For more than five decades, Antwerp art collector Ronny Van de Velde has been organising pioneering and remarkable exhibition projects, which have made him one of Belgium's most important connoisseurs and defenders of a variety of artistic vanguards. His exhibitions included some of the greatest names of twentieth-century art: Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, René Magritte, Joseph Beuys, Picabia, Alechinsky, Panamarenko... In a 5-part series of small-scale presentations, the M HKA seeks to evoke the history of the gallery.
Part 2: Happenings and Happening News
25 March - 24 April 2022
Happening News (Antwerp, 1965-1966; six issues) arose from a collaboration between a small group of artists who wanted to shake up the petty bourgeois atmosphere of a so-called cosmopolitan city. Panamarenko and Hugo Heyrman had first met at the local academy of fine arts where they had both become at odds with the teachers and principals because of their rather recalcitrant approach. They started making objects (such as copper plates pierced with bullets) and soon shifted their focus to street activities, probably under the influence of the Japanese artist Yoshio Nakajima who was well versed in the practice of happenings. Happening News was narrowly connected with the happenings that took place in Antwerp and Ostend from July 1965 to March 1966, and with the government's aggressive response to them. The group around Panamarenko and Heyrman, which included Japanese artist Yoshio Nakajima, Belgian artist Wout Vercammen, German artist Bernd Lohaus, Dutch artist Jeroen Henneman and Dutch happening makers Thom Jaspers/Jasper Grootveld, adopted themes from the Provo movement (anti-war, anti-car...) but took a primarily artistic approach. They combined elements from comic strips, science fiction and popular American visual culture in a partly satirical manner to express their belief in a kind of artistic utopia. As such, the aeronautical space became a space of artistic freedom, with the happening makers as its cosmonauts. Some of the words and images are also linked to the emergence of the use of psychedelic drugs.
In retrospect, the magazine can also be seen as a breeding ground for the participating artists, especially Panamarenko, whose style and playful attitude left their mark on the magazine's appearance and content. It was at his request that Broodthaers made a series of drawings for the last issue of Happening News. These drawings not only heralded the growing appreciation of Broodthaers' work by other artists, but also the start of his international career through the Wide White Space Gallery and its extensive network. The gallery exhibited Broodthaers in 1966 under a title that immediately revealed what was on show: Moules Oeufs Frites Pots Charbon (Mussels Eggs Fries Pots Charcoal).
In this exhibition, we present a number of collages by Panamarenko which served as illustrations for Happening News, as well as 28 original drawings by Marcel Broodthaers intended to be included in the magazine. However, not all of them were used.
We obviously also present issues of Happening News, as well as photos, ephemera, documents, Provo, Revo. Included in the exhibition as well are works by Wout Vercammen, Hugo Heyrman, Guy Mees and Bernd Lohaus, all of whom were artists who contributed to Happening News. The exhibition is completed with work by the Antwerp underground artist George De Roo.