The KNEIP art collection was born in 1993 with the creation of the company out of Bob Kneip's desire to share his taste for beautiful things with his clients and his team. Art and life no longer belong to two different worlds. Art must be experienced day by day, as Bob Kneip says, and should not be confined to special and private places. In offices paintings fill the walls with colour and create a special and stimulating atmosphere for ideas to emerge and develop. This, in turn, helps to foster an attitude that increases people's openness to art in their private and professional life. KNEIP is proud to support artists and help develop a taste for pictorial art among KNEIP employees and the public.
It is probably no coincidence that Pop Art features prominently in this collection: what other kind of art would better suit a company like KNEIP where communication of financial information to all major media (newspapers, global websites, regulators and data vendors) is the core business?
Pop Art stems from a meeting of art and mass media culture. It has its origins in England in the late '50s and developed in the United States in the early '60s with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns; it later met with success during the '60s in Europe. Pop Art makes immediate sense to many of us. We can relate to these pictures and identify our own reality highlighted by advertising, TV, press and cinema - in an abrupt, colourful, laconic or trivial way, and always mass-effective.
But you will find "More than Pop Art" since the guiding principle of the collection is love for contemporary art in general.
Art has long since been a true passion of mine. From my experimental forays into modern and contemporary art, to a gradual propensity toward pop art, I have nurtured this passion into an outward expression of creativity and emotion. Each piece tells its own story.
The choice of subject matter, colour, intensity, shape, and rhythm makes each piece unique, and adds to the overall tenor of the KNEIP'art Collection.
Whether you're just browsing, or looking for a specific trend or style throughout the collection, you will find a wide range of messages, a variety of tones and an abundance of innovation within the different works.
Sharing my passion and inspiration with others is important to me. A large part of the collection is permanently on show at our KNEIP offices in Luxembourg, Lausanne, London, Paris, & Brussels. While the notion of beauty is purely subjective, I strongly believe that a dynamic and colourful working environment favours creativity and forward thinking.
It is my hope that the KNEIP'art Collection will enrich your appreciation of art, and touch you as you peruse its contents.
Enjoy the collection.
The choice of Pop Art is no coincidence and the collection exposes art to real life and shows how proximity to everyday gestures helps to open up the popular imagination by overcoming museum-style sacredness. Similarly, the acquisitions (that are the result of a passionate enthusiasm) and their presentation (which reflects a willingness to participate) determine the natural relationship with the art and the open attitude towards the artworks.
It could be said that, at Kneip, the idea of transmission of aesthetic and ethical values occurs daily and naturally in an artistic environment. Thus, the lightness of the subjects, the immediacy of the form, but also the iconic fascination and chromatic explosion emerging from the works seem to favour adherence to this media-inspired art form by demystifying its museum aspect.
In this collection of drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures, despite the relevance of certain reinterpretations of icons and the playful undermining of classical genres, recognition by the art world is less important than sparking the imagination and the legitimation of identification with a shared passion.
However, regardless of the quality of certain works and their aesthetic and artistic propositions, this is not a museum, but another place for sharing where art occupies a pivotal position between professional skills and social and cultural qualities within the Kneip group.
Paul di Felice
Since the 1960s, the image has increasingly replaced the real object to the point of obscuring its reference.
Today, computerization is part of this change of paradigm from the real to the virtual. What began radically with Pop Art, namely abandonment to urban flux, existential lightness and clichés of worldliness, seems to be renewed in the art of certain artists in recent years who take advantage of the interactivity of different media.
Similarly, the fifteen minutes of fame, so dear to Andy Warhol, is still topical, as witnessed, a priori, in the interest in Twitter and Facebook and, a posteriori, in the artistic interpretations that refer to them.
The homage paid today to those rock 'n'roll years with its narcisistic aesthetic of visual appropriation of the media coincides, in a way, with contemporary sampling and is symptomatic of this return to clichés and commercial signs along with the deviation of fashion brands in certain artistic propositions.
