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J.M. Coetzee appointed curator at the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale

South African author and 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature J.M. Coetzee has been appointed curator of the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale at the request of this year’s Belgian representative artist, Berlinde De Bruyckere. The sculptress, who stays in New York today, will mount her project with Ghent’s urban museum for contemporary art, the SMAK. Together with DOCUMENTA in Kassel, the Venice Biennale,  which will take place from 1 June to 24 November this year, is the world’s biggest contemporary art happening. The French and Flemish communities take turns each year to send one of their creative talents to Venice. De Bruyckere has been making a name for herself on the international art scene with her distorted sculptures of horses’ parts and wax human body parts. In 2009 her work earned her the Flemish Cultural Prize for Fine Arts. The fact that De Bruyckere managed to convince the author is no coincidence, as she recently worked closely with Coetzee on ‘Allen vlees’ All flesh, a special thematical edition of the cultural periodical DW B. In it she confronts gripping details in her works of art with well-chosen quotes from the author’s immense body of work. A composition that is both terrifying and comforting. Coetzee’s role as curator will be both that of stimulator and a sounding board. “A curator should feed you as artist and add things which you may not have arrived at yourself,” says De Bruyckere. “It’s someone with whom you discuss your work, with whom you can share something and who reacts to your work.” This collaboration is nevertheless quite remarkable if one considers the reserved author known for his reluctance to random involvement in art projects. One could assume the artistic impulse must be considerable. De Bruyckere has long been a fervent fan of the refined and sobre but richly coloured novels of Coetzee, who has since become an Australian citizen. The two clicked three years ago when she delivered  an artwork for an event at De Balie in Amsterdam to celebrate the author’s seventieth birthday. She gradually discovered an affinity between her vulnerable sculptures and the language and themes of his work. Says De Bruyckere: “All we have are our body, our fears and our pain. Coetzee is a master in the exploration of these stirrings of the soul.”