The museum Dhondt-Dhaenens is a private foundation recognised by the Flemish Government.
As a museum, it makes publicly accessible important modern and contemporary private collections with a social relevance.
As a contemporary art centre, it aims to play an active role in the international art field.
Santiago Sierra, Verwijdering van de glazen ramen van een museum, 03.10 - 07.11.2004
museum Dhondt-Dhaenens Today
Since 2005, with the arrival of Joost Declercq as museum director, a two track approach has been adopted: the museum operations include both the research and presentation of modern art of the twentieth century and a function as contemporary art centre. The key concerns of the past have been retained: respect for the wishes of the founders and using the specificity of the buildings and the location of the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens as the basis of all activities.
As for the contemporary art operations, the focus mainly lies on the elaboration of individual exhibition projects. Unlike group exhibitions, this form of exhibition can create a better picture of the intrinsic value of a particular artist. The Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens aims to be a close partner for the artist. The joint development of a project, the mutual questioning and supporting in the quest for the meaning and function of art are key issues. In other words, the museum ca not be a place for merely showing "the beautiful object", but creates in the first place a mental space for dialogue, reflection, experimentation and creation.
Through its contemporary art operations the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens aims to create exhibitions with artists who have been pivotal in certain artistic trends of the last decades but who have not been consistently shown Flanders (or elsewhere). Often, these projects represent a key moment in the career of the artist. The Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens does not want to limit itself to one single type of trend but is open to the diversity of the contemporary art world.
In recent years, the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens has built a strong tradition of cooperation with artists who question the museum as an institution, the position of the artist or the fundamental relationship with the visitor. These radical projects are often controversial and quite often lead to violent reactions from the viewers. There were for instance in recent years the high-profile projects with artists such as Santiago Sierra, Gregor Schneider, Robert Kusmirowski, Thomas Zipp en Thomas Hirschhorn, Ryan Gander , Thomas Lerooy. as well as others.
In terms of its museum operations, the museum Dhondt- Dhaenens is primarily concerned with a nuanced historical contextualization of recent art history as well as the ongoing updating of its views on the works of artists represented in the permanent collection. Given the Museum’s historically-grown sensitivity for the significance of the committed art collector, we pay special attention to giving public access to and presenting interesting Flemish private collections. In this way, the museum presented the collection Roger and Hilda Matthys-Colle (2007), the collection Wilfried and Yannicke Cooreman (2009), the Collection Tony Herbert (2011) and the collection of Jeanne and Charles Vandenhove (2013). The museum also presented the Proximus Art Collection (2015) and an institutional collection in the exhibition Walther Vanbeselaere, Collector for the state (2017). Giving public access to the collections also forces the museum to reflect on the relationship between public and private and helps in finding new forms of collaboration models and management agreements.
Reflective free port
In the autumn of 2015 the museum Dhondt-Dhaenens started a residency programme in the House Van Wassenhove. Since 2018, The Wunderkammer Residence, located along the Lys, in the vicinity of the museum, also offers a place for residents.
The Van Wassenhove residence, a striking Brutalist building from 1974 by architect Juliaan Lampens, located in Sint-Martens-Latem, has served as a lively residence and meeting place in the area since 2015. Since then, numerous creative people from home and abroad have stayed here. The Wunderkammer, as well, is open to artists, curators, writers and researchers and wants to offer a unique experience for in-depth reflection and research. Subversiveness is a key word in this respect. In addition to reflection on the museum, its collections and the landscape, the space is open to critical reflections on the resident's individual practice, the art world and broader social structures.
With these new, autonomous free ports, the MDD wants to intensify its contact with artists and researchers and (re)activate the Lys region as a historically important source of inspiration for artists. Sint-Martens-Latem and Deurle were from the end of the nineteenth century onward dynamic places for art creation thanks to the many artists who lived and worked there. Witness to this is the museum Gust. De Smet, the former residence of the artist and the Museum Gevaert-Minne, the former residence of artist and world improver Edgar Gevaert. Artists such as George Minne, Albijn Van den Abeele, Gustave Van de Woestyne, Frits Van den Berghe, Constant Permeke, Albert Saverys and many others worked in the Lys region in the period between 1880 and 1940. In the 1960s and 70s, the domain around the Edgar Gevaert residence was well known as a meeting place for artists, musicians, hippies and pacifists. The museum therefore sees it as important to maintain, within this remarkable tradition in the Lys region, a place for art creation and social questioning.