Gelieve in de kelder te kijken / Veuillez regarder dans la cave / Please Look in the Basement
Maarten Inghels, Jan Lemaire, Nicolas Marichal, Denis Meyers, Jean-Michel Meyers
Stockmans Art Books, 2023
It was my then lover who taught it to me fifteen years ago. She collected posters of missing pets. She had cats, dogs and even a ferret, if I remember correctly. Since then I have also started doing it and loving it. More specifically, the clumsy typography, the heartbreaking pleas and the photos that give an insight into someone’s private life. After years of collecting, I decided to call the owners to ask what had happened to their pet. I wanted to know the story of pets that one day decide to go their separate ways.
When I installed a temporary ‘monument to lost pets’ on the facade of Community Center Unik in Antwerp, with a selection of stories and posters, I met Jan Lemaire who was so generous in sharing his collection of posters. He brought in the designer Jean-Michel Meyers who happened to have a brother Denis with an even larger collection, if possible, mainly from the streets of Brussels. Through the grapevine I came across Nicolas Marichal who had been collecting posters from trees and electrical cabinets in Ghent for ten years. The people behind these posters also told me unlikely stories about friendship and loneliness in the big city. I now suspect that there are still people around the world collecting posters of missing animals.
Rarely do we get a negative response because we remove the ads. There are enough duplicates and from my conversations I now know that most animals are recovered. Only once did I feel remorse, when I pulled a unique poster of a lost cat from a facade in Venice between two canals. The shaky handwriting was clearly original and not a copy. ‘Nera paurosa, bella madonetta’ – frightened black, beautiful lady.
I’m going to call her now and pray that the kitty found her way home.
Maarten Inghels, June 2023.