Kunsthal Gent experiments with new ways of dealing with works of art and artists, and in 2018 we started a conversation with the American designer and curator Prem Krishnamurthy, among others, for this purpose. His radical proposal to make all exhibitions permanent will be tested for feasibility at Kunsthal Gent.
ENDLESS EXHIBITION is a curatorial-manifesto-as-polymorphic-artwork that surveys the overproduction, mass consumption, and fleeting attention span of the contemporary art world. In the programme, curators and artists are invited to develop a contribution to an exhibition that has no end date. New additions always put pressure on the existing situation. The discussion about how the new work relates to the existing work is therefore always a conversation with all the artists involved. This performative proposal poses timely questions of space, waste, labor,and questions the autonomy and 'untouchability' of individual, finished artworks.
In Krishnamurthy's own words from a 1999 note: "[Principle] 5: Return of the project - the project should never be finished - it should always invite additions, reconsiderations, re-contextualisation."
In 2021, together with TWIIID (Dizygotic Triplets, legal & business advisory board for the arts), Kunsthal Gent developed a framework for an agreement between Kunsthal Gent, the artists and the artworks in the Endless Exhibition.
For decades, artists, museums, institutions and galleries have been working on model contracts for the exhibition, loan or consignment of artworks. These models are primarily suited to temporary relationships. But they are not suited to the special, discursive relationship that arises when a work is included in The Endless Exhibition.
From discussions with the first participants in The Endless Exhibition, it emerged that the relationship between Kunsthal, the artist and the artwork is much more one of long-term care. The typical articles on the subjects of loan, copyright, authors’ rights, liability, nail-to-nail insurance, etc., do not allow us to correctly capture the nuances of this three-cornered relationship.
One legal construction that does fully revolve around care is that of foster care, the relationship between foster child and foster parent. What follows is a document based on this form of protection, which is normally used for children and young people.
To read the contract properly, you will have to imagine that like a child, the artwork is being given the notion of a will and a status, making it more than the sum of the material and intellectual property rights of the artist and bestowing upon it the status of a person (which the law has a duty to protect). The artist, as parent, is giving the custody of the artwork to Kunsthal Gent for an undefined period, but does not lose the original connection with the work.
The resulting “foster care agreement” takes the form, structure and theme of the model exhibition agreement of Juist-is-Juist ('what's right is right'), a fair practice platform in the sector, but with all the normal terms being shaped by this concept of foster parentage and care. In order to emphasise these
profound rights and obligations in the contract, we draw directly on the terminology used in the Belgian Civil Code, and appoint a family council.