Jointly developed by M HKA and the KU Leuven, this long-term, interdisciplinary research project focuses on a specific, yet complex body of work; multifaceted and variably installable, unfinished and open-ended: Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-2013) by artist and theorist Allan Sekula (1951-2013). Informed by the research of the team members, the project continues to evolve in a succession of research outputs, such as this digital platform.


(c)Josée Gaudaen-Dieltjens
Ex-libris print of baby being deliverd on the docks (The Dockers' Museum, object nr. 9), 1980
Print , 22 x 10,7 cm
ink, paper

This print shows a young child that is  being delivered at the port of Antwerp in a net that is suspended from a crane. The port is clearly depicted in the background. At the edge of the Scheldt River, one can see the city, the cathedral dominating the horizon. The little houses are represented in a detailed and meticulous manner, just like the rest of the print. The child screams, as if it was just born. Shadows are depicted on the child’s body by means of hatching. This rather sculptural elaboration of the baby stands in contrast to the schematic, linear elaboration of the background. 

The crane and the net allude to the stork that normally brings newborn children to their parents. The child symbolizes the fact that all life is perpetuated by economy and trade that is conducted through ports and overseas transport.

Gerard Gaudaen was a wood carver, wood engraver, copper engraver, draughtsman, designer and illustrator. His love for woodcutting started in Victor Stuyvaert’s graphic studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. Gaudaen played an important role in the development of the modern bookplate in Belgium, which was above all very popular at the end of the 19th and early 20th century.

Gaudaen often worked with the theme of seafaring. Cranes dominating the outlook of shipyards and compositions with vessels are subjects that often return in Gaudaen's markedly constructivist prints. Allan Sekula may have become interested in the work of Gaudaen through this link.

Gaudaen made many bookplates and applied graphic art. This traditional aspect of Gaudaen may have been interesting for Sekula too. In this print, both the artisanal aspect and the theme of overseas trade are key, which explains the purchase of this print.

– Lotte Feremans

Translation by Steven Tallon.

Gerard Gaudaen, Ex-Libris of Baby Being Delivered on the Docks in Antwerp [title given by Allan Sekula], wood engraving, black-and-white print on paper, 1980, 22 x 10,7 cm. Original title: Geboortekaart voor Saskia Heylen met als voorstelling 'Boreling in net aan takel voor de Rede van Antwerpen'. Purchased by Allan Sekula through eBay on 14 May 2010. (c)Josée Gaudaen-Dieltjens