oleffe, Gustave Van de Woestyne, Edgard Tytgat, Gustave De Smet, Constant Permeke, Jean Brusselmans and others received ample attention. Ensor James was particularly fortunate to be promoted by Art Contemporain both at home and abroad. The close collaboration between the society and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp has a continuing significance as a result of the museum’s purchases at the time, the gifts given by Friends of Modern Art (after 1925) and those of individuals, of which Charles Franck (1870–1935) and François Franck were the most prominent.

 


Ensor James
Skeletons Trying to Warm Themselves

 

 
 

 

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