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In Context

The world of Paul Van Hoeydonck

Lots to be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 12 November 2021

Paul Van Hoeydonck, born 1925 in Antwerp, Belgium celebrates 70 years as an active artist and 50 years since his sculpture ”Fallen Astronaut” was placed on the moon.

After art-historical studies he exhibited for the first time in Antwerp. The first works were figurative paintings. Just a couple of years later he moved to his own form of constructivism with geometrical paintings and monochrome reliefs.  By the end of the 1950s, Van Hoeydonck created monochrome “Lightworks” in plexi with a light- and shadow effect that appears three-dimensional. In the early 1960s he became a leading artist in the art of assemblage. In the categories “Bonhommes”, “Cities of the future” and “Boîte de monocles” he used driftwood, metal objects, kitchen utensils and all kinds of wasted products to create sculptures and assemblages. The recycled materials also played an important role in the coming works when the artist starts to explore the space. “To open the way to the stars, is the most important mission of mankind in this century” Van Hoeydonck stated. He meant that our planet was violated and destroyed by the humans caused by the technological improvements just during the last century and the necessity for us to expand into space. By the time of the art movements’ Pop Art, Op Art and the French Nouveau Réalisme he created his very own direction; “Space-art”. Van Hoeydonck was not really influenced by Science fiction literature, movies or TV-series, but very interested in exploring the synthesis of humans and machines in space. He created his own universe of “Homo Spatiens”, robots, cyborgs (Cybs) and astronauts. Most of them were executed in white, the symbol of the unreal since ”the colour of the universe is white”.

From 1962 and onwards he visited and exhibited in New York frequently. NASA took notice of Van Hoeydonck’s interest in space travels and a director at Sidney Janis Gallery came with the idea of letting astronauts bring a sculpture to the moon. Van Hoeydonck was invited to Cape Canaveral and met astronauts in the Apollo 15 crew, who agreed to bring the sculpture “The Fallen Astronaut”, a small aluminium figure in form of an astronaut. It was placed on the moon on August 1, 1971.

Even though Paul Van Hoeydonck went on his own artistic path, he was part of the late 1950s and 1960s most celebrated artists in Europe. In Antwerp he was co-founder of the artists’ group G58-Hessenhuis. In Milan he exhibited at Galleria Apollinaire where he met and became friend with Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni. In Paris he exhibited twice at the famous gallery Iris Clert where he met and became close friend with the art critic and cultural philosopher Pierre Restany, who was the founder of Nouveau Réalistes with artists connected to Iris Clert, such as Arman, César, Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely. In Düsseldorf he had contacts with artists of the ZERO group, Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker. From the mid-1960s he became active in the USA, participating at the ”White on White” exhibition at the Lincoln DeCordova Museum with Malevich, Albers, Arp, Fontana, Piene and Uecker.

The five works included in this auction represent key works from the artist’s Space-Art themes and phases; “Radarscopes”, “Homospatiens”, “Little Astronauts” and “Astros” and dates from the period 1965-1972. Welcome to a journey into the eternal space!

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