Laura Hanssens
Montevideo, Antwerp, 1981–85: Chronicle of an exhibition space



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Annie Gentils opened in 1981 with her then friend Stan [Constant] Peers the exhibition space Montevideo on the Antwerp harbour. Montevideo was located in an empty warehouse with the same name, taken from the capital of Uruguay. It was one of fifteen port warehouses of the South America line that were built in 1895 on the Kattendijkdok. The warehouses no longer conformed to the standards of maritime storage and had stood empty since the 1950s. The  Montevideowarehouse had an area of 2000 square meters and a symmetrical structure with three gates on each side, steel pillars, wooden walls and a cobblestone floor. The space was rented by Gentils and Peers from the city of Antwerp for the mere sum of 2000 Belgian francs per year.

With Montevideo, Gentils and Peers wanted to respond to the need of young artists for venues for their work. The objective of the founders was to create a venue for national and international experimental art activities; a dynamic place where artists could exhibit ‘without having to plough through all kinds of selection ’. With their exhibition space, Gentils and Peers did not react against existing museums or galleries, but wanted to be a contact point and promote the flow to the ‘official’ art institutions. From 1981 to 1985 they oversaw a wide range of exhibitions and performances, in addition to fashion shows, concerts, dance, theatre and film.

Montevideo opened its doors on 6 June 1981 with the sound and light installation Beam Space by Luc Steels. Steels, whose installations hover between art, science and technology, hung thin steel cables throughout the space, which were tuned like musical strings to produce a particular tone. The vibrations, triggered by environmental sounds and by the visitors, made the strings vibrate and were in turn again converted into sound. Each string was connected to a loudspeaker that amplified the sound. In addition, the vibrations of the strings were made visible via red laser beams that were interrupted when a string was made to vibrate. In this way, the invisible sound waves were made visible.

On 18 december 1981, the impressive exhibition Scale and perspective [Schaal en Perspectief] by Luc Deleu opened with a performance by the Belgian group Allez Allez. Two years earlier, in 1980, Deleu had made a trip to America where he had seen, aside from the World Trade Center in New York, the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California. The icon of Mariposa Grove is a fallen giant Sequoia, called The Fallen Monarch. The spatial contrast between this fallen giant and the standing giant trees inspired Deleu to pursue an exploration of the perspective and volume effect of lying and standing objects. Under the header Scale and Perspective and through the use of models, he experimented with the contrasts of, among others, horizontal and vertical blocks of flats. The size of the Montevideo space made it possible for Deleu to realise his project Scale and Perspective for the first time on a one-to-one scale. In the port warehouse he installed a lying tower crane, which took up the entire space and challenged the spectator to call into question the conventions of volume and perspective. The exhibition was also used to promote the Fund that was founded by the B. F. F. B (Bureau For a Fair Balance) to help fund Deleu’s legal defense. Indeed, Deleu was being sued by the Antwerp Council of the Order of Architects because he had built social housing without charging the usual fee. Anyone who wished could make a donation after visiting the exhibition. The exhibition in Montevideo was also the start of Deleu’s further projects, such as the installation with two lighting poles for Investigations in Liège (1985) and the high-voltage pylons on the Ghent St. Peter’s square for the exhibition Initiatief 86 (1986).

On January 1, 1982 the crane formed the setting for the new year’s party held in Montevideo with Rasta Connection. On February 6, 1982 Montevideo hosted Lightning Strikes, a musical evening organised by Les Disques du Crépuscule, the young Brussels record label, which came to present a choice of their groups and artists at the venue. The evening attracted over three hundred people and presented performances by two Belgian groups, Marine and N I M, the English poet Richard Jobson with the poem ‘Industry is Ugly’, and a percussion session by the Scotsman Paul Haig. Also in February 1982, Montevideo organised New York Night, a movie night during which Amos Poe’s Subway Riders was shown. The presentation took place in the presence of Poe himself and ended later in the evening with a New York party.

On March 13, 1982 Montevideo held the Soldes Tour ‘82. Soldes, Fins the Séries was an international magazine founded in 1978 in Namur by Anne Frère, Marc Borgers, Michel Renard and Jean-Louis Sbille. In all, it published 10 issues. Written in French and English, this punk magazine brought together articles on fashion, art and music in an experimental design. After an event at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels in December 1981, Soldes, Fins de Séries organised ‘Une Soirée Package Iconographique’ at Montevideo, an evening of music, art and fashion. There was a concert by the Belgian singer Chabada, an Art-Fashion catwalk show by the designer Anne Frère accompanied by the young Belgian group By Chance, and a performance by the Israeli-Dutch post-punk band Minimal Compact.

Two weeks later, on March 27, Montevideo became the setting for Ziektekiemen [Pathogens], the second production of AKT (Ivo Van Hove, Karl Desloovere and Jan Versweyveld). The play deals with the merciless confrontation between male and female, and the ultimate triumph of male violence. Six women, played by men, end up in a vast arid plain with no way out. There, they are confronted with the cruel Louise, a hermaphrodite. Under her influence the women let their repressed obsessions and violent desires run free and turn into men. Like Geruchten [Rumors], AKT’s first production, Ziektekiemen broke with the Flemish theater conventions. For its productions, AKT always sought unconventional spaces where they could work with their own very specific staging and lighting. In this case, Van Hove chose the large, rough, unheated space of Montevideo. The port warehouse was left entirely empty except for a sofa and an American car, symbols of the feminine and masculine principle. During the show, spotlights were turned on specific details: a face, a leg or a hand. Moreover, the general lighting of the room slowly changed from blue to red, to underline the transformation the characters underwent in the play. For the actors, the vast area of Montevideo proved difficult. The acoustics were stressful on the voice, the freezing space and the cobblestones made that the men, wearing heels, would continuously lose their balance. They were forced to engage in a battle with space.

On May 28, 1982 Minus Delta T presented its project Bangkok 1982 at Montevideo. This German performance and music group was founded in 1978 by Mike Hentz, Karel Dudesek and Chrislo Haas. Although the line-up of the artists would change several times over the years , the work remained largely socially-oriented. Through its performances and projects, Minus Delta T sought to eliminate the barriers between different cultures and call into question the impact of the media on our thinking. Bangkok 1982 was part of one of the most important projects the collective had been working on since 1980. For this project, a five-and-a-half-ton stone – from a quarry in Wales, in the region of Stonehenge – was transported by truck via Western Europe, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan and Nepal to the contemporary art museum in Bangkok, which was under construction at the time. The menhir, entirely worthless at its point of departure, gradually gained in value by what Minus Delta T described as ‘Media Mystification’; a result of the coverage of the project in the press and the fact that famous people like the Dalai Lama and the Pope came into contact with the stone.

During the transport of the stone, which took three years, the members of Minus Delta T made video and audio recordings of the different places, cultures and traditions with which they came into contact. The information gathered was sent through various channels – mail, telephone, radio and teletype – to information points in Europe. Minus Delta t tried, in this way, to find a new way to share information about cultures and traditions. During the ride, an event was organized at almost every stop in cooperation with the local art scene. Minus Delta t organized performances together with local musicians. The stone and the material they had already collected were presented to the public. The project was funded by various sponsors. In addition, members of minus Delta t had also 19,967 shares printed, the same as the number of kilometers it would take to bring the stone to its final destination. At each stopover, shares were sold at a rate of 1 Deutsche Mark or 400 old Belgian francs (10 Euros) per kilometer. The group had also planned to organize an international meeting of shareholders after the Bangkok project at which the further fate of the stone would be democratically decided. The project ended in 1983 with a two-month festival at the Silpa Bhirasri National Museum Bangkok. The menhir itself not made it to Bangkok, but stranded in New Delhi, India.

In May 1982, the stone was exhibited in the Montevideo warehouse. Those who wanted could buy a share. In addition to a press conference, a lecture and a performance by Minus Delta T and Club Moral, there was also a performance by Claude Yande. Yande staged a mock fight against the guards of the Chooz nuclear power station. The artist lashed out at the inefficiency of the anti-nuclear demonstration that had taken place in the French town. According to Yande, the activists merely used violence and had no substantive message, and could therefore never achieve any results through their actions. His performance, a well thought-out and well-organized fight against cardboard cut-outs of policemen and security guards, showed how it should be done. Both Danny Devos and Ria Pacquée created an installation in which they held a performance that evening as well.

From Friday 13 to Sunday, August 15, 1982 the Antwerp Werkgroep Improviserende Musici (WIM) [Workgroup Improvising Musicians] organized Free Music ’82 at Montevideo. This jazz festival would normally have taken place at the King Kong venue, but since the hall had been arsoned on July 8 of that year, the organisers had to look for a new location. The space at Montevideo largely met their needs. In the middle of the port warehouse, a large circus tent with a stage was set up. For the ninth edition of Free Music, the organizers wanted to create a confrontation between Belgian and foreign improvising musicians. The three-day program was composed by saxophonist André Goudbeek and highlighted trombone and percussion works. In addition to performances by Garret List, Leo Verheyen and the duo George Lewis and Douglas Ewart, there was a ‘WIM Poel’ show every evening that brought the various international musicians of the day together on stage for an improvisation session. One month later, on September 18, Gentils and Peers organised the solo exhibition Licht, Holografie en Holoïsme [Light, Holography and Holoism] by Ludo Mich.

In 1978, Mich became fascinated with holography after visiting the exhibition Beeldend Licht [Visual Light] at the University of Ghent. During the next four years, he immersed himself in this matter. According to Mich, performance brought the static image to a higher level, and holography was the logical next step. Holography, moreover, allows the viewer to have a new perception and experience of space, which Mich called holoism. His exhibition at Montevideo was the culmination of this study. Through paintings, videos, holograms and performances, Mich presented his new take on three-dimensional art. The room itself became as it were a hologram, or, as Annie Gentils put it, ‘the activities and the visitors blended together into a large multi-dimensional mosaic’. On the opening night there was a ballet performance and a choir performed the musical work Holo-game by Walter Heynen. Also, various speakers had been invited to discuss the relationship between art and science. Following the exhibition, Gentils and Peers published an eponymous catalog. The publication, replete with a pair of red-green 3D glasses, included aside from a series of 3D photos of the Montevideo space, a short historical overview of the scientific knowledge of light and holography. The edition was designed by Peers who gave it a flashy and playful look.

On October 16, 1982 Montevideo hosted Open dansvoorstelling [Open Dance Performance]. Dancers Diane Batens, Chris De Ley, Dirk Wendelen, Hilda Cavens and Christa Gadeyne brought the result of a two-month investigation into movement, rhythm and physical dynamics on music by Lieven Baeyens. The entire space, the walls, the spectators and even the bar was part of the performance, and co-determined the progress of the dance. From 1 to 13 November, the Antwerp painter Willy Tielemans held a solo exhibition in Montevideo. Twelve paintings were shown at the exhibition, each with dimensions of 125 by 250 centimeters, which Tielemans painted three weeks before the opening in the Montevideo area.

The strong 1982 program gave Montevideo international recognition, but also took its toll. The unheated space was ice cold and its huge size placed high demands on the two promoters. In addition to organizing the activities, Gentils and Peers also published the bi-monthly newsletter, and took care of the invitations, the press conferences and catalogues. Most of Montevideo’s activities were virtually access-free and Government support was almost non-existent. Or as Gentils put it in 1983: ‘The organization of an exhibition is more like a search for money, than an in-depth study into the subject matter of the exhibition.’ It was therefore decided to reduce the annual program to a spring and a summer exhibition, which would primarily focus on the purely plastic arts.

The first spring exhibition, from April 13 to April 24, 1983, was the group exhibition Marchandises, 5 millions de tonnes de marchandises livrées chaque année, with work by Antwerp artists. The title of the exhibition was coined by Stan Peers, who derived it from an old Brussels advertising poster from the 1930s. It was a critical allusion to the prevailing philosophical debate about the commercialisation of art. The group of participants of Marchandises grew spontaneously; Gentils and Peers asked befriended artists to in turn invite colleagues and soon there were sixty participants. The only selection condition was that one had to live in or around Antwerp. The participating artists included, among others, Bruneau, Harry Wiggers, Hugo Roelandt, Guillaume Bijl, Luk Van Soom, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Ria Pacquée, Luc Deleu, Wout Vercammen, Guy Rombouts and Liliane Vertessen. Panamarenko declined.

With Marchandises, Gentils and Peers Antwerp wanted to provide an exhibition space and hence support for Antwerp artists, independent from the usual museums and galleries. Nobody planned on it being a commercial success. Or as participating artist Luc Verbiest put it: ‘Financially, we don’t really expect much, but it is an opportunity to be able to come out as a young artist.’ Gentils and Peers asked for 10% on the sales price of whatever would be sold. But, much to the dismay of the organizers, no one, except for Guy Rombouts, honored this arrangement. The catalog, designed by Stan Peers, was styled as a newspaper and gave an overview of the work of the 60 participating Antwerp artists. As far as the exhibited works and their presentation were concerned, the artists were given complete freedom. One chose a spot in the port warehouse and set to work. The result was an eclectic, almost aggressive cross section of the Antwerp contemporary art scene. Right next to paintings by Fred Bervoets and Willy Tielemans, Hugo Roelandt presented Auto Matic Art Project 1 – (video) installatie, a large, wooden square in which colored toy cars were driving around in an ever-changing composition. Ze horen samen onder een deken [They belong together under a blanket] by Guy Rombouts consisted of a blanket spread on the ground from which protruded the just barely visible title sentence. Guillaume Bijl presented a pamphlet that perfectly fit his art liquidation project: Eindelijk [Finally]. Extension zoo. As part of the Art Liquidation Measure, as a result of the crisis, extension of the Antwerp Zoo on the left part of the Middelheim open air museum. Bijl also displayed a time clock that was supposed to integrate the visual artists into the regular labour market. Luc Deleu presented the sketch of his 2 Petits Arcs de Triomphe from Basel.

The opening of Marchandises on April 13 was a grand spectacle and was also broadcast live on Radio Centraal and on television in Ijsbreker [Ice Breaker], a monthly cultural programme by Jef Cornelis on the BRT (the then Belgian Flemish Television station). Under the title Kunst te koop [Art for sale] Ijsbreker aired a debate that evening about the art market and the different circuits for contemporary art. As was always the case in Ijsbreker, the show was boadcast from three different locations and the participants were connected with each other via monitors. The first location was the auction house De Meervaart in Amsterdam where that evening the alternative foundation Sponz organised the auction Kunst aan Bod: a Dutch word play on art being up for bids and being addressed. Johanneke van Slooten talked with visual artists Joop van Meel, Wilbert Vaessen, Peter van de Klashorst and Alphons Freijmuth, the ‘alternative’ gallery owners Peter Giele and Liebeth Pallesen, and the collector Pim Brummelkamp. In Belgium the choice fell on Montevideo, where moderator Marianne van Kerkhoven hosted the evening in the company of Annie Gentils, Patrick Verelst and Paul De Vylder. The invitees in the Brussels studio, the third location, were Jan Hoet, Director of the then Ghent Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Amsterdam gallery owner Wim van Krimpen. Although the debate was plagued by poorly-functioning equipment, the program nonetheless gave an interesting look of the sultry atmosphere at Montevideo, where painter W.J.C. Free was doing a Pictural-jazz performance about the interaction between jazz and painting.

