Gigi and Bertie Urvater’s Liber amoricum

René Magritte, Karel Appel, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró and Paul Delvaux are just some of the artists who left their mark in Gigi and Bertie Urvater’s Liber amoricum. This couple of passionate art lovers put together an impressive collection of modern art during the second half of the 20th century and enjoyed privileged relationships with their favourite artists. In addition to the friendship book, the Charles Vreeken Fund has also acquired the documentation that accompanies the book, enabling us to better understand the passions that drove art collectors of the period.

Baron Joseph-Berthold (Bertie) Urvater was an important Antwerp diamond dealer. Together with his wife, Gaëtane-Gilberte (Gigi) Consiglio, he assembled an outstanding collection of modern art during the 1950s and 1960s. The works were mainly abstract and surrealist and brought together leading artists including Alechinsky, Arp, Bacon, De Chirico, Dali, Delvaux, Ernst, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Klee, Lam, Magritte, Matta, Miró, Poliakoff, Man Ray, Soulages, Tanguy, Tàpies, Vasarely and Vieira Da Silva.

The Urvater’s friendship book is in two volumes and covers the period from 1958 to 1981. Together with the background documentation of documents, letters, photographs, invitations, engravings and drawings, the book reflects not only the couple’s passion for art and their flamboyant lifestyle, but above all the privileged relations they enjoyed with artists of the time. Max Ernst, Man Ray, Pierre Alechinsky and Roberto Matta were just a few of the “artist friends at home”.

These various elements bear witness to the special bond that existed between art collectors and artists at a key moment in the history of art collecting in Belgium. The new generation of collectors emerging at this time put the stamp of nationality on art. It was, moreover, a period that saw growing interest among Belgian collectors for international artists.

The King Baudouin Foundation has had the opportunity to acquire this album and the accompanying documentation thanks to the Charles Vreeken Fund, which has as its objective to enrich our museum collections through the acquisition of key works of art. The book and documentation have been entrusted to the Contemporary Art Archives of Belgium (at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium).