On Sunday 7 July the 2019 Tour de France sets off from Brussels – exactly 50 years since it was won for the very first time by the Belgian Eddy Merckx.
The Belgian artist Jef Geys (1934-2018) spent two weeks photographing the 1969 Tour de France. The theme of his photographic reportage is not to show the glamour of the race towards triumph, but the merging of the unusual and the everyday in the life of the cyclist. Among the spectators, race bikes, team cars and advertising hoardings, a cyclist pops up here and there, and that cyclist could be Eddy Merckx.
The 67 black and white photographs are now being exhibited in Belgium for the very first time, 50 years after they were taken. They are shown with a montage of two pages from Belgian newspapers dated 20 and 21 July 1969, which put the event in perspective. On the day Merckx won the Tour, Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon!
A planetary and universal conquest alongside a sporting and national victory…in his art Jef Geys weaves different levels together and places them on an equal footing: a newspaper article alongside a photo, an achievement in science alongside one in sports, a famous racing cyclist alongside an ordinary cycling enthusiast. In this exhibition he once again demonstrates his mastery of the contrast of High and Low, making him one of the most influential post-war Belgian artists.
The exhibition has already been successful in seven cities in France, and the accompanying book (‘234’) won the ‘Prix Bob Calle du livre d’artiste 2019’.
Short Biography of Jef Geys
Jef Geys was a Belgian artist born in 1934 in Bourg Leopold, Limburg. He passed away in 2018. He represented Belgium at the 2009 Venice Biennale, took part in major artistic events such as Chambre d’Amis (Ghent, 1986), the Sao Paulo Biennale (1991), and documenta 11 (Kassel, 2002). Numerous museums have held solo exhibitions of his work like the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, 2005), the Institut d’Art Contemporain (Villeurbanne, 2007), MOCAD (Detroit, 2010), M HKA (Antwerp, 2011), Culturgest (Lisbon, 2012), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels, 2012), Cneai (Chatou, 2012, 2014 and 2016), Wiels (Brussels, 2013), and S.M.A.K. (Ghent, 2015).
Jef Geys explored all different kinds of artistic media: drawing, painting, sculpture, text, film, and even archival practice. From the beginning of his career in 1958, photography has always been Jef Geys’s defining medium. This early predilection for photography turned him into a pioneer in the Belgian art world and put his name on a par with those of renowned artists of the international conceptual art scene.