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Antwerp city poets hold benefit auction: “Good start, but not enough for two more years of city poetry”

reportage city ​​poets

The benefit auction took place at the Bernaerts auction house.© Sebastian Steveniers

A benefiet­auction with special objects from twenty years of Antwerp’s city poetry raised 6,860 euros. “For full-fledged urban poetry, resources of a different order of magnitude are needed.”

To financially support the city poetship, the Antwerp city poets, who resigned collectively at the end of 2022 and have operated independently since then, held a benefit auction at the Bernaerts auction house. A large capital ‘D’ from the gigantic banner that the very first city poet Tom Lanoye hung on the facade of the Boerentoren in 2004 was the highlight among the seventeen auctioned lots. But it was a ransom briefcase from Ruth Lasters that ultimately raised the most money. The attaché case filled with prints of the poem ‘Ransom’ was estimated in advance at 150 euros, but it went under the hammer for 1,600 euros.

© Sebastian Steveniers

Call it a form of poetic justice that the city poem rejected in 2022 by the Antwerp Alderman for Culture Nabilla Ait Daoud (N-VA) – which was the basis for the break with the city council – now generates the most money to support the current operation of the city poets. Although the latter will be a difficult task in any case.

Together with a piece of quay wall by Peter Holvoet-Hanssen, which was sold for 1,000 euros in January during the celebration of twenty years of city poetry, the seventeen lots sold with posters, poems and special editions of various city poets yielded 7,860 euros. “A nice amount,” says city poet Lotte Dodion, who sold herself in the form of a voucher for 8 hours of city poet community service and thus raised 500 euros. “It’s a good start, but not enough to guarantee another two years of city poetry.”

Minimum operation

Still, Dodion and auctioneer Peter Bernaerts look back on a successful auction. All works were sold, there were about fifty bidders online and live and most lots sold for larger amounts than previously expected. Dodion speaks of “a substantial commitment and a great first step for future development, but full-fledged urban poetry requires resources of a different order of magnitude”.

Of course, they don’t do anything different at an auction house, but it is difficult to capture the value of art in monetary terms. What city poets mean to a city is difficult to express in euros, but those euros are necessary to make the work possible. Structural support from the city still seems indispensable. The auction may have been a success, but the letters of Lanoye’s Boerentorengedicht have now all been sold and not everything is suddenly possible with the crowdfunding on their website staddichters.be. “We are currently setting up a minimum operation, and by being creative we are trying not to let urban density depend solely on the available resources,” says Dodion.

It’s also about more than just the money. “I don’t know the exact amounts, but city support does not only translate into a fair salary for the poets. It also involves things like coordination, printing costs, collaborations with other city services and widely distributed communication. Structural support also means political validation of the artistic work we deliver.”

© Sebastian Steveniers

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– 2024-04-26 00:40:31

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