Letter from Franklin Engeln to Philippe Vandenberg, 09.05.1987
31.01 – 06.02
In the spring of 1987, Franklin Engeln (°1956) wrote a letter to Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009), dealing with the exchange of an artwork between the two artists.
Philippe Vandenberg was educated at the Painting Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, where he graduated in 1976. In 1987 he had a studio in the Hofstraat in Ghent. Franklin Engeln studied at the former Higher Institute for Art History and Archaeology in Ghent. He also drew and painted – a creative activity that he continued to persue from earlier artistic training. During his student days, Engeln lived in a building next to Richard Foncke gallery in the Sint-Jansvest. After friendship and mutual trust developed between the two neighbors, he was admitted to 'Foncke's stable', which also included Vandenberg. In Richard Foncke's gallery, the two young artists met. In 1987 Engeln lived in Antwerp.
Philippe Vandenberg and Franklin Engeln exhibited together several times, such as in 1987, when an exhibition was held at the I.C.C. in Antwerp to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Richard Foncke Gallery (20 November-20 December 1987). Foncke was an influential figure in the Belgian contemporary art scene. He took his first steps as an art dealer in the autumn of 1966 alongside bookseller Charles Bernabé, with whom he ran Contrast Gallery in Lange Kruisstraat. In 1967 the two gentlemen went their own way and Foncke started his own gallery on Sint-Jansvest.
Philippe Vandenberg and Franklin Engeln appreciated each other's work. In 1985 Engeln had a solo exhibition at Gallery Cintrik in Antwerp, where Vandenberg bought one of his drawings. By purchasing the drawing, Vandenberg wanted to support his friend's artistic development. It concerns a portrait of Jo Braeken, Engeln's partner, in profile, formed by roughly drawn lines in charcoal on a white background. The sale led to a dispute between the artists and Richard Foncke, who was not pleased that two of 'his' artists were involved in a transaction in another gallery. He believed he was entitled to an 'intervention', a sum that he later withheld from the sales in his own gallery.
Engeln and Vandenberg often talked about the artistic dimensions of their work. Engeln had once indicated that he wanted to personally enjoy a small painting by Vandenberg on his wall, to which Vandenberg proposed an exchange of artworks.
Ultimately, the exchange did not take place. But in 1988, Vandenberg granted his friend a drawing made during a motorcycle trip in the desert of Santa Fe. In the middle and in the background of the drawing the contours of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains can be distinguished.
The last part of the letter concerns an intimate affair. Numerous implicit references show that the "learning states" and "learning tent" that Engeln refers to have to do with Vandenberg's fascination with sexuality between men, especially SM. He confided in Engeln to share this interest.
With special thanks to Franklin Engelen, Johannes Muselaers (Philippe Vandenberg Foundation) and Ghent University Library.
The Letters Project
In 2022-2023, KIOSK together with the research group Ghent, playing field of the visual arts (1957-1987), will focus on letters from or to people from Ghent, or concerning the Ghent art scene. The letters are selected for their content, but also for their form.
For a whole year, the group will present a different letter every week in KIOSK, and will highlight its context or the questions it raises. During these presentations, the letter (or a facsimile) will be shown, possibly with other artefacts that are mentioned or that can clarify its meaning.
Ghent, playing field of the visual arts (1957-1987) consists of Naninga Lens, Sofie Frederix, Wouter De Vleeschouwer, Koen Brams and Godart Bakkers. For The Letters Project the group is reinforced by Simon Delobel and some guests.