February 28, 2014

Jan Hoet, a tribute

On June 13, 2012, I  posted this photo and wrote about Jan Hoet, Belgium's most famous art critic: "... we are talking about national pride and an international celebrity".  At that time, Mr Hoet was working as the curator of the Yinchuan biennial around the theme 'The ego position of the artist'.  

Jan Hoet died in Ghent at the age of 77 and Belgium lost one of its most charismatic, outspoken, passionate, controversial and appreciated, creative and talented art lover and critic. 

His death is covered by many Belgian and international papers. Below is an excerpt from the Bulletin:

"Hoet was a flamboyant and charismatic figure who shook up the local art world time and again. He became the director of Ghent’s contemporary art museum in the 1970s and made headlines when, in the summer of 1986, he invited 51 artists to exhibit works in private homes in the city. He went on to successfully lead the move of the museum into its current landmark site at Citadelpark and give it its name, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, or SMAK. He opened the new site in 1999 with a boxing match.
“Jan Hoet was driven by art,” said Flemish culture minister Joke Schauvliege. His greatest achievement was to “help to tear down the walls of contemporary art”.  
Hoet was born in Leuven and studied art in Ghent but eventually decided that he wasn’t a good enough painter to pursue it as a career. He studied art history instead and went on to devote his life to advising art organisations and staging exhibitions.
Together with SMAK, which he led until 2003,  Hoet also had a very active international career, including curating Documenta IX in Kassel in 1992 and serving as the artistic director of the MARTa Herford contemporary art museum in Germany for five years. In 2012, Hoet organised the Yinchuan Biennale in northern central China and last year the Middle Gate exhibition in Geel, Antwerp province, where he spent most of his childhood.
Hoet, who is regularly referred to in the Flemish press as the “pope of art”, once told an interviewer: “I don’t know what art is. The art itself has to tell us what it is, not me. I can only sell the ticket to the discovery tour.”
Hoet had suffered from several health problems over the last couple of years, including kidney cancer and two heart attacks. Based on advice from his doctor, he was taking time off from organising an exhibition at the coast at the time of his death. 
“Today we have lost a man that was not only passionate about art but also told us about it in a most inimitible and compelling manner,” said minister-president Kris Peeters this morning in the Flemish Parliament. “He has inspired innumerable Flemings to take an interest in art.”
The city of Ghent is preparing a memorial book for the public to sign. It will be in SMAK museum for a week beginning at 14.00 tomorrow."


  1. Een groot verlies voor de kunstwereld.

  2. I am sorry about the passing of this great man. Even when we don’t them personally, it hurts to see them go because we feel they are like a part of our family.

    On another note, we will be going to Bruxelles and my friend’s wife just had a stroke so we will have to stay in a hotel. Is it better to stay close to the Gare du Midi or Gare du Nord in Brussels? If you have time, you could send me a reply on my email at bookenn@live.com. Thanks for any information.

  3. You paid this man a wonderful tribute. Your country has lost a great man who had a passion for the right things in life. Without men and women like him our cultures would be too narrow and pedestrian.

  4. Hoe controversieel ook, hij heeft ons allemaal dichter bij de kunst gebracht! Een groot man is overleden.

  5. A wonderful tribute indeed, Steffi!! We do indeed need more people like him and it's always sad to lose such a great man!!

  6. vaak controversieel maar van groot belang voor de hedendaagse kunst, geroemd in binnen -en buitenland..

    7 jaar, maar weinigen leefden zo intens als hij

  7. Hallo Anni,
    "Komen en gaan" zoals Maurice Roelants schreef...
    Sommigen laten een (culturele) erfenis achter, anderen verdwijnen in het niets.

  8. leuk dat je een bericht aan hem besteed Annie. Groetjes en fijne avond, Dietmut