The Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen (1965) is an internationally renowned, conceptual artist. His groundbreaking work deals with biocultural diversity and identity. Over the past decade Vanmechelen has collaborated with scientists from different disciplines. That earned him an honorary doctorate at the University of Hasselt in 2010 and the Golden Nica Hybrid Art in 2013.
Just before the millennium year 2000, Koen Vanmechelen launched his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), a unique artistic project. Central to his work are the chicken (Gallus gallus) and the interbreeding of national chicken species into ‘Cosmopolitan chickens’. He uses this animal as a metaphor for observations around ‘la condition humaine’. In 2014, the artist’s ongoing creation of a world-hybrid chicken reached, with the Mechelse Sulmtaler, its eighteenth generation; a royal breed, born in the castle of Chimay (BE) as a result between
the Austrian Sulmtaler and the Mechelse Styrian. One year before, this Mechelse Styrian came into existence after a crossing between the Slovenian Styrian and the Mechelse Senegal. It was presented at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz (AT). To date, the hybrid consists of regional breeds of chickens in Belgium, France, England, U.S.A., Germany, The
Netherlands, Mexico, Thailand, Brasil, Turkey, Cuba, Italy, Russia, China, Egypt, Senegal, Slovenia and Austria.
Vanmechelen uses a plethora of artistic tools for his work, from painting and video to installations, innovative 3D-techniques, sculptures and glass. This diversity is also reflected in his various projects; the ‘Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project’ (CC®P), the wooden statue ‘Cosmogolem’, the fertility project ‘Walking Egg’ and the WW1 remembrance project
‘Combat’. In 2011 their supporting foundations were grouped into a new institute entitled the ‘Open University of Diversity’.
Vanmechelen has presented his work on almost every continents, from the U.S. to China and Iceland to Senegal. In Belgium his work was exhibited in many museums and other loci: the Verbeke Foundation, Watou, Museum M and Z33. Furthermore, he participated in solo and group exhibitions in among others The National Gallery London, Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Museum Kunst Palast (Düsseldorf), Venice Projects (Venice), Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (Amsterdam), MAD Museum (NY) and Pushkin Museum (Moscow). Next to the Biennial
of Venice, his work has been shown at the Biennials of Moscow, Dakar, Poznan and Manifesta 9, at the World Expo Shanghai 2010, the Triennial of Guangzhou, and at dOCUMENTA (13).
Vanmechelen lives in Meeuwen-Gruitrode, in the northeast of Belgium. He is an honorary citizen of his native town of Sint-Truiden. In 2011, he based his studio and headquarters in Hasselt. Koen Vanmechelen and his team are currently working on the development of his new studio ‘La Biomista’ in the former zoo of Zwartberg, Genk.
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