Geoffrey de Beer’s work is generally conceptual and political. His quasi-scientific methodology of strictly dispassionate experimentation and reporting is firmly situated within an institutional context and heavily extended into an institutional critique.
Most of his work has been centered upon the economics of the art market, researching alternative ways to promote and sell art. In “Artomatic”, the artist set out to challenge the art market (specifically the monopoly galleries within the city of Antwerp), with its opaque structures and processes. He was selling works of art students together with important Belgian artists, such as Luc Tuymans, Jef Geys, Guillaume Bijl, Walter Swennen, but not in a gallery space, but in vending machines. The works were priced between €2 and €20, and available 24/7.
In another project aimed at de-historicizing and challenging the art historical canon, de Beer staged so-called “Art-Jacking” performances. Here, he had himself invited behind the scenes of different museums to add objects to works of other artists. In addition to starting a visual dialogue between the works, his intention was to challenge the institutionalization of art and strategies of display.
In “Avant-garde Below Zero” de Beer was marketing and selling deep-frozen artworks, traveling from door to door like a salesman in a van. His target audiences lived in very specific types of middle-class, English cottage-style family homes. After placing flyers and promotional material in these peoples’ mailboxes, de Beer and his team contacted the individuals directly to “take their orders”. The team was particularly interested in researching potential “collectors’” readiness and willingness to “consume” art, in the same way they would consume frozen food or other daily necessities. Needless to say, that the home owners did not buy a single frozen artwork. Instead, collectors interested in contemporary art who heard about this project, expressed strong interest and were often offended that they remained excluded from the project.
Moving within the parameters of art politics, de Beer grew somewhat impatient with and tired of the process-based and research-oriented work. He increasingly felt the urge to search for “aesthetic perfection”, away from his extensive project and performance-based work. While studying sculpture at the Royal Academy in Antwerp, he took some extra courses in glass blowing and cold glass implementation techniques at the Arts and Crafts Institute in Mechelen. It was only natural to him to start working with glass, “back to the roots”, as it were.
Since 2016, de Beer breaks with previous conceptual and performance-based artistic strategies and treads radically new territory. His most recent work consists of abstract installations with iridescent glass panels. His installations only use two types of material – glass and oak. The glass panels are placed on oak shelves as bas-reliefs. Sometimes, he installs one glass panel, sometimes two or more, some panels are smaller, others larger. In some works the glass panels are placed next to each other; in others, they are overlapping. All of them have beautifully poetic, funny, ironic, symbolic or literary titles.
The glass panels come in infinite colors and combinations. No panel resembles another. Depending what colors and substances are mixed together, the panels have different surfaces; sometimes, they are shiny and smooth, sometimes rough and edgy, translucent and opaque. They have very sharp edges with can crack when installed. As little manipulation of the basic material and size as possible is undertaken to expose the beauty of the glass. Occasionally, viewers succumb to the temptation to touch the surface of the panels, experience the work through all different senses.
Geoffrey de Beer (*1978) lives and works in Antwerp (Belgium) and La Roche Morey (France). He graduated in 2002 from the Sculpture Department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. In 2010, he started a Ph.D. in Arts entitled “The artist as a Hub-hopper”, focusing on young artists’ need to network at the beginning of their career. In 2017 de Beer had his first solo show at Balzer Projects.