Yana Foqué

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The air is crisp and Amsterdam is rather quiet. When standing in front of Kunstverein, 'an international platform for exhibitions, discussions, and the circulation of ideas,' you notice about 50 names that adorn the window. Yana Foqué, newly appointed director of Kunstverein, greets me a warm welcome and gives me a quick tour in the former exhibition Who’s Werner?.  

It's an exhibition about the relationships between artists and the individuals who have supported them in their artistic practice. An exploration of the notion of ‘authorship’ and collaborative artistic practices. The big front window seems to be echoing that. The names on there are names of people who have helped in providing information, documents and work for this particular exhibition. Assistants of, communication managers of and friends of.  

It’s a clear approach to how Foqué’s methodology is ready to unfold. She, and Kunstverein, are interested in telling stories. Not single, straight narrative lines but contexts, rather. How those stories were shaped, who was involved and what form leans itself best to telling that story.

Yana, can you tell me more about your background?

I have a background in photography and graphic design. I have been photographing since I was 14, I think, and I always knew I wanted to pursue it further. I eventually went to KASK, beyond happy that I passed the entrance exam. I had some good teachers, but learned the most from and together with people I was taking the courses with: Bieke Depoorter, Joachim Naudts, Chloé Op de Beeck, Sara Deraedt and others.

I learned the most from and together with people I was taking the courses with: Bieke Depoorter, Joachim Naudts, Chloé Op de Beeck, Sara Deraedt and others

And graphic design?

After a small break I took an additional degree in Graphic design at Sint Lucas and graduated two years later. While I was studying Graphic design in Ghent, I lived in Antwerp and taught photography classes in Hoogstraeten in the evening. Basically I moved around a lot and passed the neighbourhood I was living in on uncanny times. Early in the morning and late at night. 

The neighbourhood is an area with lots of nightshops and I eventually ended up opening a nightshop myself with two friends; Josefine Gruyaert and Joke Leonare Desmet (JJ Funhouse). Our plan was to embrace ‘the night’ in that specific area through a variety of artistic projects. What’s important to me, first and foremost, is telling a good story. For one of our projects, we commissioned an artist to write a nocturne for us which would become an LP. We took care of the graphic design and launched the LP in our shop. Another project was our narrowcast radio station. We used a 20 meter parameter, so you would have to go to the neighbourhood to be able to listen to this radio station.

What lead you to the Netherlands eventually?

A friend of mine, Valentijn Goethals, was at Werkplaats Typography in Arnhem. He convinced me to take the entry exam because he thought my work and projects would suit the programme. I was accepted and moved to the Netherlands pretty soon after.

You have been working at Kunstverein for a little while now. What do you do there?

A lot! Kunstverein is a larger multi-branch structure with franchises in New York, Milan and Toronto of which Kunstverein Amsterdam is the operating base. We offer a supporting structure for the other branches. We are organising exhibitions, artist talks and screenings. We are writing texts and publish publications. So, a lot!

Sounds like a good mix of activities. Would you say there is one event or product that you are especially proud of?

It’s hard to select one project, due to the way Kunstverein operates. There’s no hierarchy in our activities. The cookbook we published is as important as our club nights. A show with John Giorno is as important as the exhibition Who’s Werner?. What I love so much about working here is that all the things I have learned along the way, and the things I am doing now have found a common form: Kunstverein. Does that make sense?

I’d like to focus on soft power and culture in the future

It does. By the time this interview is published, the current exhibition Who’s Werner? will have ended. It is your first long term exhibition in your new position as director. The exhibition shows works by well-known artists, and work by people who have supported these artists during their careers. A captivating research on authorship and artistic practices. How did that choice come about?  


A variety of fascinations and inspirations. For example I read this text by Wendell Berry, Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer, originally published in the late 80’s in Harper’s Magazine. It’s a text about this man who sums up all these reasons why he is not going to purchase a computer. One of those reasons is his wife, who types out everything he asks her on a typewriter and corrects and edits along the way. It caused a fair amount of backlash, with one reader stating 'Well, what a convenient solution! Wife meets all your demands.' with Berry replying that that reader did not know her and did not know their relationship. He was defending her. And I loved the tension field there in those relationships. It’s not a negative story per se, but illustrates how only those working together truly understand their working relationship.

What other questions and themes are you currently pondering?

I’d like to focus on soft power and culture in the future. But also what Kunstverein can mean to Amsterdam, and how we can fill the gaps between galleries and larger institutions. How we can keep our focus and mindset but also move with the needs of this community.  


Different Class and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits, featuring some of the interesting alumni profiles.  


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