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.

Velichko Minekov

Embrace, 1965, white marble from the Rhodope Mountains, height: 220 cm

Anybody strolling around the Sculpture Park created by the art collector Hugo Voeten in Gheel, Belgium couldn't help being attracted by the shining whiteness of one unexpected sculpture. The 220 cm high Embrace was carved from a single piece of white marble in the distant year of 1965. The author is the Bulgarian sculptor Velichko Minekov, one of the most important names in Bulgarian art in the decades after World War II. From a distance this piece looks like an arch or an elongated rounded passage cutting through the colorful greenery of the park with its elegant silhouette.

Essentially abstract in form the Embrace has a totally concrete creative impulse behind it. At its basis is the plastic interpretation of the human body; in this case – two naked bodies, female and male, interwoven in a tight embrace. They are one whole unified body where one part suggests the silhouette of a massive male body seen from the back, while the other one suggests the delicate shape of a woman.

Embrace by Velichko Minekov is part of a cycle of works created by the artist as a kind of a private experimentation with form and material. No doubt they have been influenced by such authors as Henry Moore who was creating his best works at the same time. The piece never left its location in front of the studio of the artist in Sofia after it was created in 1965. It was never exhibited in public until entering the Hugo Voeten Collection in Belgium.

Velichko Minekov was born in 1928. He is one of the top artists of his generation that defined Bulgarian art during the years of Communist rule in the country. He started out with a cycle of impressive female figures made out of black granite in the early 1950s when he was fast to gain recognition and popularity. His works were part of the display in the Bulgarian pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 1964; they could also be seen all over the country as massive sculptural compositions created during the Communist years. His immense capacity for work as well as his strives to experiment in various stylistic ways while using diverse materials are represented in the precise selection of pieces that the collector Hugo Voeten made for the Sculpture Park in Gheel.

Text: Vessela Nozharova, August 2016