Atopies (N.N.)

  • 1987
  • Jan Vercruysse
  • mahogany veneer on multiplex
  • (1x) 115 x 120,3 x 23 cm, (2x) 200,5 x 60 cm, (1x) 200 x 25 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1988
  • Inventory number 1758

The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.

If you need specific information on this work or artist, remember that the Van Abbemuseum Library is at your disposal, or feel free to write to the library.


'Atopies (N.N.)', by the Belgian artist Jan Vercruysse consists of three panels and a plywood mantelpiece covered with mahogany veneer. These four sections are secured on the wall next to each other with the lower edges of the works along a line approximately 40 cm above the floor. The middle panel is narrower than the outer two. It is approximately as wide as the space between the sections.

In the 1980s there was a trend amongst artists to reflect on the position and significance of art. They rejected an (art) market focusing on ephemeral consumerism and examined the possibilities of the artwork as an object which generated meaning. In many cases this resulted in works which do not immediately reveal their meaning. They are about silence, emptiness and absence. In this context, Vercruysse explained: “Art which immediately reveals everything without reflection or which sends a message is no more than an expensive sort of newspaper. In our culture, there really should be the opportunity for silence and distance. In my opinion that is the place for art”. He presented objects which are normally merely the framework for an image, such as empty frames, plinths and panels. By exhibiting these “empty” objects he actually raised the question of meaning and interpretation.

Between 1985 and 1987 Vercruysse did a series of works entitled 'Atopies', which literally means “not placing”. The 'Atopies' consist of objects such a frames, mirrors, panels and mantelpieces. On the one hand they have a cool rigid appearance, while on the other hand they are “household” articles, particularly the mantelpiece which is a symbol of hearth and home. Normally the owner uses these sorts of objects to display personal possessions, such as photographs and souvenirs, but Vercruysse presented the objects on their own. He removed the function of the mantelpiece by hanging it on the wall just like the panels. The viewer looks at something familiar, but its emptiness has an alienating effect. However, this emptiness also provides room for the viewer to fill the space with a personal content.

Does this page contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.