Guy Schraenen (UK) was the founder of the Galerie Kontakt, of the publishing house Guy Schraenen Éditeur and of the Archive for Small Press & Communication (A.S.P.C.). Moreover, he was an investigator and the author of essays and various publications. His different projects were mainly focused on artists' publications of the various international avant-garde and independent art movements from the late 1950s until the 1980s. He was probably the only protagonist dealing with this genre of art in all possible roles, as producer, publisher, distributor, collector, curator and investigator - what made him an important link between the artists, the institutions and the public.
In 1965, Guy Schraenen opened the GALERIE KONTAKT in Antwerp, which he ran until 1978. The first years, the gallery was specialised on Lyrical Abstraction and Constructivism. After some years, it played an important role in introducing artists of the new avant-garde movements such as visual poetry, sound poetry, sound art, conceptual art, Fluxus, mail art and artists' books.
The gallery supported and showed artists such as Eduard Bal, Bram Bogart, Jean Degottex, Lucio Fontana, Jef Geys, René Guiette, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Georges Mathieu, Vantangerloo etc.
Guy Schraenen Éditeur
In 1973, the idea of reaching wider audiences while embarking for new ways of creation led to the decision to establish the publishing house GUY SCHRAENEN ÉDITEUR. It had its origins in Antwerp, but an equivalent number of close collaborations with artists took place in Paris. From the beginning on it was important to him to release artworks which are not only based on image and text, but also on sound. Until 1978, he published books, magazines, catalogues, postcards, multiples, posters, records and films by artists who had complete freedom to conceive and produce their work. The affiliated PRINTING WORKSHOP served as a very early artist residence where artists were invited to explore and realize, among others, silkscreens, small offset publications and mimeographed works. For many artists it was the occasion to publish a book for the first time.
Among the artists who collaborated with the publishing house were Eduard Bal, Bram Bogard, Ulises Carrión, Lourdes Castro, Henri Chopin, Jean Degottex, Mirtha Dermisache, Peter Downsbrough, François Dufrêne, Brion Gysin, Bernard Heidsieck, Françoise Janicot, Jiří Kolář, Bernard Villers and many others.
Guy Schraenen Éditeur publications were regularly presented in solo exhibitions, group exhibitions and thematic exhibitions in his gallery as well as in collaboration with art institutions in many countries. Furthermore, he was invited to present his books at the Art Basel and the Art Frankfurt. As member of United Untied, an international group of publishers, he exhibited his artists' publications together with Boekie Woekie, edition hansjörg mayer, Edition Hundertmark, Rainer Verlag, Stop-Over-Press und Wiens Laden & Verlag at the Frankfurt book fair.
Archive for Small Press & Communication (A.S.P.C.)
Due to the fact which has to be characterised by a disinterest of institutions, critics and academics in this genre of art, the artists publications by Guy Schraenen Éditeur didn't have a great commercial impact. Nevertheless, the intention of trascending the boundaries of an institutionalized gallery and going beyond to a broader public proved to be fruitful. The main reason for this was the global network scene of pioneering artists who all circumvented the established art system during the 1960s and 1970s. Thanks to his active participation, the artists' publications by Guy Schraenen's publishing house were exchanged with works by thousands of artists. The thus resulting rich and diverse collection of published works gave rise to a new project, the ARCHIVE FOR SMALL PRESS & COMMUNICATION (A.S.P.C.) which he ran together with Anne Marsily from 1974 on. As formulated in its manifest, the archive sought "...to collect and preserve all types of art documentation, emanating principally from artists’ initiatives and covering all fields the contemporary artist is active in". Accordingly, it covered a broad spectrum, not only printed matter, but also sound art. As such, it represents the most significant trends and practices of the sixties, seventies and eighties including Body Art, Mail Art, Land Art, Fluxus, Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Pop Art, performance, visual poetry and concrete poetry.
From the beginning on, it was important to him to give public access to his archive. In order to ensure this, he carried out exhibitions, performances, screenings, talks and lectures; first in
the GALERIE KONTAKT and after the move to a new location in 1979 in the affiliated ARCHIVE SPACE. Also numerous essays and lectures as well as his radio program I AM AN ARTIST served this
purpose. All this was organized on his own and in collaboration with artists, artists’ run spaces, museums and cultural centres in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Hungary, the Soviet Union, etc.
A very important aspect of his activities was the development of a close relationship with the art scene in Latin America and Central Europe.
The archive reflects a period of ca. twenty years of independent creation by artists who developed new languages and new ways of circulating art works and ideas to a public that was no longer satisfied with traditional arts circuits. For Guy Schraenen it is therefore an artistic and a political statement.
A Museum within a Museum
In 1989, Guy Schraenen became the founding curator of the artists' book collection A MUSEUM WITHIN A MUSEUM in the Museum Weserburg Bremen, Germany. Expanding the concept of the graphic cabinet by published art forms of the 20th century, it was the first autonomous department of its kind. Never before, artists' books were regarded as art works and presented equally alongside paintings, sculptures, environments and installations in a museum.
Shortly after, Guy Schraenen was asked to found similar collections at the FUNDAÇÃO DE SERRALVES in Porto, at the MUSEU D'ART CONTEMPORANI DE BARCELONA (MACBA), at the MUSÉE ROYAL DE MARIEMONT and at the INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF GRAPHIC ARTS (mglc) in Ljubljana as well as to work as advisor for the collections at other institutions such as the MUSEO REINA SOFIA in Madrid.