Bob Kneip's collection, mainly made up of pictorial artworks referred to as pop and post-pop, reflect both 1960s sub-culture and the renewal of a reappropriation of media and icons from a consumer society of globalized spectacle in which notions of originality and authenticity have become obsolete.
Next to pop icons like Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, as well as representatives of graffiti art such as Keith Haring, the collection houses artworks linking an almost emotional pictorial approach and a more graphic approach based on emblematic signs.
The choice of the collection is pertinent because it enables the featuring of several generations of artists working on the representation and the deconstruction of daily life through different visual media and sometimes opposed artistic propositions.
The aesthetic of fashion diverted by a sophisticated stylisation of the computer palette can be seen in Julian Opie's denuded artwork. Feminine elegance, syncopated by repetitive movements that production procedures such as lenticular imagery only underline, is reduced to a silhouette and a play of lines.
Alternatively, for the last twenty years the Israeli artist Dganit Blechner has explored the world of media by recovering images of stars which she places in richly coloured pictorial compositions mixing urban perspectives, graffiti, texts and photos of figures from popular culture.
Cédric Bouteiller synthesizes these various urban aspects in his mixed-media artworks made up of digital photographs on brushed aluminium, enhanced with collage, drawing and aerosol covered with a transparent epoxy resin. His "multilayered" visions of the contemporary world explore the chaotic energy of cities. From these architectural and urban transparencies and superimpositions women's faces sporadically emerge which confer an allegorical character on them.
This obsession with signs and writing, in this case with a predilection for Chinese characters, is also apparent in the work of Luxembourg artist Christian Frantzen.
With his expressive, gestural style he counters the "smoothness" of photographs, which inspire his compositions, and expresses both the living and the constructed in the colour and graphic interrelations.
Corresponding urbanity and icons appear otherwise in the work of artists like David Russon and Serge Mendjisky. While the former is inspired by "street photography" to compose his strongly pictorial paintings, the latter uses collage as a tool for his frescos which symbolize the chaotic energy of big cities.
In the case of Troy Henriksen, gesture is linked to writing and erasing, forming a texture on the exterior layer of his colourful and chaotic large canvases.
In the footsteps of Basquiat, he incorporates a rock aesthetic revisited visually.
Politically more radical, Beejoir, a British artist living in Bangkok, diverts logos that he reinvests in the street or presents in the form of paintings in galleries and art centres. His art is marked by a critical spirit through which he attempts to denounce the power of multinationals by using contrasting images and opposed messages as seen in his LV child, the silhouette of a small black boy covered with the Louis Vuitton logo.
In the footsteps of Claes Oldenburg, the artist Laurence Jenkell revisits candy sculpture in all its forms and colours by playing on national symbols, flags and famous fashion brands. The wrapping process, a sort of twisting of altuglas, enables the transformation of the object into dynamic sculpture which transports the spectator towards a kind of sublimation of the everyday. The candy sculpture dressed in Louis Vuitton bears witness to the metamorphosis that fashion and publicity are capable of provoking.
For Philippe Huart, the question of the relationship with reality sometimes takes the form of psychedelic images with inscriptions playing on words such as "zoom/room" surrounding a bulb painted in a hyper-realist manner. By decontextualising motifs referring to pop iconography he brings the debate concerning the impact that this might have on our subconscious up to date through the repetition and superimposition of everyday objects and signs.
The successive layers that appear in Jacques Villeglé's lacerated posters open our field of interpretation through artwork which combines the accident of deconstruction and the mastery of framing and composition.
This art of "décollage", had already begun with Raymond Hains in 1949 and was developed in collaboration with Jacques Villeglé who joined him in the New Realist movement in the 1960s. With the Italian Mimmo Rotella and another Frenchman, François Dufrêne, they clouded the issue of the paternity of the author by playing with the disappearance of the artist in favour of what Villeglé refers to in his manifesto as the "anonymous lacerator".
