Flanders says farewell to Jan Hoet


The life of long-time art curator Jan Hoet, who died last week at 77, was celebrated this week with processions, receptions and a funeral that drew 1,800

Church too small for 1,800 attendees

The funeral for Flemish art curator Jan Hoet took place in Ghent’s Sint-Paulus church yesterday morning. Hoet died last week of a heart attack at the age of 77.

On Tuesday evening, about 250 people and a New Orleans-style jazz band took part in a funeral procession departing from the city’s Museum for Contemporary Arts (SMAK), which Hoet ran for 14 years, to Sint-Baaf’s cathedral. The procession was a memorial and thank you to the curator who devoted his life to Flanders’ contemporary art scene – shaking it up and courting controversy not a few times.

“However difficult it all is, this brings great comfort,” said Jan Hoet, Jr, at the procession. “He gave his life to the public, and the way they’ve responded has been very moving.”

Sint-Paulus, located just a few blocks from SMAK, proved too small for the crowd of more than 1,800 wishing to attend the service on Wednesday. Among those present were culture minister Joke Schauvliege, artists Michaël Borremans , Berlinde De Bruyckere , Jan De Cock , Wim Delvoye and Jan Fabre and East Flanders governor Jan Briers, former director of the Festival van Vlaanderen. The many foreign guests who attended the funeral included representatives of Kassel and Herford, in Germany, where Hoet curated major exhibitions.

Hoet was “a simple man, who enjoyed everyone and everything,” said pastor Michel De Beer during the service. “Everywhere Jan went, there was a party. First, perhaps, some uproar – but after that, a party.”

Following the ceremony, the public was invited to a reception at SMAK in Hoet’s honour. Hundreds of people enjoyed onion soup and sandwiches with Ghent brawn – a favourite lunchtime menu of Hoet’s – while Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang and SMAK director Philippe Van Cauteren delivered eulogies.

“Jan had an exceptional energy and strength. Lightning bolts came from his eyes,” said painter Borremans later in an interview. “He was enormously driven. This was a man who was always in overdrive. I’m going to miss him. I find it very strange that I’m not going to see him again.”

“Jan was a sort of village doctor of beauty, a sort of preacher for art,” said Jan Fabre.

“He was a difficult man,” commented governor Briers. “All great artists are difficult people, and he was the perfect example of that. But everyone had respect for him because he was so driven in his quest for his goal of bringing art to everyone and helping out artists who needed it."

“He taught Flanders how to look at contemporary art, and at the same time took Flemish artists around the world,” said former minister Stefaan De Clerck, also present. “He may well be the most important person we have ever had in the field of the visual arts.”

Hoet was buried later in the day in the Campo Santo cemetery in the Ghent district of Sint-Amandsberg, attended by family and close friends.

Photo by Nicolas Maeterlinck / BELGA

The life of long-time art curator Jan Hoet, who died last week at 77, was celebrated this week with processions, receptions and a funeral that drew 1,800.

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