That the general public was deemed not to be quite ready for such a happening can be deduced from the advice author Piet Sterckx gave the reader in his review of Marchandises: ‘Go to Montevideo in the first place to look. To receptibly undergo. To become acquainted with the other. If afterwards you say that half of the work is kitsch, then you are fully entitled to do so. That there are few pieces suitable to decorate one of the rooms in your home? “Yes”, continues Sterckx, ‘but the exhibition confirms that all those other things exist as well. And this one must take into account. […] Yet will the art of the future emerge from this? No one can predict this, but there are undoubtedly forces at work in this exhibition that will help determine the image of the future.’

A few months later, the seventeenth Edition of the Middelheim Biennale took place in Antwerp’s Middelheim open air museum. The exhibition provided an overview of international sculpture of the 1970s with works by established names such as Giuseppe Penone, Sandro Chia, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Anthony Caro, Panamarenko, David van de Kop and Ulrich Rückriem. Concurrently with this biennial, the Antwerp Cultural Council launched the idea to present the sculpture of that time in various locations throughout Antwerp. Fifteen galleries and two banks joined the initiative, which bore the title Biënnale 1, Antwerpse Galerijen (Biennale 1, Antwerp Galleries). Participants included Ruimte Morguen, Ruimte Z’, Galerij 121, Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Galerie Michèle Lachowsky, the Gemeentekrediet en the Kredietbank, among others.

Montevideo also participated and organized the group exhibition Diagonale. The exposition wanted to present a cross section of the contemporary art world and formed a supplement or section – hence the title – of the Middelheim biennial. Diagonale presented works of forty (mostly) young international ‘sculptors’, including Bernd Lohaus, Yoshio Shirakawa, Rolf Julius, Kate Blacker, Côme Mosta-Heirt, Niek Kemps, Wolfgang Luy, David Mach, Guy Rombouts and Philippe Van Snick. Annie Gentils: ‘For practical reasons we asked the artists to create their work on site. This approach was also in line with most of the artists’ way of working. The use of expensive wood and stone is not available to most artists and does not correspond to their intentions either. The materials used can be found in our immediate vicinity, that is, in the goods-produce-discard chain that surrounds us: chairs, bottles, concrete, wooden slats and beams, corrugated iron and plastic, foam rubber […]’.
Many materials were from, or referred to, the port. Another important factor was the specific architecture of the Montevideo complex, as well as that of Belliard-Murdoch, another port warehouse where more sculptures were exhibited. In addition, the extensive areas offered great freedom and the ability to work on a monumental scale.

At the opening of Diagonale on June 11, the tone was set by artists Rob De Jong and Udo Evelo’s, whose happening vuur (fire) involved a bathtub filled with oil and gasoline that was lit on fire. Upon seeing the black smoke plume, local residents called the fire department. Although the fire was already extinguished upon their arrival, both artists were nevertheless fined. The description Wim Van Mulders gave of the exhibition, evokes a similar atmosphere: ‘A crowded space with colorful, bizarre objects of a similar number of artists is an ‘inferno’ that involves all the senses and that puts one’s sense of discernment (everything is presented closely together) to the test.’ Jurgen Voordeckers, for example, hung a huge human figure by its arms and legs from the high-voltage transformer of the Belliard-Murdoch building like a torture victim. Ria Pacquée placed five beds in one of the spaces onto which wire mesh forms depicted scenes of drug use, sex, death and violence. Frans Gentils, together with Frankie De Coninck, transformed the former washing and dressing rooms of the Belliard-Murdoch into a Roman bath house or impressionistic aquarium. The room was painted in an exuberant fashion after which the artists had it filled up with 10 cm of water, creating a unique play of color and light. Guy Rombouts polished the cobblestones of the floor until the word UNI appeared, which he subsequently gave a high-gloss finish with beeswax. The German artist Olaf Metzel chiseled two giant serpentine figures in one of the brick walls with an electric grinding wheel, which were subsequently filled with cement and painted bright blue and black, and the Briton David Mach, using 3,000 vinegar bottles, constructed Man Overboard, a sculpture that evoked a winding river, replete with a large canoe, sharks and a drowned man floating under the water.

