The Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen (1965) is an internationally recognised conceptual artist. His work deals with biocultural diversity and identity. Central to his oeuvre is the chicken, which, through his living art and breeding projects, is revealed as both an aesthetic construct and a metaphor for society. By bringing together and exploring the interplay between art, science and philosophy, Vanmechelen's work reflects upon our global heritage and examines the way that we, as a planet, choose to live and evolve. Multi-disciplinary scientific collaborations and community engagement are integral to Vanmechelen’s approach.
Vanmechelen is best known for his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), launched in the late nineties. Its contribution to science has earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Hasselt (2010) and the Golden Nica Hybrid Art award (2013). He launched the Planetary Community Chicken Project (PCC) in 2016 as a follow-on and a counter to the CCP, and as a way to take his art and findings on diversity out into society
Vanmechelen’s art work continues to be as diverse and hybrid as the Cosmopolitan Chicken itself: a unique mix of paintings, drawings, photography, innovative 3D-techniques, video, installations, wooden sculptures and taxidermy. All the art work flows from his belief that art belongs in society, engaging with people. The artist's major on-going projects have a consistent community focus: Cosmogolem, a global art-based children’s rights project; the Walking Egg, a developing world fertility project; and Combat, a WW1 remembrance project. In 2011, the foundations supporting these works were grouped into a new institute called the Open University of Diversity.
Vanmechelen has presented his work on almost every continent, from the U.S. to China and Iceland to Senegal. He has made regular appearances at the Venice Biennale, and has also appeared at the Biennials of Moscow, Havana, Dakar and Poznan, at the Triennial of Guangzhou, at the World Expo Shanghai 2010, at Manifesta 9, and at dOCUMENTA (13).
Vanmechelen lives in Meeuwen-Gruitrode, in the northeast of Belgium, where he has a farm and keeps his chickens. He is an honorary citizen of his native town of Sint-Truiden. Since 2017, he has been based at his new studio LABIOMISTA, built by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Occupying the grounds of a former public zoo in Genk, La Biomista will open to the public in spring 2018. Alongside the artist’s studio, it will host a culture and animal park, and an educational and research centre.