MUNICH.- "Je déteste le décor" this remark made by Herman Daled illustrates his refusal to hang art on the wall, thereby misusing it as decoration.
In 1966, the Brussels-based Belgian doctor Herman Daled (b. 1930) and his wife at that time, Nicole Verstraeten (b. 1931; lawyer), began building their collection of conceptual art.
The couple did not simply purchase artists' works, but also allowed them to create their art beyond the conventional mechanisms of the art market. Herman and Nicole Daled funded projects, financed publications and even paid artists a salary.
Their principles for collecting art included:
never buy works by deceased artists
never purchase works on the secondary market
never re-sell works.
Herman und Nicole Daleds' aim was by no means just to accumulate art works. The works in their collection can be regarded as the remnants of the couple's active participation in the local and international art scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The exhibition is devoted exclusively to art works purchased between 1966 and 1978. Along with such works, the show will illustrate the collection's origins using meticulously gathered and archived documents that attest their involvement in actions and nonpermanent works.
Encouraged by his boss at that time, Dr. Albert Claude, a cytologist and Nobel Prize laureate in medicine for whom Herman Daled worked for six years, the couple began to focus their attention on contemporary art. The Daleds discovered Marcel Broodthaers' work and were deeply impressed by his personality. Their encounter with the artist led to their first purchase, Broodthaers' "Robe de Maria" (1966), which would prove decisive for the future development of their collection. Their ensuing friendship with the artist provided the couple access to the inner circles of the art scene at that time.
Broodthaers was to become the key figure and most important artist in the collection, which includes approximately 80 of his works. His work had been considered seminal in many ways since the 1970s: The artist created standards for art that included social references without relinquishing the demand for the "sovereign independence" of art, but instead reinventing it time and again.
The collection developed concentrically and was influenced by the couple's personal encounters and discussions with artists. Herman Daled compared this collecting process with that of a jazz-lover who purchases records bit by bit. In 1969 many important exhibitions dedicated to conceptual art were mounted that would become parameters for the movement; these were closely followed by the Daleds and included "Op losse schroeven: situaties en cryptostructuren" in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (March/April 1969), "When Attitudes Become Form. Works Concepts Processes Situations Information: Live in Your Head," Kunsthalle Bern (and other locations), (March/April 1969) and "Konzeption Conception: Dokumentation einer heutigen Kunstrichtung," Städtisches Museum, Leverkusen (October/November 1969). Curated by Harald Szeemann, the 1972 Documenta V, which included a section devoted to conceptual art, ultimately led to the "consecration" (Herman Daled) of the art form. At the same time, the Daleds kept an eye on and visited many European and American galleries, including Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf; Michael Werner, Cologne; Art & Project, Amsterdam; Jack Wendler, London and Leo Castelli, New York.
Herman Daled emphasizes that at that time they were standing face to face with a movement the later importance of which was not yet obvious. It was the period in which many conceptual artists were taking their first creative steps.
In their radical nature as collectors Herman and Nicole Daled were second to none of the artists working at that time. Their attitude with regard to the examination of one of the most important movements in recent art history was uncompromising and characterized by curiosity, openness and generosity. Marcel Broodthaers, who was visited by many artists during their tours of Europe, described the atmosphere in the Daled home: "On peut y boire, manger, fumer et en plus ils achčtent!" ("One can drink, eat and smoke there, and, on top of that, they buy!")
The collaboration between the Daleds and the artists included agreements in which the purchase of works by the collectors became a separate project subject to particular conditions. Thus the couple bought a work by Niele Toroni in 1969 and then purchased the same work again in January 1971 for a price that reflected the increase in the cost of living. In 1970 they signed an agreement with Daniel Buren; agreeing not to buy any other art works, the Daleds received one work by the artist each month for a year, with the purchase of works by Marcel Broodthaers being the only exception. Entitled "a private collector," the project was published in Art & Project Bulletin 45. That same year Herman Daled visited Lawrence Weiner's exhibition in Berlin's Galerie Folker Skulima and bought all three of the exhibited works. However, because of their agreement with Buren, the purchase of Weiner's works was only finalized the following year. With the help of lawyer Michel Claura, Daled had a professional French translation made of Seth Siegelaub's "Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement" in summer 1971. The contact, which had been drawn up shortly before in English, also guaranteed the artist rights on works that had already been sold. In 1972 Herman and Nicole Daled purchased a work by Ian Wilson that was based on a conversation between the artist and Herman Daled and Fernand Spillemaeckers that had taken place on 10 September of that same year.
The Daleds' many activities included their help financing the alternative exhibition space, A 379089, established in Antwerp in 1969. Under the direction of Kasper König, exhibitions and performances by artists like James Lee Byars, Daniel Buren, Jörg Immendorff, Ben Vautier and La Monte Young were held there.
In February 1970 they organized James Lee Byars' "T.V. Ball" at Garden Store Louise. Among the works on view was "The Pink Silk Airplane" (also known as "Robe pour cent personnes" and "A Pink Silk Airplane for 100", 1969), a huge rose-colored silk fabric for 100 people sitting on the floor next to each other in rows of two as in an airplane. Under the artist's instructions, the fabric was cut into pieces large enough to accommodate two or three individuals over the course of the evening.
In 1971 Nicole Daled organized Gilbert & George's first appearance as "Living Sculptures" in Brussels, where they met their future gallerist, Ileana Sonnabend.
In the shopping arcade Galerie le Bailli, in which several Brussels art dealers were opening galleries at that time, the Daleds rented a show case, as well as the front wall opposite it. Beginning in March 1973, they presented a work by Daniel Buren there: the striped bands of paper were wall papered in new colors for each opening until 1975.
In 1978 Herman and Nicole Daled bought a series comprised of 70 works from the exhibition, "Abdrücke eines Pinsels Nr. 50, wiederholt in regelmäßigen Abständen (30 cm)," Kunsthalle Bern (April/May 1978). This purchase marked the end of the couple's rigorous collecting activities. By this point the Daleds had bought works from all artists they regarded as important; decisive changes in their private lives at the times also led to this decision. In 1973 Herman Daled became the director of the radiology department in a private clinic in Brussels, also assuming financial responsibility for the department. In 1977 Herman and Nicole Daled separated and Herman Daled moved into Hôtel Wolfers, designed by Henri van de Velde and built in 1930, where he organized exhibitions of Robert Mapplethorpe, Niele Toroni and Dan Graham in the 1980s.
Both Herman and Nicole Daled continue to sporadically purchase works by young artists independent of one another; these activities, however, do not compare with their commitment to the art scene in the years between 1966 and 1978. Their support of projects and institutions also persists; the establishment of Wiels Centre d'art contemporain, the largest institution for contemporary art in Brussels today, is thanks to one of Herman Daled's initiatives.
The collection includes works by Daniel Buren, Marcel Broodthaers, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Robert Filliou, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Niele Toroni, Lawrence Weiner and others. Although many solo and thematic exhibitions have included loans from Herman and Nicole Daled's collection, they have never presented it on its own. The only comprehensive publication of it was made in 2004 as part of the exhibition, "l'intime, le collectionneur derričre la porte," at the Maison Rouge in Paris: a handwritten list of works presented on a pedestal.