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Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) opens Nedko Solakov. All in Order, with Exceptions

The Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) presents Nedko Solakov. All in Order, with Exceptions, an exhibition on view 25 February–3 June 2012.

Nedko Solakov (b. 1957, Cherven Briag) is one of Bulgaria’s internationally best known contemporary artists, and has been artistically active for more than thirty years. He studied traditional mural techniques at the Academy of Sofia, and since then has combined this classical background with a more conceptual practice and a strong sense of humorous narrative. His oeuvre includes paintings, drawings, installations, video, text, and performance, and it plays with a wide range of references to art history and the world of art.

The exhibition ‘All in Order, with Exceptions’ at S.M.A.K. is the first major Belgian retrospective of Nedko Solakov’s work. It is conceived as a chronological survey of Solakov’s artistic practice in the most literal sense of the word. This retrospective spans a career of thirty years, and was put together by 3 European art institutions, which cooperated closely on the project: S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and Museu Serralves in Porto.

The premise of ‘All in Order, with Exceptions’ is deceivingly simple: while conceiving the exhibition, Solakov collected documentation of all the work he had created between 1980 and 2010 (5683 files on a 14.2-gigabyte memory stick) and gave the curators of the 3 institutions ‘carte blanche’ to select one work from each year for their own exhibition. For S.M.A.K., these 30 works form the basis of the exhibition, but are not arranged chronologically. Moreover, these 30 pieces selected by S.M.A.K. curators form a quasi narrative, a sometimes deceptive, atmospheric and subjective passage through Solakov’s artistic life over the last 30 years. It is also worth noting that Solakov distilled a fourth exhibition called ‘All in (my) order, with exceptions’ from the works the curators did not select, and put it on show at the Galleria Civica in Trento.

But there is more: Solakov wouldn’t be Solakov if he didn’t subtly add something ‘site-specific’ to most of the official ‘curatorial’ selection of works by means of various meta-comments on the works hung in S.M.A.K. or by re-presenting some earlier works in alternative presentation settings, and all this in his typically narrative, humorous and self-mocking style. In this way, the whole S.M.A.K. version of ‘All in Order, with Exceptions’ almost becomes a “gesamt-kunstwerk“, an exhibition as an artistic installation, and/or an artistic installation as an exhibition.

In addition to the curatorial selection and Solakov’s in situ comments on it, ‘All in Order, with Exceptions’ contains a third communicative layer in the factual 31st piece in the exhibition: ‘The Folders’ (2011). In this extensive work, which is conceived as a kind of sculptural library of 3 bank/bookcases, each covering a decade, and specially created by the artist for this project, Solakov documents his complete artistic practice in his own way and, to his heart’s content, adds footnotes to his own career over the last 30 years.

As a whole, ‘All in Order, with Exceptions’ could be regarded as an artistic, institutional and curatorial attempt to look at the entire oeuvre of Nedko Solakov in a retrospective but nuanced way: both personal and encyclopaedic, both subjective and comprehensive, both original and compromised, both introspective and again, retrospective.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the first comprehensive retrospective catalogue of Nedko Solakov’s work, published by Hatje Cantz and co-produced by the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), S.M.A.K. (Ghent), Museu Serralves (Porto) and the Fondazione Galleria Civica (Trento). In addition to illustrations of all the works presented in the four exhibitions, and comprehensive documentation of the artist’s archive, the monograph includes new essays by Iara Boubnova (Founding Director, Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia), Christy Lange (Associate Editor of Frieze) and an interview with the artist on art and fairy tales by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (Artistic Director, dOCUMENTA13).

Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren and Thibaut Verhoeven

Museum of Contemporary Art
Citadelpark, 9000 Ghent
T +32 9 240 76 01

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