Van Genk, Willem

Willem van Genk was an autodidact, a standout pupil in the primary school art lessons. It was his only talent, it was thought. He went on to try all kinds of graphic work at an advertising agency, but lacked the essential discipline required for working in an office environment. In 1958 he registered at the Royal Academy for Visual Arts in The Hague. The director saw in him a ‘true’ artist and recognised that this was something that the Academy should not try to improve, as unreceptive as Van Genk was to advice from other people. He was welcome to attend the evening classes, but had to do his own thing. And yet this contact with the Academy had a great influence on him, the encounters with other artists and books and magazines about contemporary art. In 1964 the Academy offered him his first solo exhibition, which delivered him a moment of celebrity.

In the receptive mind of Willem van Genk, a youthful fascination for imposing architecture, awesome vehicles and complex technical installations blended together with many other, sometimes traumatic, life experiences to create paranoid fear and persecutory delusions in his later life.

(Solo-) exhibitions: 1998-99 Museum De Stadshof Zwolle, Museum Charlotte Zander Bonnigheim, Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne; 2014 Halle Saint Pierre, Paris: ‘Sous le vent de l’art brut 2. Collection De Stadshof’. 2014 ‘Mind Traffic’ in: American Folk Art Museum, New York.

Monograph: Berkum, Ans van; Willem van Genk, a marked man and his world, Zwolle 1998.  Berkum, Ans van, e.a.; Willem van Genk building a world of his own, Tielt, 2010. Van der Endt, Nico; Willem van Genk. Chronicle of a collaboration/Kroniek van een samenwerking, 2014.

References: Van der Endt, Nico; Lexicon Nederlandse naïeve kunst van de twintigste eeuw / Lexicon of twentieth century Dutch naïve art, Venlo/Antwerpen, 1995, pp. 40-41.
Sous le vent de l’art brut 2. Collection De Stadshof, 2014, Catalogue Halle Saint Pierre, Paris.
Smolders, Frans e.a.; Solitary Creations. 51 Artists out of De Stadshof Collection, 2014.
Outsider Art Sourcebook, (Raw Vision) 2016, p. 211 / 2009, p.154;
Förster, York & Peter Cachola Schmal; Heterotopia, Works by Willem van Genk and others, exhibition catalogue Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt, 2008, pp. 68-87.

Willem van Genk
1927 Den Haag, The Netherlands - 2005 Den Haag, The Netherlands