As responsible of the presentation of the collections, he organized numerous thematic and solo exhibitions at those institutions.
The ARCHIVE FOR SMALL PRESS & COMMUNICATION (A.S.P.C.) remains an important contribution to the knowledge of the international art scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1999, the "Section Printed Matter of the A.S.P.C.", comprising a fund of more then 50.000 documents representing the works of several hundreds of artists from more than 25 countries, was acquired by the Centre for Artists' Publications in the Museum Weserburg Bremen (Germany). Before, a selection of works and documents equipped the exhibition "Out of Print" which travelled from the Museum Weserburg Bremen (Germany) to a great number of major museums in Europe.
The "Section Sound Art of the A.S.P.C." was acquired by the same institution in 2017. This sound collection comprised almost 1000 artists' records, audio CDs and audio cassettes as well as prints, graphic works, photos, scores, posters, cards, object records, sound objects, multiples and unique pieces. A comprehensive documentation and an extensive bibliographic department complement the collection. Also the sound collection was presented in many exhibitions which initiated both a new view on sound experiments by artists and a new market for the format of vinyl records. Its detailed accompanying catalogue is meanwhile a reference work.
Together, the two collections form the cadre of the CENTRE FOR ARTISTS' PUBLICATIONS in Bremen, a collaboration between the University of Bremen and the Museum Weserburg Bremen, which is the most comprehensive collection of published artworks in Europe.
The publications by Guy Schraenen Éditeur are in all major artists' book collections all over the world.
Guy Schraenen died on 9 November 2018 in Paris.
- Aden, Maike: Guy Schraenen. A Foreigner Abroad; in: Livres d'artistes et éditions bibliophiles en Belgique, Brussels: Royal Library of Belgium, 2018.
- Boivent, Marie La revue d'artiste. Enjeux et spécificités d'une pratique artistique, Rennes: Editions Incertain Sens, 2015.
- Boivent, Marie: Axe. Entretien avec Guy Schraenen; interview in Revues d'artistes. Une selection, Rennes: Association Arcade et. al., 2008, 96-101.
- Brach, Bettina; Aden, Maike (ed.): Schraenen, Guy. Essays, Statements, Interviews 1974-2013, printed and digital edition, Bremen: Centre for Artists' Publications, 2013
- Delleaux, Océane: Le multiple d'artiste: Histoire d'une mutation artistique: Europe-Amérique du Nord de 1985 à nos jours. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2010, 20 -32.
- Dustin, Jo: Une bibliothèque singulière; in; Le Soir; 29 mai 2006online: http://www.lesoir.be/archive/recup/une-bibliotheque-singuliere-pour-la-deuxieme-fois-le-mu_t-19960529-Z0C4XV.html, 11 Nov. 2017.
- Lecointre, Didier; Drouet, Dominique: Guy Schraenen éditeur, exhibition catalogue, Paris: Librairie Didier Lecointre et Dominique Drouet, 2014; printed edition and online: http://www.lecointredrouet.com/media/catalogues_pdf/schraenen_2014.pdf, 11. Nov. 2017.
- Miessner, Marie-Cécile: Les éditions de Guy Schraenen; in: Nouvelles de l'estampes. n° 33, 1977, 52–53.
- Pas, Johan. Artists' Publications: The Belgian Contribution. Books, Magazines, Artists, Publishers. London: Koenig Books, 2017, 71, 125, 131, 132, 136, 141-149, 156-162, 164, 168-170, 181, 187, 237.
- Robakowski, Józef: The Conservator of Ideas. An Interview with Józef Robakowski by Maria Morzuch; in: Kolekcja Multimedialna. Galerii Wymiany Józefa Robakowskiego (A multimedia collection. Exchange Gallery. Joseph Robakowski), 10. Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki, 1998.
- Jahre, Lutz: Künstlerbücher, mehr als fünf Sinne; interview in Unlimited Edition ed. Lutz Jahre, Köln: Salon Verlag, 2001, 271-294.
- Schraenen, Guy: Guy Schaenen Collectionneurs (fragment). Collection A.S.P.C., conversation Hubert Besacier, Guy Schraenen. Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche: Pays-paysage, 1995.
- Schwarz, Isabelle: Archive for Small Press and Communication (A.S.P.C.); in Archive für Künstlerpublikationen des 1960er bis 1980er Jahre, ed. Isabelle Schwarze, Köln: Schriftenreihe für Künstlerpublikationen, 2008, 43-89.
Guy Schraenen. Essays, Statements, Interviews 1974-2013
Edited by Bettina Brach and Maike Aden, Centre for Artists' Publications, Bremen, 2013
The digital edition, as well as the printversion of Guy Schraenen’s “Collected Writings” give access to all the texts he published over four decades, from the 1970s up until the very recent past. They document his abiding interest in the history and the significance of the international networks underlying artists’ publications and initiatives in the 1960s and 1970s. He reflects upon the socio-political and cultural strategies of the artist-initiated art scene, which remained independent of the official art establishment.
The writings are presented in the form of facsimiles of the original publications. Most texts are in French and English, several also in other languages.