Exhibition Variétés (1928-1930) and photography from the Amsab-ISG collection

This page is part of our exhibition archive. The exhibition took place from 30-11-2018 to 16-02-2019


E.L.T. Mesens, La lumière déconcertante, 1926, in Variétés II,2 (15 Juin 1929), Photographies
E.L.T. Mesens, La lumière déconcertante, 1926,
in Variétés II,2 (15 Juin 1929), Photographies

VANDENHOVE – Centre for Architecture and Art, Ghent University and Amsab, the Institute for Social History, present the exhibition Variétés (1928-1930) and Photography from the Amsab-ISG collection.

Variétés: Revue mensuelle illustrée de l'esprit contemporain was a Belgian art journal published between May 1928 and April 1930. Artistically and culturally progressive, this journal existed only for two years but managed to develop a new and modernist visual language in 24 issues and a single hor-série issue.

Variétés II, 2 (15 Juin 1929)
Variétés II, 2 (15 Juin 1929)
The journal was the creation of Paul-Gustave, 'Pégé' or 'Tatave' van Hecke (1887-1967), a socialist activist and journalist for the newspaper Vooruit among others. Critic, novelist, publisher, couturier, collector, curator and first and foremost a bon-vivant, Van Hecke was a key figure in Belgian modernism throughout the 1920s. Together with writer Denis Marion, screenwriter and film critic Albert Valentin and all-round artist E.L.T. Mesens, he created this progressive journal that promoted unique photographic images, abstract art, Dada, and Surrealism in Belgium.

With the help of his international connections, Mesens (1903-1971) in particular played a key role in the proliferation of the innovative use of photographic images. Variétés, for instance, included photographs, photograms and photomontages by leading photographers such as Eugène Atget, Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, László Moholy-Nagy, Eli Lotar, and Man Ray.

The exhibition Variétés presents about eighty vintage prints of photographs that were published in the journal. Through the archives of Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, these photographs are now part of the collection of Amsab, the Institute for Social History in Ghent.

Variétés I, 2 (15 Juin 1928)
Variétés I, 2 (15 Juin 1928)
By presenting original issues, the exhibition focuses on some themes that are crucial in the journal. The modern metropolis, for instance, is visualized by photographs of modern architecture, industrial technology, new forms of entertainment and the New Woman. This modern world, however, is regarded with criticism as Variétés also draws attention to rural landscapes, folklore, the occult, exoticism and primitivism. In addition, the journal presents the modern world as an optical universe filled with photo and film cameras, glasses, mirrors, lenses, lamps and shop windows. As a result, the art journal Variétés became one of the most important proponents of the avant-garde.

The exhibition is curated by Steven Humblet and Steven Jacobs and realized in collaboration with students and ex-students of Art History at Ghent University.

This exhibition is an an initiative of Ghent University, Ghent University Library, VANDENHOVE and Amsab, the Institute for Social History. It was realized thanks to the support of P&V, AP, MSK, KMSKA and S.M.A.K.






VANDENHOVE – Centre for Architecture and Art
Rozier 1, 9000 Gent (Corner Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat)

From 30-11-2018 tot 16-02-2019 (closed between Christmas and New Year)

Thursday: 14.00 - 18.00 u.
Friday 14.00 - 18.00 u.
Saturday: 12.00 - 17.00 u.


By public transport:

  • Tram 1: from Gent-St.-Pieters station to Verlorenkost stop, from there take 250 meters via Sint-Kwintensberg.
  • Bus 78 (direction Zevergem): from Gent-Dampoort station to Zuid stop, change to bus 8 (direction Arteveldepark), stop at Blandijnberg stop.

By car:

  • There are underground car parks on Sint-Pietersplein and Gent-Zuid.

Guided tours

Guided tours for groups possible by appointment with



Variétés (1928-1930) and Photography

VANDENHOVE – Center for Architecture & Art, Ghent University

8 December 2018

Variétés was a Belgian art journal published on a monthly basis between May 1928 and April 1930, including numerous photographs by leading art photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, László Moholy-Nagy, Eli Lotar, and Man Ray. Their images are combined with reproductions of paintings, film stills, fashion photographs, postcards, portraits, ethnographic documentation, stock images from press agencies, and all kinds of amateur photography. On the pages of the journal, surprising combinations create formal, rhythmic, narrative, expressive, and symbolic associations between the images and the effect is often poetic and sometimes funny or shocking.

On the occasion of the exhibition “Variétés (1928-1930) and Photography from the AMSAB-ISG Collection” (29 November, 2018 – 17 February, 2019) curators Steven Humblet and Steven Jacobs organize a symposium.

On the day of the symposium, there is the possibility to visit the exhibition between 12:00 and 6:00pm.


13.45 u. Welcome
14.00 u. Introduction
Steven Humblet & Steven Jacobs
14.15 u. Variétés in the Amsab Photo Collection
Hendrik Ollivier
14.30 u. Camouflage of Art, between Advertising and Popular Entertainment: Variétés and Magazines at the End of the 1920s
Rolf Sachse
15.15 u. Coffee Break
15.30 u. E.L.T. Mesens and the Art of Picture Editing
Ian Walker
16.15 u. Variétés, Africa, and Primitivism
Karen Kurczynski
17.00 u. End of Symposium


Entrance is free but subscription is required.

Sign up for the symposium


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