Guy Schraenen (1941–2018) was a gallery owner, publisher, collector, curator, investigator, author. But he is probably best known as one of the key figures of a transboundary network of pioneering artists and activists who, from the end of the 1950s on, explored and promoted radical new languages and ways of producing, multiplying, and disseminating artistic ideas and works. The network’s intention was to exceed the art-immanent circuit, with its defined discourses, implied rituals, and market rules. Of fundamental importance was reaching a broad public, across political and institutional borders, with modest prices and exchange strategies. Investigating all formats, materials, means, structures, and concepts involved in mass-media reproduction, these artists invented a new genre of art, for which Schraenen coined the term artists’ publications. The expression stands for all kinds of reproduced printed matter, multiplied objects, and sound publications by artists. Long before established art institutions, critics, and art historians recognized the artistic value of these works, Schraenen treasured, published, exchanged, collected, and presented them to give “the opportunity to a public, kept ignorant by specialized media, to have knowledge” (Manifest A.S.P.C., 1974). As one of the key forces behind the movement, Schraenen took on multiple roles, in the process becoming a seminal link between artists, institutions, and the public.
With the present exhibition, the Museo Reina Sofía seeks to illustrate Schraenen’s various projects, approaches, and connections, starting with his exhibition projects as founder of the Galerie Kontakt. From there, the exhibition follows Schraenen as he founds his publishing house, Guy Schraenen éditeur, to explore new paths by publishing works in collaboration with artists. His active participation in the global art exchange network and his efforts to preserve independent artistic creations led to the founding of the Archive for Small Press and Communication (A.S.P.C.), which he ran with Anne Marsily. The exhibition also reflects on Schraenen’s interest in promoting awareness of new art practices by organizing exhibitions, performances, screenings, concerts, essays, radio programs, and so on, both as an individual and in collaboration with institutions. From the end of the 1980s on, he was invited by several European museums to found, curate, and present collections of artists’ publications.
Schraenen’s distinctive work was underpinned by his deep concern to take an independent stance toward the canons of the established art system. Schraenen titled one of his own works “For another approach to art history,” the words expressing his uncompromising commitment to explore territory beyond the mainstream, including beyond the mainstream of the anti-mainstream. He saw his discoveries as political statements, and with each of the works presented in this exhibition we have the chance to witness anew the free-spiritedness of Guy Schraenen.
Library and Documentation Centre
11 October, 2019 - 30 August, 2020
Time Is Mute
Ignacio Gómez de Liaño
Delphine Seyrig and the Feminist Video Collectives in France in the 1970s and 1980s
From 14 May, 2020
With Three Wounds, I
From 13 April, 2020
Before the Threshold
The Poetics of Democracy
Images and Counter-Images from the Spanish Transition