Meet Martin Germann: pre-selection jury member digging for nuggets of elegance and precision in the overwhelming lineup of artists’ portfolios. As senior curator of SMAK, Martin brings a demanding eye to a selection process in “times when it [art] is acted out like a global pop culture.” He expands on the particular individuality of Belgian artists working in a booming international art scene.Photo courtesy of Martin Germann
What would you say characterises this year’s shortlist?
We will see a broad and diverse selection of international artists with very different approaches: between theory and tactility, concept and gesture – this huge spectrum is very good.
What would you say you take away from participating in such a jury?
As being someone devoted to art, I always take away something unexpected from a judging process like this.
If anything, what would you have liked to see more of?
I am interested in the question of where and how art takes place, in a time when it is acted out like a global pop culture. Since curatorial mindsets more and more tend to supersede the artists’ freedom, I sometimes guess that we’re once more surrounded by a wave of academic art, just like at the end of the 19th century. The historical avant-gardes helped out by doing things differently. I wonder where that happens today and what that might be? Perhaps the avant-gardes have turned today, and those who discover new things are the ones who are slower, those who take their time, and in a sense, run behind.
How significant is the fact that the YBAP has opened up to foreign artists residing in Belgium?
Now that Belgium, with its city triangle of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent harbours the most vibrant international art scene in Europe it’s only logical that the price has opened up to adequately mirror what’s going on.
Anything you look for in particular in an artist’s portfolio?
I am triggered by originality, precision, and any relation to elegance, either in thinking, making, or destroying.
Looking at the shortlist, can you pinpoint any major shifts/changes in the way Belgian contemporary art is evolving?
Contemporary art produced in Belgium traditionally stands very much for individuality: embracing one’s own cosmos is more important than following a group agenda. Think of James Ensor, Marcel Broodthaers, Panamarenko, Jef Geys, Raoul De Keyser, Jan Vercruysse, Thierry De Cordier, Lili Dujourie, and many others. I really hope it will stay like that.The finalists of the Young Belgian Art Prize are at BOZAR until September 13th, 2015.