Diagonale was also accompanied by a catalogue, published on glossy paper, in which each work in the exhibition was documented with photos. The introductory text of the catalog was written by Annie Gentils. In contrast to the Middelheim biennial, the exhibition at Montevideo did not shy away from figuration, color, symbolism or expression. Gentils: ‘There is room again for feeling, love, color, kitsch, sex, subjectivity, aesthetics: the forbidden fruits should be consumed again with much gusto.’

In april 1984, Gentils and Peers organised a third group exhibition under the title De eerste chauvinistische – la première chauviniste [The first chauvinistic]. This time, fifteen contemporary Belgian artists took part, among whom Bruneau, Luc Coeckelberghs, Leo Copers, Monica Droste, Fred Eerdekens, Michel François, Philippe Jadot, Ann Veronica Janssens, Walter Swennen, Wout Vercammen and Claude Yande. As can be deduced from the title and poster, in which Belgium is depicted as a white spot in the middle of Europe, the exhibition aimed to promote Belgian art both at home and abroad. The organizers were of the opinion that the linguistic division in Belgium too often clouded the general perspective on the plastic arts, which made that there was no notion of the artistic quality that our country had to offer, neither at home nor abroad. A few weeks before the opening, the artists were invited to work on site. Here again, there was no binding theme. Ann Veronica Janssens and Monica Droste, who worked together at the time, created a sine wave with metal bars that sprang from heavy stones and ended in small, burning oil lamps. This created a flickering wave movement throughout the space. Michel François built sculptures that defied the laws of nature: a spear that was about to be fired, beams almost at the point of breaking, a stone that was almost catapulted into space. In-between the neo-expressionist works of Angel Vergara Santiago, Frans Gentils and Walter Daems, Leo Copers scattered signs that read ‘invisible image’ in four languages. Bruneau constructed a nearly 6 metres high, bright red fish in which he put a table and chair, as if it were a house. He filled the walls with his new paintings. The opening of De eerste chauvinistische was conceived as a music and poetry evening with Flemish and Walloon poets. Once again the exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue. Annie Gentils and Wim Van Mulders wrote a short accompanying text for every participating artist.

The next exhibition which took place in Montevideo was entitled Torens van Babel [Towers of Babel], and ran from 12 June to 25 september 1984. The concept of the exhibition was suggested by Annie’s father, the artist Vic Gentils, and referred to the paradox that is at the heart of the biblical story. On the one hand you have ‘confident man who in his pride rejects every higher power or hierarchy and constructs a building with his illusions and limitations as building blocks. On the other hand, there is the sudden awareness of insignificance, of impotence in the face of the infinity of the Cosmos’. Man is punished with the confusion of languages and hence with the inability to communicate with his fellow man. The subject should be seen within the context of the internationalisation of the arts and the very unique, almost intrusive architecture of the Montevideo space. In addition, the non-linguistic character of art provides a fascinating perspective on the problem of how language separates people. The intention was to have seven artists from seven different countries make works in Montevideo around this theme : Michael Buthe, Luc Deleu, Shirazeh Houshiary, Mario Merz, Pere Noguera, Jacques Vieille and Henk Visch – Michael Buthe pulled out at the last minute. The accompanying catalog, with on the front page the mysterious, elusive moon, also this time included texts by Annie Gentils and Wim Van Mulders on every artist.

