Hans Op de Beeck

As in Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, the Stewarts are like puppets in the hands of the people who style and fashion them to play
their respective roles.

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The Stewarts have a party, 2006
Video still
Video, colour, sound, 4’19’’
Collection Manuel de Santaren
© Hans Op de Beeck

Three men, a young couple, a child, an elderly couple, and a girl are the members of an imaginary family: the Stewarts. They appear and disappear inside a completely empty, all-white environment, assuming static poses and never interacting with each other. The video is out of focus, lacking precise spatial references, and the white-on-white effect of the protagonists’ clothing triggers a de-materialising effect of the figures in the environment.

The Stewarts appear as ghosts, characters of a surreal mise-en-scène. Deprived of autonomous will, they are directed by the production assistants who put balloons in their hands and paper hats on their heads, typical of home birthday parties. However, no celebration is actually taking place. As in Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, the Stewarts are like puppets in the hands of people who style and fashion them like characters who need to play their roles.

Op de Beeck deconstructs the traditional model of the family portrait into a mosaic of elements from pictorial, cinematic, photographic, and theatrical mediums, denying the typical narrative intent of cinematic language. Typical of family portraits is the definition of specific characters, roles, hierarchies, and social and environmental contexts. The artist rejects all this, leaving the question open as to what its subjects may desire and feel, and who in fact they actually are. The work produces a strong effect of alienation, creating a world suspended between reality and fiction that leads to a reflection on human existence, on the construction of individual identity and its manifestation in the relationship with others and with the audience of the world that is watching.


Hans Op de Beeck (born 1969, Belgium, lives and works in Brussels) is noted for his versatile artistic production, and his use of different mediums: sculpture, installations, video, animated films, drawing, painting, photography and writing. He garnered international success since the end of the 1990s. Among his more recent solo exhibitions are: in 2004, Hans Op de Beeck: Meanwhile…, Museum of Contemporary Art of The Hague; in 2005, Hans Op de Beeck: T-Mart, M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp; in 2006, Hans Op de Beeck: Family scenes and scenery, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; in 2007 Hans Op de Beeck: Extensions, Centraal Museum, Utrecht; in 2008, Hans Op de Beeck: Circumstances, Rogaland Museum of Fine Arts, Stavanger; in 2009, Hans Op de Beeck: In Silent Conversation with Correggio, Galleria Borghese, Rome; Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence, Galleria Continua, Beijing; in 2010, Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence, Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, Hans Op de Beeck: Sea of Tranquillity, Kunstmuseum Thun, and Centro de Arte Caja de Burgos; in 2011, Hans Op de Beeck: Extensions, Museum Het Domein, Sittard; in 2012, Hans Op de Beeck: Video Works, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Hans Op de Beeck: Visual Fictions, Kunstverein Hannover; Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence, Gemeente Museum The Hague; in 2013, Hans Op de Beeck: Sea of Tranquility, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa; Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence (2), Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL; Hans Op de Beeck: Sea of Tranquillity, FRAC Paca, Marseille; in 2014, Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence (2), MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Boston; Hans Op de Beeck: Staging Silence (2), MOCA Cleveland, OH; Hans Op de Beeck: Quiet scenery and wandering extras, Sammlung Goetz, Munich. Among his joint exhibitions in the most recent years are: in 2011, Chengdu Biennale – Changing Vistas: Creative Duration, East Chengdu Music Parc, Chengdu; Rencontres Internationales, Centre Pompidou, Paris; TRA. Edge of Becoming, La Biennale di Venezia, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice; One of a Thousand Ways to Defeat Entropy, La Biennale di Venezia – Arsenale Novissimo, Venice; Time and Place, Kunsthalle Detroit, Detroit; in 2012, Of Bridges & Borders. From Real to Surreal, MAMBA Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires; Resonance & Silence, Haus der Kunst, Munich; Dessiner-Tracer: Watercolors, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Calais; Fantastic. Lille3000, Euratechnologies, Lille; Vanitas. Contemporary Refl ections, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow; in 2013, The Great Magic, MAMbo, Bologna; My little paradise, Middelheim Museum, Antwerp; The Gesamtkunstwerk Project, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Victoria; Ai Wei Wei / Kendell Geers / Moataz Nasr / Hans Op de Beeck, Galleria Continua / Le Moulin, Boissyle- Châtel; Emscherkunst.2013, Rheinaue Walsum Nature Reserve, Essen; Artifi cial Amsterdam, de Appel, Amsterdam; HEIMsuchung, Kunstmuseum Bonn; in 2014, Museum to scale 1/7, The Naples Museum of Art, Naples, FL and Kunsthal Rotterdam, Rotterdam; Donation Florence et Daniel Guerlain, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

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