Jan De Nul on Entrepreneurship and Culture

There are some subjects Fernand Huts wants to discuss himself, there are other subjects he prefers to hand over to others: Entrepreneurs and Culture. There is always a suspicious side on entrepreneurs active in Culture.

Collectors are really suspicious: where does the curiosity cabinet start? Where does the real interest start? History provides us always with the best insights. Therefore they are now trying to break down this course. Entrepreneurs and Culture always went together. In Chantilly, the greatest collection of paintings in France outside the Louvre was brought together in private hands: was it out of real interest or did the collector only intend to show that he was the richest man in France? History shows a succession of collectors.

The de Medici’s and other families in the Italian Renaissance, Kings and Emperors, Catharina the Great buying masses of art and also the Library of Voltaire which didn’t bring Her his intellect, Getty, Guggenheim: were they driven by desire for knowledge or by the desire to show their richness?

Is there a problem? All the great museums in the World, even the Hermitage, would be in very poor conditions without the great gifts of wealthy supporters. Especially in Belgium where there is money for nothing. And there has been always a kind of showoff in this. Remember the Grand Duke. How did the Elgin Marbles end up in Scotland? But if you go through the museums, you see that there is not much of a problem. It is the lasting merit and contribution of such collectors that the Great Museums of today are so well equipped and running so smoothly.

Also collectors were sometimes cunningly tricked. Piranesi was the greatest producer of Greek and Roman sculptures for foreign, somehow naïve buyers. Where some collectors are the iconoclastic feed for Gallerists, I know many others: people with a tremendous expertise on art and art historical pieces who are consulted even by experts. And you would be truly amazed by the artistic knowledge and expertise these collectors-entrepreneurs have built up over the years, especially when collections are handed over from one generation to another. So let us leave the criticism behind: let entrepreneurs collect and let amateurs buy. Il restera toujours quelque chose. With the Phoebus Foundation Christs Entry Into Brussels in 1889 (James Ensor) would still be in Belgium.