The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Stefan Lyutakov

The Last Supper, 2005, ceramics, metal, 170 x 370 x 70 cm

The Bulgarian artist Stefan Lyutakov made a first plaster version of The Last Supper in 1989 as homage to his artist-colleague and outstanding Bulgarian painter Svetlin Roussev (°1933, Pleven, Bulgaria). Roussev was the chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Artists from 1973 until 1985 and the director of the National Art Gallery in Sofia from 1985 until 1988. The event that inspired Stefan Lyutakov to make this sculpture was the polluting of the Bulgarian town Ruse coming from chemical plants in Giurgevo, a town nearby in Rumania, and causing diseases among its population, especially children.

After a first protest against this chemical pollution in the autumn of 1987, led by six mothers from Ruse, the Union of Bulgarian Artists – with Svetlin Roussev as leader – organized an exhibition, with the ecological tragedy in this town as the main subject, and set up creative actions to protect the inhabitants. Thereupon, on the 8th of March 1988, a group of men and women founded the Public Committee for Environmental Protection of Ruse. 400 people attended the inauguration of this new founded committee at the House of Cinema in Sofia. This opening was preceded by a screening of the documentary film Disaj or Breathe, directed by Yuryi Zhirov, a film devoted to the polluting of Ruse, the environmental revolts and the mothers who first protested. The showing of Breathe was explicitly banned by the Bulgarian Communist Party. This Committee pro ecology was the first serious informal organization against the communist regime in Bulgaria that went beyond the local context and acquired national dimensions.

Hence Svetlin Roussev – as organizer of the exhibition exposing the pollution and as member of the Committee for Environmental Protection as well as the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (the "reformist" wing) – opposed the government. The communists leaders, amongst them Todor Zhivkov, reacted with repression. They exerted pressure on the artist-colleagues by threatening with redundancies and required to stand against Roussev. And so it happened: many of his closest colleagues in the Union turned away from him and refused further contact.

Lyutakov made The Last Supper, with betrayal as central theme, to reflect on this events and to honor Svetlin Roussev who can be seen as the figure of Christ. In this sculpture Christ is not amongst and does not belong to his disciples – Roussev's artist-colleagues – traitors, who denied that they knew him when the truth prevailed. Lyutakov illustrates, by using the Biblical well-known story, a remarkable event in Bulgarian recent history. The religious, historical and exemplary story is thus transposed into a contemporary context.

Noteworthy is the contrast between the expressive heads, sculpted with a lot of details and remarkable facial features, and the rectangular massive volume, that at the same time functions as a pedestal and as the table at which the supper takes place. Lyutakov emphasizes the inherent strength of the compact form and the expressiveness of the details. The placement of the heads suggests communication between the figures. It seems as they are whispering in each other ears and exchanging glances and thoughts.

This first version in plaster of The Last Supper was exhibited together with the artwork Self portrait in an environment (1986) in the 8th National youth exhibition in Sofia in 1989 and was later purchased by the Peter Ludwig Collection in Germany. Stefan Lyutakov received for this work the prize of the Union of Artists for Sculpture. Later on, the artist made two versions of The Last Supper in bronze, one for the collection of Svetlin Roussev, the other for the art gallery of his hometown Pazardzhik.

In 2005, at the age of 50, Lyutakov was invited for an exposition in the National Art Gallery of Sofia. For this occasion the sculptor went back to his youth and made another, bigger, new variant of The Last Supper in the durable materials ceramic and metal. Hugo Voeten and Elena Todorova attended this exhibition and bought this new version of The Last Supper and several other works from Lyutakov. In the catalogue to the exhibition titled Sculptures, a personal harbor this ceramic version of the work is named The Secret Dinner.

The Bulgarian sculptor Stefan Lyutakov (°1955, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria) graduated in 1980 at the department of Sculpture at the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University in Veliko Turnovo, in the north of Bulgaria. Six years later he became member of the Union of Bulgarian Artists and in 1996 professor at the university where he studied.

Text: Sarah Gallasz, October 2015