From his 1960s "décollages" to the ludic installations of the 1980s, Raymond Hains, an erudite artist with a critical and off-the-wall vision, always displayed humour and causticity concerning art and life. The graphic and conceptual artwork in the collection of Bob Kneip is a good example. By transforming the image of an American Express poster with deformed lenses Raymond Hains established wild connections with Brittany by titling the piece Armorican express. Reading this title reminds one of the wreck, off the Brittany coast, of the Amoco Cadiz petrol tanker in March 1978, provoking an oil slick which is still considered today to be one of the worst ecological disasters of all time.
In his painting "la Bourse" (Stock Exchange), included in his 2009 exhibition Earthquake in Wonderland, Jean Christophe Massinon deconstructs the image of power by representing the lines and forms of the building, which was formerly a symbol of security, in a state of decomposition and by expressing through the power of paint the fragility of the world of finance.
The majority of artworks in the Bob Kneip collection are paintings and sculptures with representations that include images of stars, signs and brands (but also photos and urban traces), the coherence of which reveals both a passion and obsession with the appropriation of futility through a medium generally endowed with an assured durability.
The sculpture by Stéphane Cipre in the entrance hall which, in a way, revisits the tautology of conceptual art, ironically expresses the tension of representations of art and life.
Seen from this angle, Bob Kneip's collection emits, albeit with a certain eclecticism which nevertheless enables interesting correspondances, an energy capable of linking different visions of daily life and the world of spectacle and consumption while traversing several generations of artists and artworks related to Pop and post-Pop art.
Paul di Felice
translated by Simon Welch
"I like art that can be immediately consumed" Bob Kneip explains in relation to the collection of Pop Art that he has lovingly put together and which is currently displayed on the walls of the KNEIP offices. One is reminded of the long tirade by pop artist Claes Oldenburg :"I am for a political-erotic-mystical art, which doesn't just sit on its butt in a museum. […] I am for an art whose form is wedded to the currents of life itself, art which twists and lies down and piles itself up and spits and drools, that is heavy and vulgar and obtuse and sweet and stupid like life itself. […] I am for an art that springs from a pocket, from the deep canals of the ear, from the edge of a knife, from the corner of the mouth, that is in your face or that can be worn on the wrist."1
Introducing life into art so that the artwork is no longer merely an effigy from the distant past and is, instead, an indicator of the cultural, social and economic turbulence of the 1960s, thus inducing a new point of view, another way of seeing things ... that was the vow taken by pop artists which demands a radically different conception of the artwork that the contemporary world has inherited. And the opposite should also be possible : to introduce art into life, to marvel at the nervous agitation of the streets and the electric frenzy of the mass media, to be amazed by new materials such as plastic and polystyrene, seeing one's image lost in the infinite reflections in shop windows. The effervescence from which Pop Art emerged sprang from a double movement that confronted life and brought life into art, thus transforming the environment into artwork. And the fact that a collection of Pop Art finds its place in company offices recalls that famous '60s slogan "art and life".
Turning the corners of the company's corridor, one runs into well-known mass media icons: Mickey Mouse painted by Don Ken or Philippe Huart, Marilyn's smile by Jörg Döring and the smile of MAF, a cartoon character by Wawrzyniec Tokarski, as well as the Kennedies in a painting by Jean-Christophe Martinez. There are also the objects which are the currency of daily life: the view of a street with fast food, as presented by Alain Bertrand, high-heeled shoes by Andy Warhol, Coke cans by Jean-Jacques Deleval, the silhouette of a building painted by FIFAX. Elements derived from what Roland Barthes referred to as New Mythologies: steak and chips, the ads for detergent and the portraits of stars by Harcourt Studios.
Although Pop Art is often seen as the 1950s and '60s creation of a few English artists like Richard Hamilton (among others) followed by Americans such as Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenchtein, it is above all an attitude shared by different artists of the same generation. The word "pop" is not restricted to a single artistic current for there is also pop music, pop architecture and pop design. In one of his earliest interviews for Art Voices in 1962, Warhol was asked 'What does Coca-Cola mean to you?" Warhol replied "Pop"2. The word evokes the coldness of a soda, a reflex simultaneity of perceptive channels, a modern synthesis known to all and tasted by all.
Warhol biographers often refer to the famous incident concerning the creation of Warhol's first pop painting. In 1960, Andy Warhol drew two Coca-Cola bottles, one in an Abstract expressionist manner, the other in the refined style of commercial art. He showed them to his friend the film director Emile de Antonio. The latter unhesitatingly designated the second one as exposing modern society in all its "nakedness"3. This anecdote could almost stand as a pop manifesto. Warhol bids farewell to the old world of the post-war period dominated by MacCarthyism and abandons abstract Expressionism à la Pollock and De Kooning. Thanks to Greenberg's writings, the abstract painting style of the New York School was celebrated as the new American avant-garde, thus shifting the artistic centre from Europe to the United States. Emerging from the war, the United States became, according to Greenberg, the guarantor of a "superior conscience of history", preserving art and creativity from the threat of totalitarian regimes and propaganda. In the middle of the Cold War, making figurative art sailed dangerously close to "kitsch" National Socialist art. By reinjecting figuration into the artwork, Pop gave rise to a new position and forced us to consider the reality of taste. "I want everybody to think in the same way", declared Warhol, "That's what's happening in Russia, under the yoke of authoritarian rule. Here, it's happening naturally, without authoritarian government; so, if it works without constraints, it could work without becoming communist. Everybody is similar and everybody does the same thing and it's getting increasingly like that."4
Pop is an attitude among artists: rejecting a dusty museum abstraction while emphasizing all that exemplifies modern society: expansion, the omnipotence of the media and consumer products, a displayed consciousness of this superficiality corresponding to artistic activity in relation to social activity ("I want to be a machine" repeats Warhol concerning his studio, the Factory). Thus kitsch enters into art, having been repudiated by Greenberg as a popular art that includes cheap commercial literature filled with images, magazines, adverts and Hollywood movies. Besides this, a whole generation from the American counter-culture had upset the values of an old world created by geopolitics. With the rapid growth of mass-media, another space came into being, a social space giving rise to reference points of everything that drains from the information/consumer/spectacle society.
Pop is thus an attitude shared on both sides of the Atlantic. In France, Figuration Narrative (Jacques Monory, Bernard Rancillac, Hervé Télémaque, Erró, etc.) also turned its back on the academic abstraction of the Paris School and introduced a new iconography of "Everyday Mythologies", as announced by the 1964 exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. May '68 revealed the political commitment of some of them, such as Erró, making narrative figuration into political figuration. At the same time, the Nouveaux Réalistes (Arman, César, Yves Klein, Nikki de Saint Phalle, etc.) sought to adopt just as American artists did, a new stance in relation to reality by concentrating on the object. The compression by César at the 1960 May Salon provoked scandal in an art world that was still faithful to the old values of painting.
Today Pop Art is classified as a movement which has found its place in history, but the pop attitude has never disappeared. It is the prerogative of many contemporary artists, such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, and has founded a new conception of the image, the object and humanity. The banality of daily life gains its power of fascination from the mass phenomena that it reveals. The moment is no longer "beautiful" because it is unique but because it is shared, communal and repeatable. An artistic identity is being constructed that corresponds to situation5 which, like images, can be reproduced to infinity.
This identity is no longer situated in the singularity of genius, nor in the wake of Pollock and the performance of a pictorial event, but in the archetype, in the perceptive and productive machine. "Andy strived, through repetition, to show us that there isn't really any repetition, that everything we look at is worthy of our attention. It seems that this information was of major importance for the 20th century"6 wrote John Cage, while for Marcel Duchamp "What is interesting is the idea that could result in putting fifty cans of Campbell's soup on a canvas."7
Georges-Charles Vanrijk's paintings, presented in the KNEIP collection, exalt family photos through their repetition, in the form of a happiness which becomes apparent according to a consumption pertaining not to quality but to quantity. The transposition of photographs to canvas and their multiplication aims at the constitution of a pictorial weft that affirms the surface, the material nature of the plane and the reality of the image as a representation as a simple memory. Georges-Charles Vanrijk and Philippe Lebeau both create unique collages referring to all the collusions made possible by the contemporary world (watching TV documentaries about Africa, eating Japanese food, wearing jeans and driving an American car). Their collages are reminiscent of the work of Ray Johnson, an American pop artist from the '50s and '60s, who played with the superimposition of magazine photos (James Dean), objects (cigarette packets) and ink.
One thinks also of Rauschenberg who made Combine Paintings from bric-a-brac found in the street. The pop attitude is far from dead and the collages orchestrate the heterogeneity of life itself on the picture plane. The painting is conceived as comparable to chance and thus is similar to live art that taken shape in the performances of other '60s artists such as the Fluxus group.
There is no longer the trace of the artist's touch, no longer an affirmation of a style. Objects are displayed in the foreground with a fabrication that is both impersonal and cold. Effectively, artistic subjectivity is no longer apparent in pictorial gesture but in the perceptive intensity that refers the painting to all the objects that surround us. The image itself becomes plastic, as sparkling in its colours and luster, as the new infinitely mouldable and transformable material, brushes, suitcases, toys, wrappers, lids, pipes, etc. The monuments painted by Jean-Baptiste Bouvier on psychedelic pink, yellow and orange backgrounds are no longer so much the silhouette of themselves as shapes or signals of a feeling. "By telling a moving story", says Roy Lichtenchtein, "about engagement vows, stolen kisses or separations, as if the artwork was created mechanically, I just point out the way in which we see life today. We really like protesting in America. I often hear people complaining about war victims by saying "it's really terrible that so many people are being killed", but nobody lifts a finger to stop it. We allow emotions to develop but nothing becomes really emotional. It's this indifference, this conventional emotion, stereotyped and ultimately empty, that I want to show."8
The referant is no longer really reality itself so much as the reality of the image9. The image is considered in terms of its photographic criteria: Alain Bertrand's paintings appropriate photographic framing, David Russon's paintings, such as International soul party, place the figure in front of a white sky, overexposed in a bright summer light that is raw and almost bites into the contours of the shapes. The image is plastic, sometimes enlarged to life size in the manner of scenes mounted on panels by James Rosenquist. Painting is pushed to an extreme size, bodies becoming surfaces with flesh as flat areas of colour. Behind the veil of appearances lies the mechanical dimension of the world. Big Blonde by Tom Wesselmann is a giant imposing itself like a logo. Since reality gave way to the technical image, we zoom into reality, we give a multitude of focal points, a "hyper-reality". Philippe Huart's pills have the scope of an advertising poster, not so much pushing the product as the idea of good health, energy and eternal youth. The universe of images has been switched with reality, posing the question of the simulacra, the original and the copy, the real and the fake. Thus, Henri Lepetit produces artworks in the style of Warhol and Lichtenchtein, updating one of the precepts of Warhol who wanted his works to have the possibility of being executed by somebody else.
And if, in the event of a meeting at KNEIP, you run into paintings of an expressionistic nature or with motifs inspired by primitive art by Arlette Frisch, d'Armand Strainchamps, Marti or Pierre-Claude Bauer, or else integrating graffiti as Deborah Sportes does, you mustn't be surprised. All through his life, Warhol's painting itself never ceased to overflow the mechanical framework that constrained it: drips, scratches, waverings, dribbles, and his technique of the blotted line (discovered by Warhol during his studies and consisting of blotting wet ink drawings to produce a "beaded" lign) all invite the gaze to remain on the edge of the contour, as if the slight vibration thus obtained were the residue of expressionist gesturing. Later on, his friendship and collaboration with Jean-Michel Basquiat, an '80s artist of Haitian origin, shows how much Warhol remained open to the expressionist side of creation.
Is the KNEIP collection consumer art? Yes, in as much as it presents an eclectic selection while opening a range of choice worthy of a supermarket with a pop attitude, "the convergence of the particularly 20th century tendency towards anti-sensibility in art, and the very real and banal anti-sensibility of the business world that surrounds us."10
by Daphné Le Sergent
translated by Simon Welch