The artists Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys and curator Anne-Claire Schmitz

Jos de Gruyter, Anne-Claire Schmitz and Harald Thys. MONDO CANE, Belgian Pavilion 2019.
Copyright et courtesy of the artists. Image : Margaux Nieto.

 The Belgian Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia brings together three actors, of Belgium’s art scene: Jos de Gruyter, Anne-Claire Schmitz and Harald Thys. Friends as well as colleagues, they are bound by a shared engagement, characterized by a field practice divorced from administrative concerns, in Belgium’s cultural field.  Their collaboration is an embodiment of the country’s cultural synergy and of the vitality of its artistic field. All three are at a moment in the development of their practices that attests to their maturity, energy and creative ambition.

For over thirty years, the artists Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) have created a body of work whose rigour and consistency are rare. Their collaboration has given birth to a highly singular language that distinguishes itself in our dense contemporary visual culture not just by its tonality, but also by its disconcerting insistence and normality. Together, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys make films, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures in which we find characters, objects and spaces that are at once ultra-identifiable and non-authoritarian. The human behaviour seen in their work stems from the social and psychological pressures exerted by the real world. The only possible communication in their work, which they avow without prudishness, is binary and stereotyped. The anonymity that emerges from it is that of a residual reality. The surrounding authority is just as transparent as it is empty. Society is deaf, repetitive and annoying. 

 De Gruyter and Thys have had numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including ‘Konkurs Eksperten’ at Kunsthal Aarhus (2018); ‘White Suprematism’ at Portikus Frankfurt and CAC Vilnius (2016); ‘Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis’ MCA Chicago, ‘Fine Arts’ at MOMA PS1 New York, ‘Die schmutzigne Puppen von Pommern’ The Power Station Dallas and ‘Tram 3’ CCA Wattis San Francisco (2015); ‘Das Wunder des Lebens’ at Kunsthalle Wien (2014) and ‘Optimundus’ at M HKA Antwerp (2013). The artists were included in the Venice Biennale (2013) and the Berlin Biennial (2008).

 Anne-Claire Schmitz (b. 1981) is a curator based in Brussels. She is the director and curator of La Loge, a non-profit space dedicated to contemporary art, architecture and theory. Since its opening La Loge has developed projects such as ‘Pastoral Myths’, ‘Voici des Fleurs’, 'Open perspectives on Oskar Hansen’ and solo exhibitions with Sophie Nys, Roe Ethridge & Zin Taylor, Kate Newby, Peter Hutton, Emily Wardill, Shana Moulton, Michael Beutler, Gareth Moore, Jef Geys, Nathalie du Pasquier and Arvo Leo among others. Prior to this, she was a curator at Witte de With, Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, where she curated and co-curated a range of projects, among them, the large-scale group exhibition ‘Melanchotopia’ featuring 40 new commissions by international artists through 40 locations in the city of Rotterdam. In 2012 WIELS invited her to co-curate, with Elena Filipovic, the exhibition ‘Un-Scene II’, a triennial project intended to present a panorama of the Belgian artistic scene. Alongside her work at La Loge, she was a consultant for Europe Europe and curator of ‘Individual Stories – Collecting as portrait and methodology’ with Luca Lo Pinto and Nicolaus Schafhausen at Kunsthalle Wien. In 2017, she curated ‘Les Bons Sentiments’, the exhibition of the 19th Fondation d’entreprise Ricard Prize in Paris. In 2019 she curated ‘Mondo Cane’ the exhibition by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys for the Belgian pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale.