In 1958, Van Genk turned up at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague with a large bundle of drawings under his arm....
In 1958, Van Genk turned up at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague with a large bundle of drawings under his arm. His first encounter was with the deputy director, Cees Bolding, who expressed great enthusiasm for what he saw. The middle panel of this painting depicts a sequel to this encounter in which Van Genk meets the director himself, Joop Beljon. The painting gives us a view into the office of the academy director and his secretary, which is bathed in orange light by the rays falling through the large window. Van Genk tilts back in his chair with an indifferent look. Beljon, too, is wildly enthusiastic about Van Genk’s work. In the end it was Beljon who made the principal effort to give Van Genk a good start in the art world. When Van Genk began work on this painting in 1971, his staunchest supporter was Beljon.
Van Genk may have felt less positive towards another man depicted in this work, graphic designer Pieter Brattinga, who was his official business representative from 1964 onwards. Van Genk portrays Brattinga in a tondo on the right-hand panel with a curious pendant around his neck: ‘Lavatory … for ladies’. Brattinga had promised to organize exhibitions of Van Genk’s work in New York and Tokyo, but nothing came of these proposals. The right side of the tondo with Brattinga’s portrait contains an impression of a work by the Dutch artist Ger Lataster (1920–2012), who was enjoying considerable success in this period with what to Van Genk seemed like incomprehensible splodges. On the left-hand side of the painting, too, Van Genk is preoccupied with the machinations of the art world. An expensive but ‘practically meaningless’ sculpture is admired by a crowd of art collectors and ends up in the Museum of Modern Art alongside a Delft-blue dinner plate.
On the right-hand side, Van Genk has painted a pot of Flexa plastic lacquer, a can of clear cellulose varnish from Cetabever, and a container of Bison Kit contact glue. Looking at his work closely, it is clear that quite a lot of gluing and varnishing has indeed taken place. Where he paints water, he adds a glossy finish that might well be some kind of plastic lacquer. Bison Kit or some similar adhesive must have been essential for gluing his painted panels together, as well as later when constructing his ingenious trolleybuses. Still, even in the heyday of Pop Art it would have been very unusual for someone to portray products like these so prominently and to also add thoughts such as ‘“Bison-kit glues everything.” Everything? Ideal for your little crucifixes, children’s saving stamps (…) And art holy.’ In another corner he writes ‘Kunstpenissen’ (‘artificial penises’) and right next to that, ‘the societal sex pyramid’.