Guy Schraenen (UK) is the founder of the Galerie Kontakt, of the publishing house Guy Schraenen éditeur, of the Archive for Small Press & Communication (A.S.P.C.) and an international known curator, publisher and advisor. Furthermore he is the author of essays and various publications. His many activities are mainly focused on artists' publications of the various international avant-garde and independent art movements from the late 1950s until the 1980s.
Guy Schraenen is probably the only protagonist dealing with this genre of art in all possible roles, as producer, publisher, distributor, collector, curator and theorist - what makes him an important link between the artists, the institutions and the public.
In 1965 Guy Schraenen founded the GALERIE KONTAKT in Antwerp, which existed until 1978. In the beginning, the program was aimed to the field of Lyrical Abstraction and Constructivism. The gallery presented: Eduard Bal, Bram Bogart, Jean Degottex, Lucio Fontana, Jef Geys, René Guiette, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Georges Mathieu, Vantangerloo etc. Later the program shifted to activities related to the new avant-garde movements such as visual poetry, sound poetry, sound art, conceptual art, Fluxus, mail art and artists' books.
Guy Schraenen Éditeur
In order to broaden the audience of the gallery by means of multiplication and distribution possibilities Guy Schraenen founded the publishing house GUY SCHRAENEN ÉDITEUR in 1973. It was situated in Antwerp, but equally active 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 artists' books, magazines, catalogues, postcards, multiples, posters, records and films in close collaborations with the 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, conceive 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 Guy Schraenen 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 exhibitions in the Galerie Kontakt. But also collaborations with international art institutions served this purpose.
Furthermore, Guy Schraenen Éditeur appeared for many years as member of "United Untied" at the Frankfurt book fair as well as he was invited to present his books at the Art Basel and the Art Frankfurt.
Archive for Small Press & Publication (A.S.P.C.)
Out of the circumstances which have to be characterised by a general lack of interest in this then new genre of art, the publications by Guy Schraenen Éditeur had only a limited commercial success. But the initial idea of removing from the limited context of an institutionalized gallery to a wider audience remained successful. It was ensured by the international network, which grew up during the 1960s by using the postal system. Thanks to this new cultural strategy, Guy Schraenen Éditeur publications were exchanged with the works of contemporaries from all over the world. The richness and diversity of the compiled works resulted in the decision to found the ARCHIVE FOR SMALL PRESS & COMMUNICATION (A.S.P.C.) together with Anne Marsily in 1974. The aim was "...to collect and preserve all types of art documentation, emanating principally from artists’ initiatives and covering all fields the contamporary artist is active in." (Manifest A.S.P.C.).The A.S.P.C. consists not only of a section Printed Matter, but also of a section Sound Art; both are today the most extensive collections in their fields.
Connected with the A.S.P.C. was an uninterrupted activity of exhibitions, performances and lectures; first in the Galerie Kontakt, and from 1979 on in the ARCHIVE SPACE. Public access to the archive was also given through his radio program I AM AN ARTIST, through essays, lectures. All this happened on individual base 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. In this frame he developed a close relationship with the Latin American and the Eastern European art scene.
The A.S.P.C. remains an important contribution to the knowledge of the then neglected international art scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, it testimonies the power of freedom and independency from the the definitions and ideologies of established institutions, critics and academics through individual acts and new artistic languages. For this reason, it is not only as an artistic statement, as Guy Schraenen states, but also as a political one.
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). The section Sound Art of the A.S.P.C., comprising almost 1000 artists records, audio CDs and audio cassettes as well as prints, graphic works, photos, scores, posters, cards, object records, sound objects, multiples, unique pieces, a comprehensive documentation and an extensive bibliographic department, was acquired by the same institution in 2017.
The publications by Guy Schraenen Éditeur are in all major artists' book collections in all over the world.
A Museum Within a Museum
In 1989, Guy Schraenen became the founder curator of the artists' publication collection A MUSEUM WITHIN A MUSEUM in the NEUES MUSEUM WESERBURG BREMEN, Germany, the first autonomous department of its kind.
Since many years Guy Schraenen is also responsible for the collections and exhibitions of artists’ publications in the FUNDAÇÃO DE SERRALVES in Porto, the MUSEU D'ART CONTEMPORANI DE BARCELONA (MACBA), the MUSEO REINA SOFIA in Madrid, the INTERNATIONAL CENTRE OF GRAPHIC ARTS (mglc) in Ljubljana and other institutions.
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.