Kobe, artistic alias of Jacques Saelens, was a Belgian sculptor, known for his instantly recognizable sculptures. After passing away unexpectedly in 2014 at the age of 64, his son Albin Saelens established Foundation Kobe, to honour his father’s legacy, to keep the appreciation for his art alive and to promote Kobe’s artworks by organizing exhibitions and sharing his works with museums and new audiences around the world. For this months Vastari Conversations, we sit down with Albin to discuss Foundation Kobe, their history, legacy, and journey with Vastari so far.

Vastari (V): Can you tell us a bit more about Kobe’s background?
Foundation Kobe (FK): Kobe studied sculpture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Kortrijk (Belgium), where he later returned to teach. He also studied plastic arts, specializing in sculpture, at St. Lucas Ghent and St. Lukas Brussels (Belgium). My father lived and worked in Pietrasanta (Italy) since 1995, the famous and historical international centre for artists and sculptors in marble and bronze, close to bronze foundries and close to the Carrara marble quarries. It gave Kobe a kick, the feeling of living and working in a place where idols like Marino Marini and Henry Moore stayed regularly. To say nothing of Michelangelo. That is how long the village has been a sanctuary for sculptors and serves as a constant source of inspiration!

(V): Are you able to tell us more about Kobe’s style?
(FK): Kobe was an artist who built on the history of art in a firm, subtle and skilled way. He was fascinated by the ancient cultures in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. He developed his artistic vision by making a lot of trips. Each one of his creations is therefore preceded by a long journey of travel, study, passion, looking, awareness, touching and feeling. Kobe’s sculptures are of the highest quality and appreciated by critics for their unique form of combining the broad, wide and the thin, narrow.

Two themes dominated his creations: the female figure in all its simplicity and mystery, and the horse as a symbol of strength, companionship, and connection. My father created numerous female figures, but without the kind of extremely coquettish femininity we know from fashion magazines and movies. What he made was more mysterious in itself, in the purest and simplest form. Another favorite theme of Kobe is the horse. Not only because of its magical curves and strength. We are much indebted to the animal. Its history runs parallel with that of man: the horse was always there. In times of hard work, war and in sports entertainment.

Kobe’s approach of his art remains notable for its absence of complex artistic theories. My father did not inject his art with hidden meanings. Instead he was in constant search of simplicity, purity, and beauty. Through his works of art he brought feelings to life for the world to enjoy: happiness, affection, love, and friendship. He wanted the viewer to have fun watching his work.

The simplicity radiating from Kobe’s sculptures conceals their ingenious nature. It is extremely difficult, time and again to express this extreme compactness of a feeling or emotion in a sculpture when you negotiate the tightrope of broad, wide and thin, narrow at the same time. Kobe played with planes and shapes. Within an invisible boundary he searched for the maximum expressiveness. It became his trademark.

His oeuvre has been exhibited in numerous national and international galleries and art fairs, including Robinsons Art Gallery (Knokke-Zoute, BE), Morren Galleries (Utrecht, NL), Europ’Art (Genève, CH), Miart Milano Art Fair (Milano, IT), London Art Fair (London, GB), Miami Art Fair (Miami, Florida, USA), KunstRAI (Amsterdam, NL) and Gallery Beaux Arts (London, GB).

(V): Are you able to tell us more about why you set up Foundation Kobe?
(FK): My father passed away in 2014. He was a valued artist who devoted his life to making art and he left an impressive oeuvre of bronze and marble sculptures.

I do not have a background in the arts, and was studying Criminology at the time, but out of love for my father and out of respect for his legacy, I decided to set up Foundation Kobe. I now travel around the world to meet people who are equally moved by his work.

(V): What made you join Vastari?
(FK): I wanted to share my father's work with museums, to reach new audiences and engage new curators. The pieces are available for long and short term loan, and there are many different works that can slot in to curatorial projects of different themes. I hope that by using Vastari, museums can find new content and stories within my father's sculptures.

Kobe’s work is available for loan through the Vastari platform. To learn more about the pieces, or request an object for loan, click here.