In 2019, the Flemish Community-acquired ‘Great American Nude #45’ (1963) by Tom Wesselmann from the Matthys-Colle Collection. The purchase was coupled with the long-term loan of thirty-nine other artworks from the same collection to the museum.
This event marked the starting point of a unique and important public-private partnership in Belgium, from which the exhibition POP ART stems. Representative works of pop art from the Matthys-Colle Collection by Andy Warhol, Tom
Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Konrad Klapheck and others are brought together with a selection from the S.M.A.K. collection.
Pop art originated in London and New York in the 1950s and was initially a Western phenomenon. As a visual response to the unprecedented consumerism of the 1960s, its imagery was borrowed from the mass media world of advertising, magazines, television and film. The accessible style quickly captured the imagination of many young European artists and they too embraced the movement.
Pop art penetrated deeply into everyday life and gave rise to images so distinct and recognisable that their presence can still be felt today. The issues that formed a rich breeding ground for the pop art artists are as blisteringly topical as ever: from mass consumption and technological progress to sexual morality, race riots and gender equality. Not only do the themes remain recognisable to this very day, but pop art also remains an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the fashion, design and broader entertainment industries.
THE COLLECTION MATTHYS-COLLE
The collection of Roger and Hilda Matthys-Colle is one of the most important private collections of post-war art in Belgium. The collection contains important works by world-famous artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly.
Many of the art movements from the second half of the 20th century that are recognised as being of importance today are present in this collection. Movements such as Cobra, Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Arte Povera, Conceptual Art and
Minimal Art are all well represented with one or more works. The provenance of the artworks shows how the couple passionately set out in search of innovative artistic practices.
The collection is, moreover, the private achievement of an important advocate of contemporary art in our country. Indeed, Matthys was one of the founders of the Association for the Museum of Contemporary Art (V.M.H.K.) in 1957. At the time, the V.M.H.K. strove for the public legitimacy of contemporary art and purchased works of art with a view to establishing an autonomous museum for contemporary art. As a member of this association, Matthys sat on the advisory committee of the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts since 1964, where he advocated the acquisition of works by
living (inter)national artists. Under his chairmanship of the V.M.H.K. (1974-1979), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MHK), now S.M.A.K., was finally established in 1975. Works by Valerio Adami, Evelyne Axell, Marcel Broodthaers, Christo, Raoul De Keyser, Guy Degobert, Jim Dine, Etienne Elias, Jef Geys, Raymond Hains, Allen Jones, Konrad Klapheck, Tetsumi Kudo, Roy Lichtenstein, Konrad Lueg, Pol Mara, Claes Oldenburg, Panamarenko, Peter Phillips, Robert Rauschenberg, Roger Raveel, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Martial Raysse, Gerhard Richter, James Rosenquist,
Mimmo Rotella, George Segal, Daniel Spoerri, Emilio Tadini, Jacques Villeglé , Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann.