Koen Vanmechelen (born August 26, 1965 in Sint-Truiden) is an internationally acclaimed Belgian multi- and transdisciplinary artist who began his career in the early 1990s. He is one of the most prolific and prominent contemporary artists in Belgium. His ground-breaking work deals with biocultural diversity and identity. Central to his oeuvre is the chicken, which, through his projects, is revealed as both an artwork and a metaphor for society. By bringing together and exploring the interplay between art, science and philosophy in his work, Vanmechelen reflects upon our global heritage and examines the way that we choose to live and evolve. Multi-disciplinary scientific collaborations and community engagement are integral to Vanmechelen's approach.
Vanmechelen's work first gained worldwide recognition in the late nineties, with the launch of his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), an artistic crossbreeding project with chickens. Since its inception nearly twenty years ago, the resulting art work has been shown in exhibitions all over the world. It has also attracted growing interest amongst scientists. Each successive generation of the CCP has proven to be more resilient, longer living, less susceptible to disease, and less aggressive than the previous one. In collaboration with the University of Leuven, the Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project (CC®P) now studies the genetic make-up of the various CCP crossings and its potential implications for science. Vanmechelen's scientific collaborations have earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Hasselt (2010) and the Golden Nica Hybrid Art award (2013).
Vanmechelen has several projects and foundations parallel to the CCP: The CosmoGolem, The Walking Egg, MOUTH, COMBAT, The Planetary Community Chicken (PCC), The Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project (CC®P) and MECC, all of which he manages from his Open University of Diversity, In 2017, Koen Vanmechelen moved his studio and foundation headquarters to LaBiomista situated in a former public zoo in the Belgian city of Genk.
The artist's work is an investigation of and an ode to the beautiful diversity and hybridity of life:
“Every organism needs another organism to survive.”
Vanmechelen often collaborates with scientists and experts from different disciplines, such as Jean-Jacques Cassiman, Rik Pinxten and Marleen Temmerman. Vanmechelen's art work is as diverse and hybrid as the Cosmopolitan Chicken itself: a unique mix of paintings, drawings, photography, innovative 3D-techniques, video, installations and wooden sculptures. The common visual theme throughout these various methods of expression are the chicken and the egg. These have, over the years, become important symbols to Vanmechelen, allowing the artist to interconnect scientific, philosophical, and ethical issues, and to frame the subject of debates and lectures.
A new species of flat worm discovered in Venice (It) during the artist solo exhibition Nato a Venezia at the biennial of Venice was in 2013 named Trigonostomum Vanmecheleni in honour of the artist.
De Wachtkamer, Schatten van Vlieg, Kruidtuin Leuven, Belgium (solo exhibition)
Leaving Paradise, CONNERSMITH., Washington, USA (solo exhibition)
Handmade - C.C.P., Markt, Tessenderlo, Belgium (solo exhibition)
The Mechelse Styrian - 17th generation - C.C.P., Gallerija Kapelica, Ljubljana, Slovenia (solo exhibition)
Inception - C.C.P., Wasserman Projects, Detroit, MI, USA (solo exhibition)
Leaving Paradise, Art Sanya, Hainan Island, China
Medusa – C.C.P., Wunderkammer, Academia Belgica, Rome, Italy
Under my Skin – C.C.P., Glasstress, Wallace Collection and London School of Fashion, London, UK
Evolution of a Hybrid, BEAF13, Bozar, Brussels, Belgium
Never Lost – C.C.P., Art Attack, Hasselt, Belgium
CC®P – The Cosmopolitan Chicken, Cyberarts Festival, OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria
Note Book, Beit Ha’ir, Tel Aviv, Israel
Some Make-Some Take – C.C.P., Hotel de Inmigrantes 3, Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover, Germany
New Generation – C.C.P., Belgian Embassy (curated by Z33), Den Haag, Netherlands
Protected Paradise, Guy Pieters Gallery, Saint Paul de Vence, France
Grale - C.C.P., Kortrijk Vlaandert, Kortrijk, Belgium
Cosmopolitan Fossil, The Eggcord and In Transit - C.C.P., Kunstenfestival Watou, Belgium
Spawn - C.C.P., Murano
Merano, Glasstress, MERANO ARTE, Italy
Evolution of a Hybrid, Pavilion 0, Palazzo Dona, Biennial of Venice, Italy
Under my Skin, Patience - C.C.P., White light/White heat, Glasstress, Biennial of Venice, Italy
Inzicht, Coming World - C.C.P., Artzuid, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Modified Spaces - C.C.P., Beelden op de Berg, Wageningen, Netherlands
Vrouwenkuren, Frantic - C.C.P., ISPOC en Dr. Ghislain Museum, Kortrijk, Belgium
Tabula - Rasa - C.C.P., Vera Vermeersch, CC Hasselt, Belgium
Pedigree, Hybridity in Art & Science - C.C.P., Cultural Freedom in Europe, Goethe-Institute, EESC (European Economic and Social Committee), Brussels, Belgium
Symbiosis, Hybridity in Art and Science - C.C.P., Lieux Communs, Walloon Parliament, Namur, Belgium
The Walking Egg, Transformation, Garage Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands