Willy Van Eeckhout: the archive as autobiography
Mechelen artist Willy Van Eeckhout (b. 1943) donated his archive to the M HKA in December 2018 after a site visit by the CKV team. His collection is a wonderful example of an archive composed mindfully and intentionally with the utmost care. The 33 files, arranged chronologically (1960-2019), contain photos, letters, invitations, printed matter, newspaper clippings, and other archival documents, interspersed with specification sheets on Van Eeckhout’s artworks. To a large extent, the items have been annotated in detail.
The archive contains a mixture of the artist’s personal and professional life. The myriad photos evince this, with snapshots from Van Eeckhout’s childhood, with family and friends, as well as photographs of openings, of the artist at work, and in the cordial company of his fellow artists.
The artwork spec sheets usually list the title, date, technique, and dimensions, and are accompanied by a photograph. Occasionally, mention is also made of successive collections. In brief, the archive constitutes a sound basis for a catalogue raisonné.
The first file commences with a series of biographical summaries and notes, as well as information about the artist’s oeuvre. Similar notes can also be found in later files. They act as a guideline throughout the life and work of the artist for future researchers.
Van Eeckhout keeps a personal copy of the archive in his home. Moreover, he continues to add to both archives proactively. For example, the M HKA has already received an additional file on the year 2019.
Part of the archive, primarily consisting of photos, was included in the 2012 monograph by Frans Boenders. Anyone interested in finding out more should visit the M HKA: Willy Van Eeckhout’s archive reads like an autobiography.