Frock Gallery is already ready for its fourth exhibition. The project that Annelies Deltour started with Matthew Frock in May is growing into a network in Ypres. “Ieperians are happy that they don’t have to go to Brussels to see art,” says Annelies, who is also co-CEO of Paneltim, a company with 75 employees.
During the interview in bright yellow designer seats in the Frock Gallery, the four-year-old daughter of Annelies Deltour (41) occasionally shows us a new drawing. It is not immediately clear whether she has the talent of her Philadelphia-born father and visual artist Matthew Frock. “I got to know Matt seven years ago during a group trip, a hike around Mont Blanc with a lot of Brits, but also a Belgian and an American. It turned out to be a ten-day date,” says Annelies.
Were you interested in art before you met Matthew?
“Yes, but not so deep now. As a student, I was someone who went to museums, but it wasn’t because I knew the names of all the artists. It was more about gut feeling. When I travel, I always like to look for a painting as a souvenir. Thanks to Matt, I got a better eye for art. He also brought art into our home. If it hangs there for three weeks, you nuance your view of art. You see different things in it, or it touches you in a different way. In any case, I am flexible in my thinking, and this has also developed in my view of art.”
How did the idea for a gallery in Ypres come about?
“Matt stayed in Belgium and installed his studio in the garden shed of the house I built in the Madonna. It has always been the plan to take the studio to the city, because it is always more fun when there is passage. The question was: which city? Kortrijk and Ghent were also mentioned, but it was not practical with the children and my job at Paneltim.
We saw potential in Ypres in terms of tourism and the art lovers that exist in the Westhoek. We also heard that a Kunsthuis would be set up in the Rijselstraat with ten studios, an exhibition space and opportunities for artists to stay. So we said: let’s go for it.”
What kind of people come here?
“It’s a mixture. You have the residents of Ypres who are happy that they don’t have to get into the car to drive to Brussels or Knokke to see art. You also have the tourists. Dutch, northern French, British, Canadians.. . I’ve heard it’s not as much as it used to be, but it can still grow.”
“We also see more and more art lovers outside Ypres, but it is a growth process of at least three years. We are aware of that. It is good that there is now a network of galleries here. Now there are already three in the Rijselstraat, namely the Frock Gallery, the Reichmanns Art Gallery and the Little Art Gallery. A fourth will be added at the end of November, namely the R121.
In addition to the First World War and medieval history, can art also become an asset for Ypres?
“The galleries are also open on Sunday afternoons and are freely accessible. If you move to Ypres, it’s not for a gallery, but you can move from one to the other. You can make it an afternoon. That way you get people further away to Ypres.”
“It’s still in its infancy, but it’s a ball rolling. I always say that Ypres is full of culture and art. From the city there are also now and then various initiatives: walls that are painted, sculptures, exhibitions in the cultural center , at Vestingen… Now the theme in Yper Museum is Louise Dehem.”
Don’t you see each other as competitors?
“Ultimately, you don’t show the same art. You cannot buy the same chair in both galleries. You select the artists, and each has its own concept and taste. So it is primarily strengthening. We all want to get the public going. I also feel the will in the various galleries to arrange events together.”
“For example: On Friday we open a new exhibition, but also Reichmann’s across the street. People can go back and forth that night. There is positive feedback on that. There is also still potential in the Rijselstraat. There are still empty houses here which could be interesting pop-up locations, for example for galleries from other cities or people who are interested in starting a gallery there.”
Do you sometimes work with local artists?
“That is certainly the intention. We have already worked with Ypres artists Peter Lerooy and Palieter Hillewaere… In our new exhibition, Liliane Demeester from Menen is one of the artists showing works together with Katja Gramann from Germany and Brigitte Kratochwill from Austria. For aspiring local artists, the galleries of Ypres are now a boon. For guests following an art course in Ghent or Antwerp, it is worth returning to Ypres.
For aspiring local artists, the galleries of Ypres are now a boon
Although we are all still in our starting years, there is definitely potential and that is encouraging. It can also contribute to the economy. Art lovers also love to eat out. People who live in the city like to see an array of art and culture. It is an added value, and it can counteract the brain drain. The ball is rolling. It seems random, but it really isn’t. The city has invested in it. We believed it.”
How do you combine the gallery with the job as co-CEO at Paneltim?
“Paneltim is also growing internationally. To take the next growth step, we want to be closer to the market. Therefore, we plan to start production in the USA next year. It is a big challenge. We will strengthen our team and divide the roles. Because I want to be a present mom, I’m co-CEO.”
“Another element is that I started helping with the gallery, and I love doing it so much that I said I would do the two. The combination of an industrial product that is sold all over the world, in a large team and all the departments that belong to a big company versus building something from scratch is something I really like.”
Is that entrepreneurial spirit always there?
“I never really knew what I really wanted to do before, but I knew one thing and that was that I wanted to be independent. I think I meant I wanted to do business. But you don’t always get the opportunity to start something new. The opportunity came with art. Renovating the building, contacting the artists, telling the story and building trust, establishing relationships with your customers… I think it’s so much fun.”
Annelies Deltour was born in Ypres on 21 November 1981. She is the daughter of Ludo Deltour and Magda Degrave. She has two brothers: Filip and Lode. She is married to Matthew Frock and mother to Lea Suzanne (4) and Luuk (2.5). The family lives in Langemark-Poelkapelle.
After primary school at the Madonna, Annelies went to Ypres Lyceum and then to the Holy Family to study accounting and computer science. She then studied business management in Ghent and marketing in Leuven. She works as co-CEO at Paneltim, a company with 75 employees that makes plastic panels, where she has been active for 17 years. Since May, she has also been a co-gallerist at Frock Gallery.
Spending time with the children, going for walks, and last year she started adult education at the Academy.