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First extensive retrospective exhibition of the Belgian multimedia artist Hans Op de Beeck opens in Wolfsburg
Hans Op de Beeck, The Collector's House, 2016. Sculptural Installation (mixed media), 20 x 12,5 x 4 m © Hans Op de Beeck.

WOLFSBURG.- He is truly an extraordinary phenomenon: the Belgian multimedia artist, dramatist, composer, theatre and opera director Hans Op de Beeck (* 1969). It is no wonder that he is realizing the first extensive retrospective exhibition of his artistic oeuvre as a highly atmospheric synthesis of the arts. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in Hans Op de Beeck’s fascinating art world on over 2200 square meters in and around the great exhibition hall—and will not recognize the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.

Everything is ambiguous; even the ostensibly straightforward exhibition title “Out of the Ordinary” has a twofold meaning. On the one hand Hans Op de Beeck’s curiously defamiliarized places and situations—a nocturnal amusement park or shipyard container barracks—emerge from the direct experience of everyday life. On the other hand they are literally out of the ordinary in their precise deployment of light, suggestive decorative details and magical music soundtracks.

The visitors to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg will be welcomed to the evocative interior of a collector. This remarkable hybrid of Pompeii and oligarchical nouveau riche treasury combines art and life in equal measure: Painting and books as well as people and peacocks are collected here. The view from the generously-sized balcony provides a first glance at the roofs of the factory buildings and suburban homes down below at the foot of this eclectic “Collector’s House”. The gloomy underworld situated somewhere between industrial wasteland and suburban dreariness with its utility poles and street lamps, its tangle of cables and street garbage, are all equal components of this total installation conceived especially for the Wolfsburg show. The interiors house the most important installations, videos and model situations that Hans Op de Beeck has produced to date.

The works on display range from Hans Op de Beeck’s earliest room piece “Location (1)” from 1998 and the subsequent expansive ensembles of works up to the in situ installation “Out of the Ordinary” in Wolfsburg. As such, the exhibition documents nineteen years of intense artistic work. Hypnotic videos like “Staging Silence (2)” and “Night Time”, the accessible still life of a light-flooded attic in “The Garret” or “The Settlement” from 2013 which is meditatively reflected in water can be experienced along with a veritable museum in a museum. “Sea of Tranquillity” from 2010 combines life-sized wax figures, ship and harbor models in high wood-paneled halls with a film as fascinating as cryptic.

Hans Op de Beeck is a master of perspective change: In his 1:1 scale spaces, the irritation is mostly caused by subtle changes in color or material. In other works, by contrast, the viewer shrinks in size, for example in the face of his oversized “Table (1)” from 2006, or even a whole landscape as in “Location (1).” In all of these works the artist is concerned with the interaction between richly associative abstraction and a realistic wealth of details. The streets of the industrial suburb created especially for the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg are consequently covered with shock-absorbent carpets. But the fountain with its benches on a barren square in the center of the entire complex is quite real and heightens the daydream-like nature of the scenario with its exuberant liveliness.

Hans Op de Beeck is a teller of stories between the lines, without a beginning or end, often amazing, mostly melancholic, always striking. At the same time he asks what spaces trigger in us and directs us to ever more precise and intense perception through the atmospheric compactness of his works. He transports us from our everyday routine to his own very personal, highly auratic world, the timelessness of which— paradoxically enough—makes us all the more conscious about ourselves and our own living conditions.

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