Even though each artist approached the biblical story in a very individual way, the exhibition formed a powerful whole. In A Labour of Love for Montevideo Henk Visch covered a twelve meter long side wall of the warehouse with black velvet, at the center of which he placed a white rectangle. This created a spatial dialogue with the megalomaniac port warehouse. Shirazeh Houshiary’s work, a London artist from Iran, departed from traditional Eastern writings. For Montevideo, she expressed her impression of the biblical story through four sculptures: a group of three sculptures with an organic form entered into dialogue with a blocky sculpture made of untreated copper. ‘No one knows what the Tower of Babel looked like, what you see is what it evokes in me.’ For this exhibition, Luc Deleu presented a sequel to his Schaal en Perspectief study. At Montevideo, he staged the ‘collapse’ of the triumphal arches made of containers from Basel and Neuchâtel. Containers in Bulk consisted of seven red seemingly haphazardly stacked containers which produced an overwhelming spatial experience. The French artist Jacques Vieille also focused on the architectural aspect of the subject. He stacked thirty-five identical tables on each other to form a wall and then created Gothic pointed arches with bundles of twigs, in reference to the duality between ‘culture (the artificial) and nature (the organic)’. The same duality was evident in Bambusturm, the work of Mario Merz: a tower of bamboo onto which painted canvasses were fixed. The work was not created especially for Montevideo, but had already been exhibited at Zeitgeistin Berlin in 1982. Pere Noguera, artist of Spanish origin, created a composition with waste materials such as shelves, chairs, ladders, corrugated iron and vases, which he covered with a layer of gray clay. ‘The clay gives the work a historical dimension, it refers to the original material for pottery and architecture. […] Clay symbolizes the presence of nature, which ultimately covers the remains of any human activity.’ The exhibition enjoyed a lot of press attention, even in the Catalan journal AVUI posted a review. Yet despite the international reputation of Montevideo Annie Gentils remained skeptical: ‘In comparison with the situation abroad the art scene here is still too unstructured and still fails to gather sufficient interest. Before you can really start to work on international charisma, something needs to be done here, in the minds of the people.’

At the end of 1984, Gentils and Peers submitted a BTK-plan (‘Particular Temporary Framework’). In order to give Montevideo more operational capability, they asked the State for support for the employment of five people: an art historian, a designer, an interpreter, an administrative assistant and a technician. The plan, however, was not approved. ‘Furthermore’, says Gentils, ‘the Antwerp City Council would only confirm the rental agreement of the port warehouse at the Kattendijkdok until September of this year . That is far too short to seriously elaborate a planning.’ The rejected BTK-plan and the cancelled rental agreement put the future of Montevideo in doubt. Although Gentils and Peers had already reduced the program to two exhibitions a year, the promoters found it increasingly hard to support the functioning of the exhibition space, both organizationally and financially . The last four exhibitions were sponsored in part, but the total cost could never be covered. Annie Gentils: ‘An exhibition organized such as ours costs 600 to 700,000 francs. On average we received a grant for 50,000 francs, which was only paid a year later after a lot of begging and insisting.’

When their relationship ended in early 1985, Gentils and Peers also closed the doors of Montevideo, which was deplored by many. Antwerp did not just lose an exhibition space, but also a place where young artists could experiment freely and find support. With solo exhibitions such as Schaal en Perspectief (Luc Deleu) and Licht, Holografie en Holoïsme (Ludo Mich), and group exhibitions such as Marchandises and De eerste Chauvinistische Montevideo played an important role in exhibiting and promoting of Flemish/Belgian artists. ‘The structure itself and the policy was, rightly or wrongly, criticised by a lot of people, both from the art world and the public sector, but all in all, the city has yet again lost another Art Temple’, concluded Marc Ruyters in his article ‘Montevideo stops because of overall discouragement’ in the Antwerp newspaper De Morgen. That discouragement turned out not to be long-lasting. A year later, Annie Gentils opened her own gallery street on the Peter Benoitstraat, and it is still active today.