Main Building

Jack Helgesen Family Collection / Archeology of the Image

In 2012 Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium presented the exhibition Archaeology of the Image, with works chosen from Jack Helgesen's collection.


This  exhibition was the tenth in succession and a golden opportunity for us to revisit Jack Helgesen's collection, where it all began almost ten years ago. Jack Helgesen's collection ranges over a broad spectrum, both of artists, artistic expressions, and collecting strategies. For our 2012 exhibition Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium and Jack Helgesen have therefore chosen to collaborate with Haugar Vestfold Art Museum and the Vigeland Museum, which also will be presenting curated exhibitions of works selected from Helgesen's collection. The collection is too extensive to be presented in its entirety, but thanks to the teamwork of these three institutions some of the main threads running through it are illuminated. 


A book accompanied the exhibitions with texts by the three curators who have worked on them: Mari F. Sundet from Kunstlaboratoriet, Tone Lyngstad Nyaas from Haugar and Jarle Strømodden from the Vigeland Museum. They each reflect on the curatorial strategy behind their selection of artworks. 


Archaeology of the Image

Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium's exhibition has its own title, Archaeology of the Image. Here curator Mari F. Sundet wishes to highlight artists who are in a particular dialogue with earlier artistic expressions. It is also an exhibition that focuses on painting. Although the collection embraces sculpture, photography, video, and installations, the works that have been selected in these media can also be related to the history of painting and its contemporary implications. At the core of this exhibition is therefore an examination of how late modern (or postmodern) art has negotiated with the sign systems of modern art and early modernism. In general terms these negotiations take the form of references to the various "isms" of twentieth century art, as later defined and categorized by art historians.


Today's society can be regarded as an extension of modernity. In his book Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism T. J. Clark describes the characteristics of that period. He writes that modernity and its art, modernism, are defined by the way artists refuted the authority of earlier generations and the idolization of their leading figures, replacing them with a focus on the future and the ability of science to change the world for the better. Modern artists undertook an iconographic cleansing of "the image" before setting about creating a new iconography for the future. The artists represented in The Archaeology of Art might be seen as the product of this iconography of the future. But what significance should we read into the fact that today's artists, in reviving sign systems associated with modernism, are indulging in practices their predecessors worked so hard to eradicate? And with this in mind we have to ask ourselves whether art today can ever be more than an empty reiteration of already well-known and well-used visual media. Does contemporary art, grounded in a familiar visual vocabulary, contain any of the rebellion, criticism, social confrontation, and reflection that typified earlier artists, and which we, both in an artistic and a wider social meaning, are a product of? Questions like these have been at the back of our minds throughout the preparation for this exhibition and the book that accompanies it.



Installation photos: Vegard Kleven