Jos Knaepen (1933-2014) was fascinated by abstract art. Over a period of almost fifty years, she put together a select collection of 56 works, which she has bequeathed to the King Baudouin Foundation.
An art historian who was passionate about contemporary art, Mrs Knaepen purchased her first work at the beginning of the 1960s. Sometimes she discovered a work in the corner of a gallery, sometimes, by her own admission, she just would just fall in love with a work, but whatever the circumstance, it was above all its aesthetic aspect that attracted her. Gradually, her choice became more specific. She fell in love, for instance, with one of the works from Sam Francis’s famous Blue Balls series, so she made an agreement with a gallery owner: she purchased a red work from him, which she could then exchange if he managed to find a blue work. A year later, he sent Mrs Knaepen the photo of such a work. The purchase was concluded, but no further exchanges would be made! Her collection gradually took shape therefore, on the basis of careful consideration but sometimes also as the result of a stroke of luck.
In addition to compositions by Sam Francis, the Knaepen Collection includes works by Robert Motherwell, Ben Nicholson, Alan Green, George Grosz and other abstract artists from the second half of the 20th century. With her unconditional love for contemporary art, Jos Knaepen was naturally as interested in international artists as she was in the Belgian art scene. She counted numerous artists among her circle of friends. Whilst it is true that abstraction is the common theme of her collection, colour – the very expression of life – is well represented, notably with the works of Sam Francis.
The key feature of the Knaepen Collection is that most of the works are on paper. However, all of them, whether drawings, gouaches or watercolours, have another point in common: they reflect the genesis of artistic creation at its most fascinating. It was this resolute choice of works that led Jos Knaepen to build up such a distinctive collection and one of truly exceptional quality. The works constitute a collection that reflects a lifelong adventure, because each work harks back to a meeting. The collection is thus a testimony of a life wholly dedicated to art.
Mrs Knaepen expressed the wish that her collection of contemporary art be kept for future generations and that it be made accessible to the general public. This motivated her decision to set up a fund within the King Baudouin Foundation in 2013. In keeping with her wishes, the Knaepen Collection will join other works in public collections.